Condition Improvement Fund awards for 2020-21: Reasons why your bid failed and how to improve your chances for the next round

The ESFA have finally published the outcome for the 2020-21 round of Condition Improvement Fund awards. Traditionally, the announcement falls around Easter and either side of the Schools and Academies show at London’s ExCel.

The delay has been as a result of the impact that the Covid 19 pandemic has had on the DfE’s resources and clarity on the safety of carrying out works across the UK’s education estate.

The CIF funding pot has seen a decline over the past couple of years, as the ESFA have made very clear their expectations in terms of schools contributing to the project costs, making transparent the marks available for the level of contributions as part of the ‘Value for Money’ section of the application.

2015-16£421 million1,483 Projects1,171 Schools
2016-17£435 million1,276 Projects1,030 Schools
2017-18£466 million1,435 Projects 1,124 Schools
2018-19£476 million
(+£38 million HPCF)
1,556 Projects1,299 Schools
2019-20£433 million1,412 Projects1,209 Schools
2020-21£434 million1,476 Projects1,243 Schools


There are three main reasons as to why submission is unsuccessful.

Firstly, the number of applications, and the fact that the pot is oversubscribed three times, Thus only the most robust will be considered. Was there a genuine bid there in the first place?

Secondly, some applications are not as well presented as they need to be to stand out from the very high number of good quality submissions. There was a genuine bid but it was not afforded the level of care and attention it merited.

Thirdly, the issue of whether a trust meets the ESFA’s financial management test has the wherewithal and is prepared, to make a financial contribution toward the overall project cost. The percentage of schools whose bids are successful without making a financial contribution is less than 20% and those which are must evidence the highest of needs and score accordingly upper quartile in the ‘Output’ section.

Schools who do not have reserves to draw upon must redouble efforts to generate additional revenue through improved estate and asset management strategies such as increases in out of hours lettings, inward investment and supply chain support.

There are opportunities to explore both money saving and money generating options, as per the Good Estate Management for Schools (GEMS). The ESFA are due to publish a “refreshed version” of GEMS this summer and this will further help trusts optimise their assets.

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