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Election delays 2024 academy trust handbook

School leaders have been warned that publication of the government’s updated academy trust handbook will be “delayed until after the election”.

In a letter to chief executives, ESFA CEO David Withey said the vital guidance would be released after the country goes to the polls on July 4 as any changes would require ministerial approval.

New versions of the document – which trusts must comply with or risk breaching their funding agreements – are usually published before the end of the summer term.

However, Withey stressed today that the ESFA will provide leaders “with an update at the earliest opportunity”.

“Given the election announcement, the publication of the handbook will now be delayed until after the election.

“The ESFA aims to publish an updated academy trust handbook for the new academic year at the earliest opportunity in order to provide the sector with certainty about our requirements around financial oversight and compliance.”

David Withey

Withey also explained that “any updates to the handbook will require ministerial approval”. He added the ESFA “must pause on communicating anything new or novel, and on most of our external engagement activities” in the lead up to the vote.

The DfE rebranded the academies financial handbook as the ATH in June 2021, as ministers dubbed it a “one-stop shop” for trust leaders.

But the following year officials apologised for giving schools just days to digest the handbook before it took effect after publishing it in August 2022.

That edition contained few reforms, potentially reflecting the political limbo Whitehall was in before Liz Truss’s move into Downing Street.

The current version of the ATH was published last July, before coming into force the following September.

Academies minister Baroness Barran said at the time the handbook was “clearer and more concise” to “provide more clarity on the requirements of academy trusts”, as it reduced in size from 78 to 62 pages.

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