The Department for Education’s 2022/23 Trust Capacity Fund window two (the “TCaF”) opened on 20 October 2022, and accordingly new guidance has been prepared (the “guidance”).
The TCaF, a competitive grant fund which can be accessed by academy trusts to help to develop their capacity to grow, is a particularly important tool to help academy trusts to grow into larger multi-academy trusts.
The funding which is available to your academy trust via the TCaF is separated into three strands, depending on your proposed project. For all three strands, the minimum grant value which can be awarded is £50,000. However, the maximum value varies from £100,000 to £300,000 depending on your proposal.
Where the proposed project requires your academy trust to take on at least one Inadequate or Requires Improvement school, in an Education Investment Area (EIA), you may be awarded up to £300,000.
If your proposed project requires you to take on these outside of an EIA, or otherwise any school within an EIA (regardless of its current Ofsted rating), then up to £200,000 may be made available.
Finally, where your academy trust is proposing to take on Good or Outstanding schools outside of an EIA, you may be awarded up to £100,000.
While the maximum grant value specified is £300,000, the guidance states that academy trusts may bid over the maximum grant value for any strand, and such a bid will be supported in exceptional circumstances.
This might be, for example, if you are proposing to take on an academy which has been rated Inadequate, but which has been unable to transfer into a strong multi-academy trust for some time. Additionally, if you propose to take on a number of schools, bids above the maximum strand value may be considered.
Preparing your bid
The guidance provides a link to the application form which must be completed and ratified by your trust’s accounting officer.
If you want to be considered for funding via the TCaF for a project, you will initially need to ensure that your trust is considered by the Education and Skills Funding Agency to be of ‘sound financial health’, and at a minimum this means that you must not have an open financial notice to improve. In addition, the project for which you are seeking funding via the TCaF must be an eligible ‘growth project’.
To have the best chance of a successful bid, you will need to ensure that the project meets the criteria specified in the guidance. Your bid must be linked to a clearly defined growth project, approved, or to be approved, by a regional director between 1 July 2022 and 16 December 2022. Your application can be submitted whilst you await approval by the regional director.
A growth project is either taking at least one new school into your trust by 31 March 2024, or converting to academy status and taking on at least 2 new schools by 31 March 2024.
In addition, trust mergers, academy transfers, local authority established multi-academy trusts, and approved free school bid proposals will be considered to be growth projects which are eligible for funding via the TCaF.
If your proposal is for multiple schools to join an existing trust on a particular date, this will be considered to be one growth project, and therefore only one bid will be required.
As well as the growth projects outlined above, other activities for which you may be able to receive funding via the TCaF include establishing new central processes for your trust, training and continuing professional development for staff, and seeking specialist advice, such as finance, IT or HR advice, to help you to build permanent capacity for growth in your trust.
A successful application
The guidance confirms that funding via the TCaF is competitive and, therefore, even if you meet all the necessary criteria, funding is not guaranteed. Your application will be considered based on a number of factors:
Contextual need, meaning the level of priority of the schools which are linked to your project
Deliverability, meaning that your bid should clearly demonstrate that the project will be delivered by 31 March 2023
Value for money
In addition, successful applicants will be required, if capacity and context allow, to engage with initial teacher training initiatives, which may mean increasing the number of placements already offered if your trust has capacity.
All applications for funding via the TCaF must be submitted by 16 December 2022, but trusts are asked to submit their applications as early as possible, or keep the grant team informed of your trust’s plans so that applications can be managed. The guidance will expire on 31 March 2023. This means that by that date, all activities funded by the TCaF must have been completed.
Significant change applications are not considered to be a ‘growth project’, and therefore are not eligible for funding via the TCaF. Similarly, if specific funding is already available in respect of a proposed activity, including legal fees which are covered by the conversion grant, funding via the TCaF will not be granted. Consultancy costs and due diligence activities also cannot be funded via the TCaF.
Further, if your trust is not found to be adhering to the Department for Education’s guidance or best practice, extra conditions may be attached to the funding, or your bid may be unsuccessful. Therefore, if you are considering submitting a bid for funding via the TCaF, you would be well placed to conduct a review of your policies and practices to ensure that they are up to date and compliant.
If you have any uncertainty as to whether your proposed project is eligible for TCaF funding, you can contact your regional director for guidance, and of course will be happy to provide assistance.