The Department for Education (DfE) is offering seed funding, to encourage primary schools to form new academy chains.
A notice placed on the DfE website on 5 July said that the grant, of up to £25,000, would "assist primary schools that decide to convert to academy status in stronger forms of academy chains".
By way of example it cited Multi-academy Trusts, in which several schools have a single funding agreement, on a similar model to Harris or Ark; or looser Umbrella Trusts, in which schools retain their individual funding agreements.
The grant, which is available until the end of the year, is open to any group of three or more primary schools that wish to form such trusts. The DfE expects the money to be spent on improving management capacity, for example by hiring a business manager; or on seeking legal advice to facilitate the creation of a new chain.
This latest move is in part a response to the relative lack of enthusiasm with which primary schools have greeted the offer of academy status. Just 3% of primaries have so far taken up the new status, compared to 40% of secondaries.
A trust structure could go some way to replacing the support services historically received from the local education authority – making academy status more attractive to primary schools.
Federating with other schools may also boost attainment. A report published last March by the National College for School Leadership found that schools grouped in chains of three or more produce better results than standalone academies.
Chains of primary schools have already begun to emerge. The Elliot Foundation, headed by former Babcock executive Dr Caroline Whalley, hopes to recruit as many as 200 such schools.