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NGA comments on DfE trust creation and growth guidance


The Department for Education has released guidance exploring how it determines the quality of trusts and applies this to decision making in relation to trust creation, expansion and collaboration.

The guidance explains how the department intends to help position the right high-quality trust to meet the needs of pupils and communities, and the support it will provide to strong trusts that have the capacity for growth. It is the latest instalment of the government's plan to demonstrate its commitment to empowering high-quality trusts to take on and improve more schools. The guidance covers:

  • The decision-making process and identification of strategic needs in each area.
  • How the department will apply a high-quality trust framework (using the finalised trust quality descriptions).
  • Both the quantitative and qualitative evidence that will be used to build consistency, objectivity, and transparency in decision making.
  • The role of regional directors in assessing decisions and the factors they will consider related to trust quality.

The proposed evidenced approach is built through a combination of headline metrics, verifiers, and qualitative sources, and while governance and leadership play a crucial role as the fifth pillar of trust quality, the guidance remains almost silent on the specific role of trust boards.


In response to the release, Emma Knights, NGA Chief Executive said:

“NGA is pleased to see more information on how the Department of Education takes its decisions about the creation, consolidation and growth of academy trusts. It is important - indeed essential - that the strategic decisions to grow, merge or let a particular school go are taken in the first instance by the trust board, and that trustees are part of the conversations on taking that forward. The board will want to consider the future size and shape of the trust and how that might be achieved. The guidance is a first step in improving transparency on how the DfE makes crucial decisions and should go some way to counter criticism quite often heard that not all trusts are considered for growth by the DfE. I would stress that trust boards need to make sure their DfE regional relationship manager is aware of their trust’s strategic objectives, so that they are part of the shortlist considered by the Regional Director and their advisory board”.



Sam Henson, NGA’s Director of Policy and Communications added:

“We agree with the DfE that it is not a good idea to measure governance with quantitative metrics, but this important judgement on the 5th pillar does require specialist knowledge and experience of trust governance. Now there is no longer an option to commission a National Leader of Governance, this does very much leave a hole in the expert information available to the DfE’s regional office. We suggest trusts that want to be considered for growth should invest in an external review of governance themselves – and despite the end of the NLG funding, of course NGA’s team of consultants still carry out these reviews to the highest standards.”