February 17, 2023


The Academy Trust Handbook 2022 (ATH) (formerly the Academies Financial Handbook) was published on 25 August 2022, and came into effect on 1 September 2022. As in previous years the documents should be read by members, trustees and the key management personnel.

The ESFA made limited changes to the Handbook which is likely due to the acknowledgement that the date of publication was later than normal (usually June) and an awareness of the current pressure already on sector.

So what has changed?

Financial reporting

The Budget Forecast Return Outturn (BFRO) which previously had to be submitted to the ESFA in May each year has now permanently been withdrawn. Academies will therefore only be required to submit the Budget Forecast Return (BFR) in July each year.

Religious character - Related party transactions ‘at cost’ requirements

The Handbook has extended the scope of the ‘at cost’ requirements from Dioceses to all religious authorities. 5.57 states:

For academies with a religious designation, the provision of services to protect and develop their religious character and ethos, which can only be provided by their religious authority, are regarded as meeting the “at cost” requirement.’

Special payments

The special payments guidance has been clarified to assist academies deciding when they need to seek ESFA approval.


Confirming that trusts will be able to enter into indemnities which are in the normal course of business without seeking approval. Previously all indemnities over certain thresholds required ESFA consent.

Overall there has been limited changes in Handbook and the document continues a useful summary of ‘the musts’ on page 65.


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