The Academy Trust Handbook 2023 has now been published, with an effective date of 1 September 2023. The Handbook should be read by anyone that has responsibility for governing, managing or auditing an academy trust.
In addition to the main Handbook, a Schedule of Musts for 2023 has also been released. The schedule brings together all of the key requirements from the main Handbook. The Schedule is just an overview of ‘musts’ and should not be used as a substitute for the Handbook.
Changes to the Handbook
Each year there are some changes and additions to the Academy Trust Handbook. A noticeable difference for 2023 is the fact that the Handbook is materially shorter and supplementary guidance is signposted throughout.
Summary of the main changes
Roles and responsibilities
- Following the publication of the trust quality descriptions, content on governance matters has been updated throughout part 1.
- The importance and value of good estates safety and management is highlighted (1.19).
- Confirmation that the board should identify the skills and experience it needs, including sufficient financial knowledge to hold the executive to account (1.25).
- The roles of the Accounting Officer and Chief Financial Officer should not be occupied by the same individual (1.28).
Main financial requirements
- Trusts no longer need to provide an explanation in their governance statement where the board has not met at least 6 times in the year (2.3).
- Trusts are provided with an additional month to submit their Budget Forecast Return (2.15). The academy trust must submit to ESFA (Education and Skills Funding Agency), in a form specified by ESFA, an Academies Budget Forecast return by the end of August (2.15).
- Simplifying the position on the preparation and circulation of management accounts (2.18-2.20).
- Confirmation that Electric Vehicle (EV) salary sacrifice schemes can be set up, in most cases, without ESFA approval. (2.31)
- Simplification of the position of GAG pooling. A trust with multiple academies can amalgamate GAG for its academies to form one central fund. (5.30 and 5.31).
- Refining the approval threshold for related party transactions. Trusts must obtain ESFA’s prior approval, using ESFA’s related party on-line form, for contracts and other agreements for the supply of goods or services to the trust by a related party agreed on or after 1 September 2023 where a contract or other agreement exceeds £40,000 in the same financial year ending 31 August. Previously the threshold was £20,000. (5.42 & 5.57).
The regulator and intervention
- Updates to the section on Ntls (Notice to Improve), providing examples of when an Ntl may be issued on financial management grounds and governance grounds. (6.16).
For any queries on the Handbook and the changes introduced for 2023, please get in touch with us using the contact details below.