With only a matter of weeks until the end of the school year and the summer holidays, many academies who were granted funding will now be starting to prepare for building works to begin. Our team are also gearing up for a busy summer ahead as we will be working alongside the academy schools we helped to gain CIF funding, project managing the works.

But believe it or not, we’re already thinking ahead to the autumn and the next round of CIF funding applications!

If you have been through the CIF (Condition Improvement Fund) application process before, you’ll know how important planning and preparation is. If you’re new to the process and haven’t submitted a project application before, you might well be surprised at the amount of work that’s involved.

Here, we give a few thoughts on what to think about for the next round…


Commission a condition survey

If you are new to the CIF funding process, commissioning an independent condition survey is a good place to start in deciding which areas of the site need attention and in what order of priority. The ESFA bid guidance document stresses the importance of this, stating: ‘an up-to-date, independent condition survey will assist you in identifying and prioritising the worst condition areas of your site.’ It’s important to note that a Condition Data Collection (CDC) report will not suffice in providing the level of detail required in order to evidence required works as part of a CIF application.

Academy schools that are already working alongside a school building consultant may have had a condition survey conducted already. However considering the ESFA’s guidance, depending on when this was undertaken, it might be wise for this to be revisited.


Choose your project carefully

Once you have a full picture of the areas of the site/estate that need addressing, you can focus in on the types of projects that are eligible for funding. On the whole, projects that score highly on the criteria typically relate to health and safety, fire safety compliance, replacement boilers and central heating systems, weathertightness, safeguarding (fencing and main entrance re-modelling), roof re-covering, window replacement, asbestos removal, legionella improvement works, and repairs to improve the condition of external fabric.

Although these are not always the most exciting projects, there is little point in wasting time and effort on preparing a CIF bid for something that is likely to be rejected. A school building consultant with experience in this will be able to advise on the specific projects that have the best chances of success.


Preparation, preparation, preparation

It’s never too early to start to prepare for a CIF funding application! Obtaining CIF funding approval is all about evidence, and this takes a long time to gather, collate and present in a suitable format. The need for funding has to be properly justified and this often involves submitting several pieces of evidence including: building surveyor’s reports, contractor’s prices, programmes of work, options appraisals, annotated photographs, SALIX energy savings calculators, reports of breakdowns and leaks etc.


Changes in criteria

Every year, the ESFA alter the criteria for judging funding applications, placing greater or lesser weight on certain elements when selecting which projects to fund. This year, the weighting relating to the project cost was increased by 10% – placing additional focus on value for money. Rather than simply selecting the cheapest option, which is unlikely to be the best value in the long-term, there needs to be an in-depth assessment of the cost of the works, looking at factors such as the quality of solutions/materials and how much use/wear and tear the area will be subject to. All of this takes time, again emphasising the importance of starting early!


Contact Lea Hough’s School Building Consultants

Lea Hough’s education team can advise you on the best projects to bid for and guide you on the best strategy for submission of CIF funding applications. We have a strong track record in achieving CIF funding for our academy school and sixth form clients, and are able to provide the best chances of success!


Preston Office
Telephone: 01772 458866
Blackburn Office
Telephone: 01254 260196
Clitheroe Office
Telephone: 01200 320040
Lancaster Office
Telephone: 01524 899850
Manchester Office
Telephone: 0161 265 0070
Lea Hough is a trading name of Lea Hough & Co LLP, which is a Limited Liability Partnership registered in England and Wales under partnership number OC306054.
Registered Office: Oakshaw House, 2 Capricorn Park, Blakewater Road, Blackburn, Lancashire, BB1 5QR