Section 2.51 of the new 2021 Academy Trust Handbook (ATH) introduces a new must requirement, that trusts must make available for public inspection:
- the agenda for every meeting of the trustees, local governing bodies and committees
- the approved minutes of each meeting
- any report, document or other paper considered at each meeting.
This raised a question as to what the ESFA means by ‘available for public inspection’. This could be interpreted as publishing the documents on the trust’s website, however we have clarified this question with the ESFA and they have confirmed this is not necessary.
Despite being a new must requirement, the inclusion in the ATH actually changes nothing. The article of association – the document setting out how the trust is to be run and its governing rules – covers this issue with the current model articles stating the trustees shall ensure a copy of the documents listed above are, as soon as is reasonably practical, made available to persons wishing to inspect them. The ATH therefore merely reiterates the requirements of the articles.
How do most trusts comply with this requirement?
Some trusts do choose to voluntarily publish information on the website. However trusts need to think carefully before opting to put more information than they strictly need to into the public domain. There is also the time it takes someone to upload documents and keep everything up to date to consider.
Most trusts therefore simply maintain a folder of the documents, probably held at the registered office or central trust offices.
Anything deemed to be confidential can be excluded or redacted. Most trusts opt to write up their minutes in two parts; first the general minutes of the main meeting and then a second, confidential part, containing any details trustees feel should not be made more widely available.
The ATH and articles state that the following information may be excluded or redacted:
- a named teacher or other employee or proposed employee
- a named pupil or student at the academy, or candidate for admission or referral to it
- any matter which, by reason of its nature, the trustees are satisfied should remain confidential.
More widely, the list of information that academy trusts are required to publish on their website is lengthy. We can review your compliance in this area as part of a programme of internal scrutiny.
The next steps
If you have any questions on the above article or any questions in general about the recording of minutes and other such information, please contact Allan Hickie or your usual UHY adviser.