The new Schools Bill announced last month in the Queen’s speech will underpin the government’s ambition to provide a world-class education to every child in the country.
So, what do multi-academy trusts need to know?
In this article, we’ll provide a summary of the key points as well as discussing what the Bill means for multi-academy trusts, and the questions it has raised.
Firstly, what is the Schools Bill?
Since the Schools White Paper set out the government’s long-term vision for a school system that helps every child to fulfil their full potential, the Schools Bill has been in the works to provide the legislation required to make this vision a reality.
The new Schools Bill is simply a proposal for laws which the government hopes will raise education standards across the country. The Department for Education have identified a range of measures that will help them to reach this goal – including supporting schools to join strong multi-academy trusts.
How will the Bill affect multi-academy trusts?
School business professionals will start to feel the effects of this new legislation in the coming months as the Bill begins to shape the future of their schools and trusts.
Here are our top five Schools Bill takeaways for trusts:
Trust standards to replace ‘inconsistent’ regulation
The DfE is keen to standardise trust regulation using a new ‘academy trust standards’ regime. This will create more consistent legal framework as well as funding and guidance, and the requirements currently set out in the Academy Trust Handbook will move into the Standards Regulations and the new statutory guidance.
Government can terminate academy trusts
To prepare for the new “strong trust-led system”, the DfE will review how they can ensure academy trusts comply with the new standards. This means that the DfE is set to have new powers to intervene at trust-level rather than school-level from September 2023. They may also issue trusts with a ‘notice to improve’.
Talk about fair funding
There will be a consultation about plans for ‘direct’ school funding ‘before summer 2022’. This means that local authorities would no longer be responsible for assigning funding to trusts around their own funding plans.
Academies will continue to receive funding from the Government, and a shorter funding agreement will continue to be used to form the legal contract between an academy trust and the Secretary of State. This will retain the specific arrangements of each individual academy or trust.
New academisation powers for local authorities
This will enable local authorities to apply for an academy order on behalf of their schools, consulting only with the school trustees and governing bodies. The aim of this is for councils to support schools in their areas to join trusts by initiating the conversion process.
The DfE also explained that this action would support councils to establish new MATs, possibly introducing more competition to the sector.
A strong trust-led system
The government made their case for a ‘strong trust-led system’ in March this year, stating that the “strongest trusts achieve consistently strong outcomes for their children and […] support teachers and schools where the challenge is greatest”.
But what exactly makes a strong trust? And how can a trust be strengthened?
The DfE went on to cite the following as key markers of a strong trust:
A high quality and inclusive education; sustainable school improvement; excellent support for teachers and teaching; strategic leadership and governance; and effective financial management.
Whether you’re a growing MAT or a well-established one, there’s always room to streamline your processes. It might be time to switch up your systems – those designed for schools are likely to creak as you start to look less like an aggregation of schools and more like a strong trust.
To learn how MAT-focused budgeting, forecasting, and reporting could strengthen your trust, register for our upcoming webinar here.