Unsuccessful CIF Bids – Next Steps in CIF 2020-21

If your school has been unsuccessful in a CIF bid for building work funding, your first question might be – can I appeal? Unfortunately, the ESFA appeal process is incredibly stringent – with only those schools that are able to prove there has been a material error in their assessment – for example, missing a section of the application – being eligible to appeal.

But just because there is little scope for appealing unsuccessful bids, it doesn’t mean that the bid cannot be revisited.  The project itself may have warranted funding but simply required a more considered and extensive bid proposal or stronger supporting material.

Lea Hough are able to review previous unsuccessful CIF bids and provide advice on what to do next. The first thing we would do would be to review the unsuccessful bid and the feedback provided.

All CIF bids receive feedback via the bid portal, which will usually give some indication of how the bid can be improved. Bearing in mind the ‘pass threshold’ of the relevant year of the bid (last year’s funding round had a threshold of 77%), it is possible to compare the score achieved by the failed bid and see how far away the application was from gaining funding.

Upon reviewing a bid prepared by another consultant, or by a representative at the academy or MAT, it can sometimes be obvious where the bid was let down. Our review process will identify where omissions have been made so it’s possible to put together a plan to improve the previous bid.

This will usually include looking at the following:

  • Project Need– CIF bids can be won or lost on the quantity and strength of supporting evidence. If possible, collate additional supporting information to demonstrate that the project is needed and is a priority – e.g. if there have been more breakdown costs incurred or more contractor call outs in the 12 months since the last bid. If parts of the school have had to be temporarily closed, or if further risks have been encountered, accounts and evidence of this should be submitted.
  • Specialist reports – Some CIF bid applications are for improvement works that will require specialist contractors. If this is the case, specialist reports such as asbestos surveys or reports from consultant engineers may be beneficial in strengthening the proposal.
  • Evidence – Photographic evidence can be key in demonstrating the need for renovations or project work. In all likelihood, the condition is likely to have worsened over the last 12 months since the last bid – and being able to show the worsening condition may strengthen the case.
  • Project Planning– Projects that have been well-thought out and have few gaps for uncertainties or risk will score better than those where that have margin for error. When reviewing previous bids, we may consider whether there a better way of delivering the works. Where possible, we will work to get approvals (e.g. Planning Permission) in place prior to a bid being submitted.
  • Value for Money– This is an important area to focus on as the ESFA as increased the weighting of value for money when it comes to reviewing submitted bids. A number of quotes should be gathered and the quality and longevity of methods and materials should also be considered.
  • Contribution by the school – It can be the case that the ESFA is more likely to award funding when a school is willing to make a significant contribution to the works themselves. Reviewing the contribution side of things with a view to the school being able to contribute more could increase the chances of the bid being successful.


Whether preparing a CIF bid from start to finish or working to re-apply for a project that has been unsuccessful in a previous funding round, our team of school building consultants follow the same rigorous processes. Contact us to discuss how we can help you prepare CIF bids for the current round.


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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.
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