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The Condition Improvement Fund Explained – Part 2

As we recently announced, Lea Hough has helped to achieve almost £11 million in funding in the current CIF round for 2020/21, bringing the total attained over recent years to nearly £30 million.

We are always keen to speak to new prospective academy school clients, sixth form colleges, small Multi academy Trusts or non-diocesan voluntary-aided schools to see if we may be able to help them achieve CIF funding in the next round. Whilst we would always encourage these schools to get in touch with any queries they may have, we thought it would be useful to compile answers to questions we are frequently asked.

What are the key dates for CIF bids?

The exact dates vary each year, but the general pattern of key dates for CIF bids is:

  • End of October – New CIF round announced and applications opens for following year
  • Late November – Deadline for new applicants to register
  • Mid December – Deadline for applications
  • Spring – Results announced

How are CIF bids assessed?

CIF bids are scored against 3 main assessment criteria:

  • Project need
  • Project cost
  • Project planning

The exact weighting can vary from year to year, although the above list represents the order in which final scores are given, from the highest weighting to the lowest. Those bids that are ultimately successful will be those that demonstrate a pressing need, thorough planning and good value for money.

For the 2020 / 2021 funding round, new guidance was released in relation to the assessment of CIF bids. This guidance specified that the DfE would favour bids that demonstrated good governance and financial management. The purpose of this additional criteria seems to be both to encourage and reward those Academy Trusts that have a good handle on their finances.

How should bids be evidenced?

Being able to provide clear evidence that demonstrates the above criteria is one of the fundamental elements of any successful CIF bid.

In order to demonstrate the need for a project, a condition survey of the building and the project that is being applied for, will be necessary. This is where appointing the services of a third party professional advisor becomes more important.

A condition survey is an inspection that provides objective information about the state of repair of the buildings and facilities on a school’s estate. Usually covering a period of 3-5 years, condition surveys help identify the scope and cost of works required.

Condition surveys commonly use a grading system to allow fair comparison of the areas of the premises that are in need of improvement. The survey report will also prioritise deficiencies and maintenance issues, making recommendations for remedial works or replacements, estimated timings and costings.

A professional condition survey can not only be useful in helping to prioritise work, it can also aid in the preparation of a comprehensive maintenance plan for the school.

The DfE published guidelines, known as Good Estate Management (GEM), to help support schools and academies to manage their estates efficiently and effectively. 

In order to have the best chance of obtaining funding, CIF applicants should demonstrate that they are adhering to the principles of GEM guidance.  The project that is being put forward for funding should therefore be consistent with the estate strategy and asset management plan in place.

Free CIF Audit

If you have been unsuccessful with CIF bids in the 20-21 round, or are considering a CIF application for next year, our team would be pleased to offer a free audit to discuss your requirements and the possibility of obtaining CIF funding.

We have a proven track in helping schools prepare, submit and secure CIF funding.

Please contact us to speak to one of our specialists.

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“We had a Schedule of Condition carried out on a Commercial Property. From vacant possession to our proposed completion date we were really tight on time. Gary managed to carry out the inspection and write a very thorough report in the time needed to ensure we hit our completion date. The price of the report was also extremely competitive. I would recommend Lea Hough to anyone looking for a Professional Surveyors with excellent service & communication at a competitive price.”

Danny Ambler - Fuse Contract Furniture, Blackburn