In our role as consultants to academy schools and sixth form colleges, we advise and assist in making applications to The Education Funding Agency (EFA) for Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) bids.
Having been working in this area for a number of years, and to date having secured over £36 million of funding for schools and academies across Lancashire and Cumbria, we have a great deal of knowledge and expertise.
When academy schools initially approach us to assist them with CIF funding bids, there are usually some key questions they have. In this blog, we provide the answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding CIF bids.
Some Academy schools are used to applying for money from different sources and so feel that they are able to take it upon themselves to apply for CIF funding. However, CIF funding is such a rigorous process and it’s highly unlikely that, without the support of a professional building consultant, a CIF bid would receive approval of funding.
The Department for Education set specific criteria and there are many requirements of a CIF bid. These include: evidence of need for the project, deliverability and value for money. In order to prove evidence of need there’s usually a requirement for survey reports or risk assessments and other supporting documents, which can only really be prepared by qualified professionals. Knowledge of the procurement of building contracts is also required as firm prices are needed from contractors based on a design/specification. Additionally, programmes of work are required to show deliverability, and often knowledge of SALIX funding is required. As several of these forms of evidence require professional input, most academies opt for the appointment of a professional consultant to increase their chances of approval.
The good news for academy schools is that there is no upfront fee for appointing a consultant to prepare a CIF bid. Instead, when preparing a CIF bid, a detailed breakdown of costs is submitted and this includes contractor’s costs for managing the building project – a role which we would assume – as well as the professional consultant’s fees. As a consultant we would never charge fees that are extra after the CIF bid has been approved. In the bid application, other costs are usually included such as contingency sums and allowances for asbestos removal/surveys. All such costs are captured at bid stage, so if a project is approved by the EFA, then the costs will be as per the application.
For CIF funding, individual academy schools (either primary schools, middle schools or high schools) can apply. Small Multi-Academy Trusts (MAT’s) can also apply, provided that they do not have more than five academies and 3,000 pupils within the Trust. MAT’s who have more than five academies and 3,000 pupils are not eligible to apply, but receive funding by other means. As well as academies, free schools are entitled to apply, and so are sixth form colleges (not Further Education colleges).
The DfE’s guidance states that a ‘small number’ of extension projects (referred to in the Guidance as ‘expansion projects’) will be granted approval by the CIFF, but only for schools that have OFSET ratings of either good or outstanding and which need to expand their existing facilities and/or floor space to either increase the number of admissions in the main year of entry or address overcrowding. An application for an extension involves an assessment of existing space, in comparison with space requirement guidelines, to demonstrate that an extension is warranted. Such reports can be prepared by your professional consultant, provided that they have knowledge of educational systems and guidance.
This blog covers just some of the questions we are frequently asked in relation to CIF bids. If you have any further questions you would like to direct to one of our specialists in this area, please contact us.
Lea Hough has extensive experience in preparing funding applications for development or maintenance works through funding streams including the Condition Improvement Fund (CIF). Acting as consultants to academy schools, sixth form colleges and small multi-academy trusts, our team have obtained over £36 million, meaning a significant investment in educational infrastructure in Lancashire and beyond.