Every year, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) open a bidding round under which academies and multi academy trusts and sixth form colleges can apply for capital funding.
This year’s window for applications to the Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) is just around the corner, so we thought we would give some advice to help.
If you are planning a CIF bid to replace or improve your roofs, classrooms, boilers or other buildings and facilities, and want the best chance of success, our top tips can point you in the right direction and improve your chances of success…
It’s important for academy schools to appoint a professional building consultant (e.g. a Chartered Building Surveyor) who has significant experience of working in educational environments. Your chosen consultant should have a track record of both assisting academy schools to obtain CIF funding and specifying, procuring and project managing large construction contracts at schools. Besides having experience of building aspects, it’s very important that the consultant is familiar with the CIF portal system, which is the online application system that must be used when applying for CIF funding. The portal involves completing several forms and uploading multiple pieces of supporting evidence to justify the need for CIF funding.
Time is of the essence when it comes to applying for CIF funding. The amount of work involved in preparing the bid and compiling supporting information to justify a CIF funding application is extensive, so it is never too early to appoint your consultant and start the process. The first stage will be for your chosen consultant to inspect the school buildings and identify possible Condition/Repair projects that may be a suitable CIF funding application. During the months following this, the consultant can arrange any specialist survey reports (including asbestos surveys if required), collate supporting documentation from other professional consultants (where required), prepare programmes and obtain budget estimate prices/contractor’s quotes. Academies may also want to prepare SALIX funding aspects. Ideally, in order to fit in with the CIF’s timetable for applications, an academy would begin discussions with a consultant in the summer (or earlier) to leave time for the bid to be prepared in the Autumn ready for submission by the December deadline.
Every year, the CIF release a new set of criteria under which bids will be considered for the new round of funding. Although a consultant that has experience in preparing CIF bids will be able to provide a general guide as to the areas that have proven successful in the past, it is always worth checking that the bid you are planning on submitting falls in line with the current guidelines.
A CIF funding application will have a much better chance of approval if the academy school either makes a contribution, or takes out a loan contribution, or contributes a SALIX funded element. The CIF application will receive extra marks if the academy does make a contribution of some form, and such extra marks may just tip the balance in terms of obtaining an approval or not.
Competition to obtain CIF funding is tight and the number of applications far outweigh the number of projects that gain approval. So it is important to consider the CIF guidance and listen to what your consultant advises. There is no point in applying for an exciting off-the-wall project just because the school prefers it, if such projects are low down on the criteria that is provided by the EFA. Projects that score highly on the criteria often relate to health and safety, weathertightness, safeguarding, condition. The best tactic is to apply for projects that have the best chance of success, even if they are less exciting.
Obtaining CIF funding approval is all about the evidence. The need for funding needs to be 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. This whole package, without any gaps, provides the evidence and makes for a stronger CIF funding application. Be aware that the CIF portal has limits on the size of documents that can be uploaded, so again it is important that you liaise with your consultant who should be able to upload the correct sized documents.
For further help or information on CIF funding applications, or to discuss how Lea Hough can provide free of charge assistance in preparing CIF bids, please get in touch.