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Category: Expert Opinion
Topic: Audit

Key changes to the 2021 Academies Trust Handbook

With the recent release of the new Academies Trust Handbook 2021 (formerly known as the Academies Financial Handbook), this article summarises the key changes which take effect from 1st September 2021.


By Baroness Berridge, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System.

Change from Academies Financial Handbook to Academies Trust Handbook in order to provide:

  • existing Trust’s responsibilities
  • close to ‘one stop shop’ for Trustees, local Governors & Trust leaders
  • pointers to the key legislation and guidance on safeguarding, health & safety and estates management

To parallel the above change, the ‘Financial Notice to Improve’, will be changed to ‘Notice to Improve’.

Should haves

Roles & Responsibilities:

  • Reserve places within governance structure for parents, carers or others with parental responsibilities (two places for single academies, two places on full board for multi-academy trusts and two places on local governing bodies for multi-academy trusts)
  • The benefit of having an external review of governance, as a stronger means of identifying potential improvements

Financial & Delegated Authorities:

  • Review the scheme of delegation annually, and immediately when there has been a change in Trust management or organisational structure
  • Should retender for external audit every five years

Internal Scrutiny

  • Chair of Trustees should not be Chair of Finance Committee or Audit & Risk Committee

Must haves

Roles & Responsibilities:

  • Ensure members are not currently subject to a direction made under section 128 ‘prohibition on participation in management’ of the Education and Skills Act 2008
  • From 1 March 2022 any newly appointed CEO can only become Trustee if members appoint, CEO agrees and the articles permit
  • Appoint a governance professional (previously Clerk to Governors) who is not a Trustee, Principal or CEO

Financial & Delegated Authorities:

  • Publish on website the number of employees whose benefits (salary, employers pension, other taxable benefits and termination payments) exceed £100k, in £10k bandings
  • Make available for public inspection; agenda, minutes and supporting documents for all meetings, except for reference to named employees and pupils and any confidential information
  • Prior approval for staff severance payments of £100k or more which include non-statutory or non-contractual elements

Internal Scrutiny

  • Must not be completed by member of senior leadership team

Regulator & Intervention

  • Provide ESFA with written authority giving permission for any third party to provide information and documentation to the ESFA or its agents upon request


  • Be aware of the risk of cybercrime, put in place proportionate controls
  • Obtain ESFA permission prior to making any ransom payments

View or download a PDF outlining these changes here: Academies Trust Handbook 2021 Changes

Ben Burch is Audit Director and along with his team ensures our Academy clients are kept up to date with anything they need to be aware of. If you would like to speak to Ben about any concerns, please call 01242 776000 to arrange a call back or email