DfE extends academy trust capacity fund to rural maintained schools

Rural local authority-maintained schools will be given access to government expansion funding for the first time next year to encourage them to academise and form new chains.

The Department for Education has added a fifth “strand” to its trust capacity fund, which launched last year. However, the amount of funding on offer – £17 million – has not increased.

The fund will continue to be used to support existing academy trusts to “grow and innovate”, to accelerate the development of mid-sized trusts and to support mergers between trusts.

But now the money will also be available to support ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ local authority-maintained schools in rural hamlets and villages to “collaborate and create new, strong multi-academy trusts”. Successful applicants in this category will receive between £50,000 and £100,000.

It comes after Schools Week revealed last year how rural schools are fighting to survive in the face of funding cuts and other issues.

The government has sought to divert additional money to rural schools through its new national funding formula, and has for some time attempted to encourage smaller isolated schools to join academy trusts.

“Academy trusts are central part of our ambition to build on the rising standards in our schools,” said academies minister Lord Agnew.

“That’s why we’re launching another round of this fund, to back some of our highest performing academy trusts to tackle entrenched underperformance and support those schools that are most in need.”

The first application window will open on April 6.