The Academy Trust Handbook: Managing risks in your education estate

Our head of Sales, Josh Mitchell, discusses the importance of academy trusts within the UK education system.

The Academy Trust Handbook: Managing risks in your education estate

Education is just one of the sectors that has been forced to act rapidly and adapt during the course of the past 18 months as we have navigated the Covid-19 pandemic, all the while ensuring that teaching staff are still able to deliver the best possible outcomes for young people.

Academy trusts play a hugely important role in the education system within the UK which, despite the challenges faced over the last few months, have been able to flex and advance in support of the schools they administer – and the latest government guidance is set to further support trusts.

The re-branded Academies Financial Handbook – now known as the Academy Trust Handbook – which was released this summer, will provide a ‘one stop shop’ for everyone involved in an academy trust to understand key information such as legislation, safeguarding requirements and effective estates management to ensure that a “well-maintained, secure and comfortable environment,” is created for young people.


Helping with Cyber Security


Josh Mitchell, head of sales for our Total Risk Manager software, says the new Handbook provides food for thought, especially looking at risk management and cyber security issues.

He said: “Cyber security is a growing concern within the education sector and its inclusion in the new guidance likely follows an increase in the prevalence of attacks within the sector. This is something that maybe had not been fully considered prior to the pandemic as there was less requirement for education to operate online and facilitate home learning for students, but has really come to the fore over the past 18 months.

“There is still a level of uncertainty surrounding the future of home learning, rules relating to self-isolation and such so there is certainly still a real element of potential risk for academies and schools. This means that the sector will have to consider the cyber risks as part of a risk register and adopt appropriate policies.

“Our Risk Manager software allows us to do exactly that, making it very simple for trusts to manage and protect themselves. We would build in cyber security risks into the relevant risk register and include a cyber policy all in one place. This can then allow a trust to create planned jobs for an IT department, for instance, to follow up on key action points identified.”


Meeting the handbook requirements


The wider scope of risk management is also discussed in the Handbook, putting it at the forefront of trustees’ minds.

Josh added: “One of the key points within the Handbook is that a trust must maintain a risk register, which is something you would expect to exist already. However, what is really important is that trusts are actively managing these. Do they have review dates and alerts to keep that register ‘live’ for example? How are they calculating risk – is it done manually? This active management is crucial for any risk management process to be effective.

“This is something that we’re really passionate about and it is why our software allows a client to manage and monitor alerts, policies and so on all in the same place. It’s a really efficient way to ensure that requirements are being met whether that be online security, health and safety or day-to-day estate management and maintenance.

Good Estate Management is hugely important to ensuring a trust functions as it should and a proactive and efficient approach to risk management is crucial to delivering that. This feeds into the health and safety aspects of a trust too, bringing in issues such as asbestos management and other issues with maintenance.

“Again, this is something that our Total Risk Manager software supports with – we even have a dedicated asbestos module to allow clients to manage those risks effectively. The Handbook lays out clearly the expectations on trusts who will now need to consider how best to ensure they are delivering against them.”

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