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Glossary of commonly used phrases for members of academy trusts and trustees of academy boards

30 December 2019

When carrying out a governance role at an academy trust or multi-academy trust you may hear or read terms in meetings and reports which appear to be ‘jargon’ and include multiple acronyms. If you are new to school/academy governance you may feel overwhelmed and find it hard to remember these words. Even if you are an experienced hand there are always new terms that are introduced. That’s why we’ve developed a simplified glossary of key terms which are commonly used in education.

This free resource is available for staff within a school setting and board members to access and keep on track of your key governance and legal obligations. If you would like further information about any of the topics mentioned, particularly in reference to a matter within your school or trust please do not hesitate to contact us.

Glossary of commonly used phrases

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) is a professional association and trade union for all school, college and trust leaders.

See 'Academy Trust Handbook'.

The Confederation of School Trusts (CST) is the national organisation and sector body for School Trusts in England.

The Academy Trust Handbook (also known as the Academies Financial Handbook) is the overarching framework for implementation of effective management and control. Academy trusts must comply with the handbook as a condition of their funding agreement with the Secretary of State. Those responsible for governing, managing and auditing an academy trust must be familiar with the terms of the handbook. It is reviewed annually, typically in the Summer.

The Foundation for Education Development (FED) provides space for policy makers in education, business and politics to build consensus around a long-term (10-30 year) education plan.

Academies are independent state-funded schools, which receive their funding directly from central government, rather than through the local authority and are independent of local authority control. Academies don’t have to follow the national curriculum and can set their own term times. They still have to follow the same rules on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions as other state schools. Academies are maintained by an academy trust which employs the staff.

The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) represent, advise and train school leaders in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

An order made by the Secretary of State in respect of a maintained school in England to be converted into an academy. These can either be made when an application has been made by the governing body, or a school may be issued with a directive academy order in circumstances where the school is eligible for intervention, for example if the school receives an “inadequate” Ofsted rating.

The National Education Union (NEU) is a campaigning union for school teachers, further education lecturers, education support staff and teaching assistants.

An academy sponsor is an organisation (or individual generally in the early phases of the academy programme) who has approval from the Department for Education to support an underperforming academy or group of academies. Nowadays it is the academy trust that is deemed the sponsor by DfE.

The National Governance Association (NGA) is the membership organisation  for governors, trustees and clerks of state schools in England.

An academy trust is the charitable company that is responsible for maintaining an academy or a group of academies.

A senior executive leader appointed by the board of Trustees who has specific responsibilities for financial matters. This includes a personal responsibility to Parliament, and to ESFA’s accounting officer, for the trust’s financial resources. Accounting officers must be able to assure Parliament, and the public of high standards of probity in the management of public funds, particularly regularity, propriety and value for money.

The Academies Accounts Direction is a direction form the ESFA as to the form Academy Trust accounts must take and should be used by Academy Trusts and their auditors to use when preparing and auditing financial statements for the accounting period ending on 31 August annually.

The body responsible for setting and applying a school’s admission arrangements. For academies, this body is the academy trust.

This is the policy that determines which criteria will be used if there are more applications than places.

Advisory boards (formerly headteacher boards) are responsible for advising and challenging Regional Directors on academy related decisions. They comprise of a mix of elected heads and executive heads in the region as well as two members appointed by the regional director.

Alternative provision is an education setting, arranged by local authorities or schools, for pupils who do not attend mainstream school for reasons such as school exclusion, behaviour issues, school refusal, or short- or long-term illness.

Analyse school performance is the DfE’s new service to replace RAISEonline. The service provides detailed performance analysis data to support school improvement.

The Academy Trust is a charitable company limited by guarantee. Like all companies, the Academy Trust will have a memorandum and articles of association. The memorandum sets out the names of the initial Members of the Academy Trust and the articles of association are the rules that will govern the running of the trust.

Attainment 8 measures a pupil’s achievements across eight subjects including Maths and English. This measure is intended to encourage schools to offer a broad, well-balanced curriculum.

Every Academy Trust must have a CFO under the Academies Financial Handbook. The Chief Financial Officer is responsible for managing the academy trust’s financial procedures. The CFO should play both a technical and leadership role.

Attainment in all of reading, writing and maths (combined). The combined reading, writing, and maths measure uses the reading and maths test results along with the outcome of the writing TA. Together, these subjects give a broad measure of pupil attainment.

A community school is a state-funded school in which the local education authority owns the land and buildings, employs the school staff, is responsible for school admissions and supplies services such as special educational needs (SEN) support and educational psychology.

Former maintained schools which have converted to academy status.

The Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA) is part of the UK data protection regime, and details the principles, rules, and rights in relation to the use of personal information by organisations. The DPA sits alongside and supplements the UK GDPR.

A Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) is a risk assessment which should be undertaken whenever a company is involved in an activity posing a ‘high risk’ to other’s personal information. Think of it like a normal risk assessment that focuses on risks to personal data.

Data Protection Officers (DPO) are independent officers within an organisation who are experts in data protection and have day-to-day responsibility for data protection obligations and compliance within a Trust. They are the point of contact for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). They lead your trust on data protection matters.

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) helps employers make safer recruitment decisions by processing and issuing DBS checks. The DBS also maintains the adults’ and children’s’ Barred Lists and considers whether an individual should be included in one or both of these lists and barred from engaging in regulated activity.

The Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) for a school/trust is the first point of contact for any safeguarding or child protection concerns within school. DSLs take a lead role in developing, reviewing, and implementing safeguarding and child protection policies.

The Department for Education, which is responsible for children’s services and education, including early years, schools, higher and further education policy, apprenticeships, and wider skills in England. 

In an education setting, children may be defined as disadvantaged if the following apply:
  • they are known to have been eligible for free school meals in the past six years (from year 6 to year 11); 
  • they are recorded as having been looked after for at least one day; or
  • they are recorded as having been adopted from care.

Early Career Teachers are teachers in their first two years of teaching who have to follow a statutory two-year induction process. It replaced the previous newly qualified teachers (NQT) nationally in England from September 2021.

An Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) is for children and young people aged up to 25 who need more support than is available through special educational needs support. EHCPs identify any special educational, health and social needs a child has and the provision a local authority must put in.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) brings together the former responsibilities of the Education Funding Agency (EFA) and the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) to create a single agency accountable for funding education and skills for children, young people and adults. The ESFA is an executive agency, sponsored by the DfE.

The early years foundation stage (EYFS) sets standards for the learning, development and care of children from birth to 5 years old.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 provides for public access to information held by public authorities. As public authorities, maintained schools and academies (and trusts) are required to respond to requests for information they hold under the Act. The Act sets out how to make a valid request as well as exemptions (which can be absolute or qualified).

A foundation school is a state-funded school maintained by the local authority where the governing body owns the land and buildings, directly employs the staff, and is responsible for admissions.

Free schools, which are a type of academy, mainly consist of new schools. Any suitable sponsor - including local parents, private businesses and academy trusts can apply to the Secretary of State for Education to open a free school. In addition, where a local authority thinks there is a need for a new school in its area it can seek proposals to establish a free school.

The key contract between the Secretary of State and an academy trust that sets out the terms on which the academy is to be funded.

The local authority apply funding formula to allocate funding to both maintained schools and academies within their local authority.

The general annual grant is the term used to describe the revenue funding allocated to academies on an academic year basis.

The UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the framework detailing the rights, principles and obligations which exist in relation to the processing of personal data in the UK.

Get information about schools (GIAS) is a register of schools and colleges in England. On the register you are able to search for and download information on establishments, establishment groups (such as a local authority, trust or federation) or governors. Schools, local authorities and academy trusts can also update details by signing into their DfE sign-in account. 

See 'Advisory Boards'

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the UK’s independent body set up to uphold information rights. 

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was established by the Home Secretary in 2015 to look at the extent to which institutions in England and Wales have discharged their duty to protect children from sexual abuse.

View the government's IICSA report here and read our IICSA guidance for schools and trusts here.

This is the main statutory guidance which sets out the duties on schools and trusts to comply to properly safeguard and promote the welfare of children. The guidance is updated annually and includes duties on Trust Boards.

LA stands for the local authority, which is responsible for the provision of an extensive range of public services (including education).

The Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) works within children’s services and gives advice and guidance to employers, organisations and other individuals who have concerns about the conduct or behaviour of a person who works with children and/or young people.

The Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) is a registered, funded, statutory, public sector pension scheme. This is administered, managed and funded at a local level. When a school converts to academy statue, responsibility for the pension contributions will transfer to the academy Trust.

In multi academy trusts, each academy school will usually have its own local governing body (the terminology may vary from trust to trust). These have a similar composition to committees of a maintained governing body and the only powers they have are those that are delegated to them by the board. This is normally formalised into a scheme of delegation.

Children who are in the care of local authorities as defined by section 22 of the Children Act 1989. 

Maintained schools are those that are state-funded and controlled by the local education authority. There are four main types of maintained school:
  • community schools;
  • voluntary controlled (VC) schools;
  • voluntary aided (VA) schools;
  • foundation schools. 

A multi academy trust (MAT) is a trust which is responsible for maintaining one or more academies.

The academy trust is a company limited by guarantee and Members have some similarity to shareholders in a company limited by shares. Members have a ‘hands-off’ role and act as the guardians of the effective operation of the Academy Trust.

The memorandum sets out the names of the initial Members of the academy trust on its incorporation. This memorandum remains with the trust and is not amended when members change.

National Leader of Governance.

The National Schools Commissioner (NSC) and Regional Schools Commissioners (RSC) work with school leaders to take action in underperforming schools.

A practice defined by Ofsted as removing a learner from the provider’s roll without a formal, permanent exclusion or by encouraging a parent to remove their child, when the removal is primarily in the interests of the provider rather than in the best interests of the learner.

Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills. They inspect services providing education and skills for learners of all ages. They also inspect and regulate services that care for children and young people. Ofsted is a non-ministerial department.

This refers to inspections which must be carried out in accordance with section 5 of the Education Act 2005. Under this section, academies must be inspected within five school years from the end of the school year in which the last inspection took place. Academies that were judged to be outstanding in their most recent section 5 inspection are exempt from inspection under section 5, and can only be subject to a section 8 inspection (see below). 

This refers to inspections which can be carried out under section 8 of the Education Act 2005. These include monitoring visits by Her Majesty’s Inspectors to schools that are in a category of concern following a section 5 inspection, as well as inspections on outstanding schools that are exempt from routine inspections under section 5 should Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI) have concerns. 

Ofsted summary evaluations are when inspectors evaluate the quality of education provided by a MAT and leaders’ contributions to this, drawing on previous inspections of individual academies within that MAT. At the end of the summary evaluation, Ofsted publish a letter setting out what inspectors have found.

The published admission number (PAN) is the number of school places that the admission authority must offer in each relevant age group of a school for which it is the admission authority. 

PFI stands for Private Finance Initiative, a way of creating public-private partnerships where private firms are contracted to complete and manage public projects. 

This is a contractual arrangement between a public and private sector entity providing a service or performing a departmental function, in accordance with an output specification, for a specified significant period of time. PPP involves a substantial transfer of all forms of project life cycle risk to the private sector. The public sector retains a significant role in the project either as the main purchaser of the services provided or as the main enabler of the project.

A privacy notice is a document which clearly sets out an organisation’s policies in relation to the processing of any personal data within its control. It sets out what personal data is collected, why the personal data is held, how long it will be kept for, and with whom it will be shared.

This measures a pupil’s progress across eight qualifications including Maths and English. This score shows how well pupils have improved and progressed compared to pupils with similar academic starting points in other schools.

A pupil referral unit (PRU) is established and maintained by a local authority to provide education for children who are excluded, sick or otherwise unable to attend mainstream school. This is not a special school or another type of school.

A raw score is an unaltered measurement. For example, let's say you took a test in class and scored 85. This is a raw score, an unaltered measurement of how you did. You scored 85. A raw data set is a collection of raw scores from all the tests.

This is where an academy trust is required to transfer an academy (or academies) to another academy trust usually initiated by the RSC. 

Every company is required to keep a register of its Members which includes their name and contact details.

All companies have a duty to keep a register of their Trustees, which contains the legal name and other details for all current Trustees. 

Regional Directors (RDs) take responsibility in their region on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education for monitoring the performance of academies and holding academy trusts to account where the academies or free schools that they operate are underperforming. 

SATs (or Standard Assessment Tests) are national tests given to children at school. They are also known as 'SATs papers', 'SATs exams' or 'SATs tests'. In primary school, children take their Key Stage 1 (KS1) SATs at the end of Year 2 and their Key Stage 2 (KS2) SATs at the end of Year 6.

The terms of reference delegated by the board of Trustees to any committee including any local governing body of an academy, setting out the terms of what matters are delegated to them at school level.

School Business Manager.

SEN stands for special educational needs. This relates to pupils who have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children of the same age. There is a formal assessment to decide if a pupil needs a statement of SEN or an education, health and care plan (EHCP).

SENCO stands for special educational needs coordinators. These must be qualified teachers working at the school and will assist with determining and implementing the strategic development of SEN policy and provision in the school. 

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) handles appeals against local authority decisions regarding special educational needs. The tribunal also deals with appeals against discrimination by schools or local authorities due to a child’s disability. 

The Single Central Record is a statutory requirement in accordance with statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) which is updated annually.  All schools and academies are required to keep and maintain a record of recruitment and vetting checks for all staff (including relevant volunteers, supply teachers, agency and third party staff and teacher trainees on salaried routes). Academies also need to keep the same information for all members of the proprietor body. It must be maintained, reviewed and audited on a regular basis.

The Secretary of State for Education (SoS) is the Chief Minister of the Department of Education.

Special schools are those that provide an education for children with a special educational need or disability.

These are the official records kept by the company. A company's statutory books are usually kept at the registered office of the company. The books should be available to the general public for inspection during reasonable office hours.

In an education setting, this is a request that can be made by a parent or a pupil (depending on the pupil’s age) to a copy of their own personal data that the school holds and processes. It would also be applicable for members of staff.

The Teacher Regulation Agency (TRA) regulates the teaching profession. It manages referrals from employers, the public, the police, the DBS, and other regulators as regards teacher behaviour which has allegedly breached acceptable professional conduct. Schools and trusts have a duty to refer conduct to the TRA in certain circumstances.

Term Time Only is a term used to describe staff who are employed to work only during periods when schools are open. Their pay is calculated on an annual basis and then spread out over 12 equal monthly instalments.

The Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) provides additional benefits linked to salary, is inflation-proof to offer teachers a secure retirement and offers the typical teacher around £7,000 in employer contributions every year.

The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006, also known as TUPE, safeguards employees' rights when there is a transfer of a business or service from one organisation (the transferor) to another organisation (the transferee). TUPE imposes various obligations on both organisations where TUPE applies including the automatic transfer principle, protection from dismissal, restrictions on changing terms of employment and obligations to inform and consult.

These typically (subject to DfE capacity) take place annually between the CEO and Chair of trusts with the regional director (or a member of their team) at the instigation of the RD’s offices. The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss the overall performance of the trust and its priorities for the following year.

Trustees are both company directors and charity Trustees. Together the Trustees form a board. 

Voluntary aided (VA) schools are usually known as church or faith schools. They are similar to VC schools but have more independence from the LA. The land and buildings belong to a charity, but the governing body runs the school, employs the staff and controls admissions. Funding comes partly from the LA and partly from the charity.

Voluntary controlled (VC) schools are partly controlled by a charity (typically a church or another religious institution). The LA funds the school, employs the staff and provides support services, and usually controls the admissions process. The charity owns the land and buildings and appoints some of the governors.

We work with a range of leading sector bodies including;

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) is a professional association and trade union for all school, college and trust leaders.

The Confederation of School Trusts (CST) is the national organisation and sector body for School Trusts in England.

The Foundation for Education Development (FED) provides space for policy makers in education, business and politics to build consensus around a long-term (10-30 year) education plan.

The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) represent, advise and train school leaders in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The National Education Union (NEU) is a campaigning union for school teachers, further education lecturers, education support staff and teaching assistants.

The National Governance Association (NGA) is the membership organisation  for governors, trustees and clerks of state schools in England.



Nick MacKenzie


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