Commissioning High-Quality Trusts

On 6 July 2023 the Department of Education published the guidance document entitled Commissioning High-Quality Trusts.

The document serves as timely clarification, following the March 2022 white paper, as to what the current Government’s intentions are with regards to schools going forward. The opening sentence sets out that “High-quality trusts and the people who lead them, are essential for building a strong and resilient school system which delivers the best possible outcomes for all children.” If any ambiguity on the Government’s position remained, it is removed by the second sentence “This is why we want all schools, over time, to be part of a high-quality multi-academy trust.”

The purpose of the guidance document is to clarify how decisions are taken at a regional level about the creation, consolidation and growth of academy trusts. In broad terms this will be done by

  • Assessing the strategic needs of the school, the academy trust and the local areas;
  • Using quantitative and qualitative evidence to consider facts relating to the quality of the academy trusts; and
  • Aligning the strategic needs of the school, academy trust and local area with those trust quality factors and reaching a recommendation.

Trust quality will be assessed based on the five pillars of trust quality which are identified as:

  1. High quality and inclusive education
  2. School improvement
  3. Workforce
  4. Finance and Operations
  5. Governance and Leadership

Each of these factors is then assessed firstly using headline metrics to build a hypothesis and prompt further questions, followed by verifiers to provide more in-depth data and then qualitative evidence to explore areas where data is not easily available or does not tell the full story.

The guidance paper confirms that “we will back strong trusts that have the capacity for growth” and that the guidance “demonstrates our commitment to empowering high quality trusts to extend their reach by taking on and improving more schools.”

It is therefore clear from the guidance note that the Government will particularly look to embrace and support trusts of a certain size as was initially detailed within the 2022 white paper and that this remains their preferred model. Many smaller trusts and maintained schools will need to be mindful of this further statement of intent by the Government and planning their future strategies in good time. All trusts, particularly those looking to expand, should also familiarise themselves with the contents of the guidance document, and particularly of the trust quality descriptions and trust quality evidence contained within its two annexs to the guidance note.

It is certainly arguable that, with costs and wages going up and increased financial pressures being placed on schools, the need for schools to pool their resources and benefit from pooled resources and economies of scale, is not only desirable but potentially critical to their future.

Whitehead Monckton’s education sector team support both existing MATs looking to expand and merge and those schools undertaking academisation for the first time. For an initial free, no commitment call with one of our team please call 01622 698018 or email