The 2015 handbook came into effect on 1 September 2015, strengthening the requirements on academy trust governance. The new Handbook can be accessed here.
We have highlighted the main changes made to the 2014 Handbook, and briefly set out how they might affect you:
- Academy trusts must not have de facto trustees or shadow directors. All trustees and directors must be named as such. De facto trustees and shadow directors are not named trustees/directors – they simply carry out the functions of a trustee/director.
- A financial notice to improve may be issued by the EFA where it has governance concerns and/or financial concerns. The trust must comply with all the terms of a financial notice, and failure to comply will be deemed a breach of the funding agreement.
- Accounting officers must adhere to the ‘seven principles of public life’. The principles are: Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership, and are set out in more detail here.
- Medium-sized and larger-trusts should consider more frequent board meetings than are required under their Articles to ensure that Trusts discharge their responsibilities under their Articles, funding agreement and the Handbook.
- Academy trusts must publish up-to-date details of their governance arrangements on their website. This must include the names and details of each member, trustee and local governor who has served in the last 12 months, as well as the structure of the members, board of trustees and its committees.
- An academy trust’s register of interests must identify close family relationships between members or trustees, and between members or trustees and the trust’s employees. Those persons who are considered “connected” to a member or trustee are set out at paragraph 3.2.2 of the Handbook, which includes an individual or organisation carrying on business in partnership with the member, trustee or their relative.
- Multi Academy trusts must publish relevant business and pecuniary interests of local governors on their website. Trustees have a legal duty to act in the best interests of their charity and must not put themselves in any position where their duties as trustee may conflict with any personal interest they may have.
- Academy trusts must notify EFA of the appointment of members and trustees within 14 days of that change, and any such notification must be made through EFA’s Information Exchange.
- Trusts are no longer required to submit a separate value for money statement. However, the accounting officer must:
- complete and sign a statement on regularity, propriety and compliance each year and submit this to EFA with the audited accounts; and
- demonstrate in the audited accounts how the trust has secured value for money.
- The requirements relating to budget monitoring have been simplified, but the Trust must still establish a control framework that recognises public expectations about governance, standards and openness.
- The delegated limits for academy trusts to write-off debts or enter into liabilities, are now subject to a ceiling of £250,000. The trust must ensure that the value of any liability is within its delegated authority, and below this new limit.
- Except for some transactions relating to land or buildings, trusts no longer require EFA’s approval to take up a leasehold or tenancy agreement on land and buildings. However, Trusts must ensure that any lease arrangement maintains the principles of value for money, regularity and propriety whether or not EFA’s prior approval is required.
- Only academy trusts with an annual income in excess of £50m must have a dedicated audit committee. All other trusts have flexibility to establish either a dedicated audit committee or to include its functions within another committee.