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Working Through The Minefield That Is Trust Expansion: A Guide for Schools and Trusts

This is an ever-changing landscape in education; schools joining trusts for growth and improvement. However, with this expansion comes the necessity for a thorough understanding of the criteria and due diligence required by both trusts and schools. The Department for Education (DfE) is actively working to provide clarity on decision-making processes, streamlining the path to trust expansion.  In this article we will explore the key aspects that both trusts and schools must consider when evaluating the possibility of trust expansion.

Criteria For Schools Joining Trusts

When a school considers joining a trust, several essential criteria must be taken into account to ensure a successful partnership. These criteria can vary depending on the goals and values of the specific trust, but common factors include:

Alignment of Vision and Values

The school's vision and values should align with those of the trust to ensure a harmonious partnership and shared educational objectives.

Performance and Standards

The academic performance and standards of the school are crucial considerations for trusts. A strong track record of success will likely make the school an attractive candidate for trust expansion.

Capacity for Improvement

Trusts often seek schools that have the potential for improvement. Demonstrating a commitment to continuous enhancement in teaching, learning, and overall school performance is advantageous.

Financial Viability

The financial stability of the school is vital for ensuring its sustainability within the trust's network. An in-depth financial analysis should be conducted during the due diligence process.

Leadership and Governance

The quality of the school's leadership team and governance structure is a key factor. Trusts will assess the effectiveness and capability of the school's leadership in driving positive change.

"Vision & Values must be aligned."

Due Diligence For Trusts

Trusts must undertake thorough due diligence before accepting a school into their network. The process involves investigating various aspects of the school's operations, including:

Academic Performance

Trusts need to analyse the school's historical academic data, including exam results and progress measures, to assess its strengths and weaknesses.

Financial Health

A comprehensive review of the school's financial records should be undertaken to ensure its financial viability and stability.

Staff & Leadership

Trusts should evaluate the capacity and capability of the school's leadership team and teaching staff to determine if additional support is needed.

Pupil Wellbeing & Safeguarding

The safeguarding policies and procedures of the school must be thoroughly examined to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all pupils.

Stakeholder Engagement

Trusts ought to assess how well the school engages with parents, students, and the local community to gauge its reputation and community support.

Due Diligence For Schools

Whilst the trust conducts its due diligence, schools must also perform their own assessment to determine if joining the trust aligns with their objectives. The school's due diligence process may include:

Researching The Trust

Sounds obvious but schools should thoroughly research the trust's history, performance, and ethos to ensure it is a good fit.

Meet With Trust Representatives

Again, it sounds obvious, but engaging in conversations with trust representatives will provide valuable insights into the benefits and expectations of joining that trust.

Consult Stakeholders

Seeking input from staff, parents, and governors can help in understanding their views and concerns about joining a trust.

Analyse Trust's Support

Assessing the support the trust can offer, including resources, expertise, and training, is vital to determine the potential benefits of any partnership.

"From the beginning, no request we had was too small."


Trust expansion can be a positive step towards improving educational outcomes and fostering collaboration. Both trusts and schools must exercise due diligence and carefully consider the criteria for successful trust expansion. By clarifying decision-making processes, the DfE aims to streamline this journey, facilitating strong and fruitful partnerships between trusts and schools for the betterment of education in the UK.

You are probably thinking that this article is very repetitive but perhaps that is the point; check, check and check again that any partnerships forged on behalf of your trust or school meet your specific criteria, as well as that of the DfE.

Posted on July 27th 2023

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