The Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) can benefit schools and academies striving to balance constrained budgets and deliver estate upkeep. But, as government funding is squeezed by wider economic pressures, the threshold for successful applications is more rigorous than ever.
Following the announcement of the 2024/2025 application window, our Head of Schools and Academies, Lucia Glynn, provides answers to some typical CIF related questions and offers some guidance, hints and tips to improve your chances of bid success.
What is CIF?
The Condition Improvement Fund is a Department for Education capital fund aimed at addressing significant condition needs in schools and colleges. The priorities are to keep education providers operational, and its pupils and students safe, warm, and dry. The fund has just opened and will close on 14 December, with the outcome due to be published in May 2024. Prospective new applicants need to register for an account by 7 November 2023.
Who can apply for CIF?
The Department for Education’s Condition Improvement Fund is open to:
- A standalone academy
- A school in a Multi Academy Trust (MAT) with fewer than five schools or fewer than 3,000 pupils, as counted in the Spring census
- A Voluntary Aided (VA) school in a body or a group with fewer than five schools or fewer than 3,000 pupils, as counted in the Spring census
- A sixth form college.
What type of projects are funded by CIF?
CIF grants can support a wide variety of essential estate improvement projects, including roof renewals, building safety matters such as RAAC, heating system upgrades, rewires, fire alarm and safety upgrades, kitchen refurbishments, safeguarding and asbestos removal works. The fund can also be used as a resource to decarbonise buildings and reach sustainability targets.
What isn’t funded by CIF in 2024/2025?
- RAAC projects
- Expansion projects that increase capacity by less than 10% for an added places project, or where the existing number on roll is less than 10% over the capacity for an overcrowding project.
How are CIF bids scored?
Increasingly, the success criteria for projects is based on the risk of an education provider facing closure. Other high-scoring criteria in a bid is cost assurance:
- Project Need – 60 points: Highest points are awarded where there is a risk of school closure
- Project Cost – 25 points:Highest points are awarded where cost certainty can be provided, and Trusts have provided high percentage contributions
- Project Planning – 15 Points: Highest points are awarded for projects that need to be completed urgently to prevent school closure.
How do I evidence project need?
Projects will score most highly where the condition issue threatens the school with closure, and/or the delivery of education, for example boilers which have failed. Evidence such as a Building Condition Survey, Mechanical and Electrical Survey, Fire Safety Survey or Fire Risk Assessment are recommended as supporting evidence for the bid.
Does our School or Trust need to make a financial contribution to be successful?
Yes,the financial contribution is part of the scoring of the application.
How do we achieve the highest marks?
We recommend only bidding for projects in the ‘high’ and ‘highest’ need categories, highlighting why the issue risks school closure, or a major Health and Safety risk.
We advise submitting:
- Clear photographic evidence
- Compelling statements of need.
The case is better made where the applicant has undertaken additional surveys, where possible, to de-risk the project.
Do I need an Estates Strategy?
We recommend all schools and MATs develop an estates strategy in line with the Department for Education’s Good Estates Management for Schools (GEMS) guidance. Your estate strategy should include:
- A vision that sets out what you wish to achieve over the next 5-10 years
- A strategy that outlines your plans to achieve this vision
- An asset management plan which comprises live operational data about your estate which aids the prioritisation of maintenance works and sets out the improvements required to achieve the estates strategy.
What is the timeline to develop an application for the next round of CIF funding?
The fund has just opened and will close on 14 December, with the outcome due to be published in May 2024. Prospective new applicants need to register for an account by 7 November 2023.
Now is an ideal time to scope your project, drawing in the necessary expertise and having any reports prepared. Make sure that you have considered all the project elements, so it can move forward once the funding is secured.
What happens if my bid is unsuccessful?
The Department for Education offers an appeals process whereby you can re-submit your bid with additional evidence for review.
If you are considering a CIF bid for the next funding round, the RLB team is ready to support you. With our ‘no-win, no-fee’ bid submission basis, combined with our high success rate, we offer a low-risk solution that can deliver maximum reward to your employees and students.
Contact Lucia Glynn – Partner, Head of Schools and Academies on firstname.lastname@example.org