The government is offering “strong” academy trusts grants of up to £100,000 to expand by taking on ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools in better-performing regions.
Experts say these “capacity giver” schools will help to improve a trust’s ability to drive up improvement at its other schools.
The new strand has been added to criteria for the second window of the 2022-23 trust capacity fund (TCaF).
The capacity fund, worth £86 million over three years, is to help trusts “develop their capacity and take on underperforming schools, particularly in education investment areas”.
Ministers named 55 EIAs – those with the lowest education outcomes – to be prioritised for government support.
But trusts can now get between £50,000 and £100,000 for taking on “good or outstanding schools outside of an EIA”.
Grants of up to £300,000 are available for taking on at least one ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ school in an EIA areas. Up to £200,000 is available for taking on an underperforming school or any school in an EIA.
Applications to take on underperforming schools will be prioritised.
Schools minister Jonathan Gullis said the fund is “supporting the government’s vision for every school to be part of a family of schools in strong academy trusts”.
Giving trusts more money to take over good schools is likely to be controversial.
But Leora Cruddas, chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, pointed to comments by former national schools commissioner Sir David Carter about the “importance of capacity givers in school trusts”.
“The widening of the TCaF criteria to include good and outstanding schools joining trusts helps to build the capacity for improvement in our trusts,” Cruddas added.
Winners for the first lot of £18 million TCaF were announced today. A total of 104 trusts were awarded on average £170k each.
The winning trusts had an average of 11 schools – which is more than the average of seven in 2022, suggesting the cash will help the bigger trusts get bigger.
The Bradford Diocesan Academies Trust received the largest grant – £406,093. The largest trust to get cash, with a £92,400 grant, was Harris Federation.
Money was only available in that round for taking on underperforming schools in certain areas or “other trust capacity building projects”.
Under the new round, applications can include for MAT mergers, single trusts joining together or local authority “spin-off” trusts. Applicants must be “of sound financial health”.
Successful applicants who do not meet the standards of 90 per cent of pupils meeting the expected standard in phonics and half of students entering the EBacc will “need to commit to improving your performance”.
“In general, this will mean aiming to reach that level of performance after three years,” the criteria said.
Applicants will also be expected to host teacher training placements. Those written to by government over excessive chief executive pay may also have points deducted from their application.
The cash can be used for things like establishing new central processes, setting up new central team posts or relocation costs for moving staff to new reasons.
Costs can not cover capital expenditure, consultancy for delivering the expansion or due diligence on takeovers.
The application window runs until December 16. Details of the next application round – which will look particularly for projects which “address [government] priorities” in the EIAs – will be published later this year.