TCaF stands for the Trust Capacity Fund, and its purpose is to support the growth of multi-academy trusts (MATs) to help them develop their capacity.

The grant is competitive, and both academy trusts and local authority-maintained schools forming a MAT are eligible to apply. Projects that TCaF can support focus on strengthening a trust’s central capacity, such as establishing new central processes (like HR) or staffing posts.

The trust capacity fund is split into different application windows, with the next open since 1st March 2024 (TCaF window 4). You’ve got just over three months to submit your application, as 25th June 2024 is the closing date. So, we’ve rounded up what you need to know about the fourth window to support your bid!

What is TCaF window 4 looking for?

The point of the trust capacity fund is to provide MATs with the funding they need to get their growth projects off the ground. So far, over £17.5 million has been awarded to successful applicants for TCaF 2023-2025.

It’s essential that growth projects have been/will be approved by a regional director between 1st January 2024 and 20th July 2024 in order to apply. That’s because TCaF has been designed to enable sustainable growth for trusts. So if you haven’t already spoken to your regional director, that should be priority number one!

It goes that there are certain types of application that the DfE ‘particularly encourages’, projects which:

  • Relate to education investment areas (EIAs)
  • Involve taking on groups of schools
  • Involve taking on underperforming schools

More details can be found in the DfE’s ‘Information for applicants’ document, which also states that projects that involve ‘multiple schools’ are more likely to be successful.

What projects are eligible for TCaF?

The growth project you link your TCaF window 4 application to must fall into one of the categories listed in the same ‘Information for applicants’ document. They include:

  • A MAT taking on a school or group of schools
  • Trust mergers (like a single academy trust (SAT) joining a larger MAT and SATs joining together to create new trusts)
  • Applications from schools to convert to academy status and form a MAT

You can find the full criteria for window 4 eligible projects here.

Activities TCaF can be used for

Like with any project, a number of activities will need to be completed in order to make the growth project a success. 31st March 2025 is the deadline for TCaF-funded activities within your project to be completed, a date worth bearing in mind when it comes to writing an application that considers timeframes and resource availability!

Remember that the point of this fund is to strengthen a trust’s central capacity, so activities must be focussed on benefiting all schools in your trust, not a chosen one or two.

There’s a range of activities eligible for TCaF funding, which could look like:

  • Setting up new central processes to make your trust run more consistently, like HR, finance, and IT
  • Continuing professional development and training for staff
  • The reasonable relocation costs for moving staff to new regions

More examples of activities that TCaF can support can be read here.

Trust capacity fund strands 

Originally, TCaF 2023-2025 was split into five funding strands. But due to windows 1 to 3 receiving a ‘very high’ number of applications, window 5 has been removed. Instead, the application dates for window 4 have been extended to ‘better manage anticipated demand’.

Information on the DfE’s website surrounding TCaF makes it rather clear that the grant is competitive, reiterating that even ‘high quality applications’ may ‘not be successful’! For TCaF window 4, grants are available over one financial year only.

So, how do you know which of the four funding strands to apply for? Well, each strand has a minimum and maximum grant value. For all strands, the minimum value granted to projects is £50,000, rising to a maximum of £750,000 for projects in strand A1. That’s for trusts whose projects will ‘take on or form from at least 5 schools’, one of which must be in an EIA and be a school that’s ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’.

How to apply for TCaF window 4

There’s an online application form to complete to apply to window 4 of TCaF 2023-2025. Several sections need completing, and you’ll need to detail your school or trust’s:

  • Project outline
  • Project details
  • Planned activities
  • TDS narrative

Like with any funding application, the more data and details you have to support your bid, the better! There are some golden nuggets of information in the full applicant guidance document, like the ability to demonstrate value for money. Make sure you’re able to populate your application with evidence, like listing your planned activities against the costings that you’re seeking the funding for. It’ll also be in your favour to show how you’re working to keep costs to a minimum, something fundamental to good project management in schools!

Under the same ‘value for money’ criteria, the document includes the handy advice that applications will be deemed stronger if there is ‘clear evidence the activity could not take place without TCaF funding’. Worth bearing in mind if your activities can’t be funded by other sources!

In summary: What you need to know

We’ve tried our best to pull out what we believe are some of the handiest parts of TCaF 2023-2025’s ‘Information for applicants’ document to support you with applying to window 4. But you should know that the full information spreads across 19 pages, meaning there’s lots more advice and insight for you to explore to draft the most informed application as possible!

As a minimum, remember that window 4 of TCaF 2023-2025 is:

  • A competitive grant for MATs needing to fund their growth projects
    • Such projects need to have been/be approved by a regional director between 1st January 2024 and 20th July 2024. If you’ve got a project in mind that would benefit from TCaF, you need to be speaking with your regional director now to give it the best chance of being approved before the window 4 deadline!
  • Now open! (It opened on 1st March 2024 and will close on 25th June 2024)
    • Projects due to be heard in July advisory boards will also be accepted
  • Likely to be in high demand – there was such a high number of applications for the first three windows that window 5 has been replaced with an extension to window 4!
  • Awarding grants that are only available over one financial year
  • For activities that must be completed by 31st March 2025

Best of luck to all applying to TCaF window 4!