This article is based on the DfE’s Trust Capacity Fund (TCaF) guidance for 2023 to 2025.

Who’s eligible?

To be eligible for this window of TCaF, you must:

  • Be an academy trust or local authority-maintained school in England
  • Be considered in good financial health by the Education and Skills Funding Agency. At the minimum, you must not have an open financial notice to improve
  • Have an eligible growth project that’s approved by a regional director from 1 January 2023

What the fund covers and what you can spend it on

There are 3 strands of the TCaF for 2023 to 2025:

Strand Purpose Amount available
A1 Projects in which your trust will take on or form from at least 5 additional schools, 1 of which must be ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ and in 1 of the Education Investment Areas (EIAs) £50,000 to £750,000
A2 Projects in which your trust will take on at least 1 additional ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ school in 1 of the Education Investment Areas (EIAs) £50,000 to £500,00
B Projects in which your trust will take on either at least 1 ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ school outside of an EIA or any school within an EIA £50,000 to £250,000
C Projects in which your trust will take on ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools outside of an EIA £50,000 to £100,000

See a list of EIAs on pages 17 and 18 of the application guidance.

Some grants are available across 2 financial years

This is for projects in strands A1 and A2.

Grants in stands B and C are only available over 1 financial year.

What you can spend it on

The type of ‘growth’ projects that are eligible for TCaF are:

  • Applications from schools to convert to academy status and form a multi-academy trust (MAT)
  • Sponsor matches for schools with directive academy orders
  • Trust mergers, including a single academy trust (SAT) joining a larger MAT, and SATs joining together to form new trusts
  • Academy transfers from 1 trust to another
  • Approved free school bid proposals

Examples of activities for which you can seek funding for include:

  • Establishing new central processes such as IT, finance and HR
  • Training and continuing professional development for staff
  • New staffing within the central trust team
  • New (or extending) staffing posts related to trust-wide school improvement
  • Reasonable relocation costs for moving staff to new regions
  • Specialist advice – such as IT, finance or HR advice – to build permanent capacity for growth
  • Audit fees in advance for the assurance of this grant funding

What you can’t spend it on

Growth projects that aren’t eligible are:

  • Significant change applications (e.g. changes to the age range, published admission or addition of a special educational needs resource base for 1 of your schools)
  • Physically expanding 1 of your schools
  • A school joining your trust as part of a trust partnership

Examples of activities for which you cannot seek funding for include:

  • Due diligence activities relating to the schools being taken on
  • Expenditure on tangible items, such as the purchase of assets (e.g. buildings, furniture, fittings, IT equipment)
  • Costs for refurbishment
  • Activities that are already funded from other sources, such as legal fees that are covered by the sponsorship/conversion grant
  • Time for pre-existing staff to undertake work that’s already in progress as part of their current responsibilities
  • Time for senior trust personnel (such as CEOs, headteachers) to conduct further school improvement activities or trust audits as a part or an extension of their current role/duties
  • Consultancy costs for delivering and managing the whole TCaF project

You should contact your regional director office to confirm the eligibility of your project and relevant details.

Apply for the fund

  • Applications can be made from 1 April 2023 to 30 September 2024 
  • There are 5 application windows throughout this period:
Application Window Window 1 Window 2 Window 3 Window 4 Window 5
Window opens 1 April 2023 1 July 2023 1 November 2023 1 March 2024 1 July 2024
Submission deadline 1 June 2023 2 October 2023 1 February 2024 3 June 2024 1 October 2024

For windows 1 and 2, all funded activity must be completed by:

  • 31 March 2024 (for activities planned over 1 financial year)
  • 31 March 2025 (for activities planned across 2 financial years)

Updated guidance and completion dates for windows 3 to 5 will be published in October 2023.

Write your application

Once you know you’re eligible, apply using the application form.

You’ll have to fill out 3 sections:

  • Organisation details – basic information about your organisation
  • Project outline – the strand you’re applying for, the details of the school(s) that you’re proposing will join your trust, and when your growth project was or will be discussed at the advisory board, or approved by the regional director
  • Project details – an overview of the project and your action plan for it, including: its costs; how you’ll ensure it’s deliverable, value for money, and sustainable; and your compliance, governance, and resource management arrangements

Use the checklist on page 5 of the application form to help you go through the process and make sure you’ve done what you need to do.

You’ll also need to get your accounting officer (usually your CEO) to ratify the application first. You should also read the grant funding terms and conditions before submitting your application.

See pages 9 to 11 of the application guidance.

Assessment process

There are 2 stages to the assessment process.

The first is a regional assessment where the relevant regional director uses the information in your application and data the DfE holds to judge against the following criteria:

  • Geographical need
  • Contextual need
  • Trust development statements (only applicable if trusts are taking on or being formed by schools in an EIA)
  • Deliverability
  • Value for money
  • Sustainability

After the regional assessment, the second stage is a national moderation to make sure applications are assessed consistently.

You can read more about the assessment process and criteria on pages 13 to 15 of the guidance.

Penalties and deductions

If you don’t adhere to departmental guidance or best practice, applications will be subject to point deductions, for reasons such as:

  • Failure to provide information about key individuals in the trust
  • Failure to comply with previous grant assurance procedures

This is explained in more detail on page 16 of the application guidance.

If you’re successful

You will be informed of the outcome of your application as soon as possible via email.

You will be required to sign a funding agreement based on the plan you submitted in your application. The agreement outlines the DfE’s expectations, grant conditions, and monitoring arrangements.

The grant is paid in arrears throughout the funding period once you’ve completed your agreed activity.