The ESFA publish latest updates and guidance notes for CIF submissions

The ESFA published their latest updates and guidance notes for schools and their consultants preparing to submit CIF submissions ahead of the Friday December 13th deadline.

I recently presented at the recent Education Estates Conference, where I disucssed the implications from the ESFA’s change last year in terms of their increasing the weighting accorded the Value for Money element of the bid.

I pointed out that one impact would be that those trusts without resources to make a financial contribution as part of the VFM, would struggle to meet the threshold and secure the funding. Schools with high needs but without such reserves would now be less likely to receive funding than those schools with less need but with the financial wherewithal to contribute.

The ESFA have finally published a table that evidences the number of points on offer for the level of financial contribution toward the overall project value.

This year, the ESFA have made yet further changes and these are focussed on the identified causal relationship between ‘strong governance and good financial management’ and their allocation of funding to deserving trusts.

In a repeat of last year’s retrospective imposition of tying a CIF award with a visit from a School Resources Management Adviser (SRMA), they are seeking to retrospectively apply pay levels to trusts who have previously entered into an employment contract with executives. If the rates are above the threshold, schools will have points deducted

There are MATs where executive heads have the responsibility of numerous primary schools whose salary was negotiated under prevailing market conditions but who are now viewed as not being financially viable and whose pay levels will restrict the ability of that trust to attract funding that was not known at the time of their appointment.

Further, the higher concentration of ‘excessive’ pay is to be found within the non CIF eligible segment of the academy market, those trusts in receipt of School Condition Allocation (SCA).
At present there is no evidence that these trusts are under the same level of financial or governance scrutiny or face having their formulaic funding withheld. Schools with excessive executive pay will be deducted 4 points (1 in London)

Failure to agree to future SRMA visits or to implement a subsequent improvement plan within the prescribed period will now also carry a penalty of a 4 point deduction.

Those trusts in deficit or worse, Financial Notice to Improve (FNtI) will be unlikely to have reserves to draw from to make a financial contribution or pass the ESFA affordability criteria for a Public Works Loan Board CIF loan. The very terms of FNTi forbid them to make a CIF loan application.

Failure to submit a financial statement or evidence of a cumulative deficit for 2018-19 will also result in anything from a 1-4 point deduction.

The ESFA are offering a 1 point award if the school has updated their Funding Agreement model to one that is post December 2014.

The ESFA have made explicit their expectations and have now made it possible to quantify the points to be accrued from the level of investment in the bid. This rewards those trusts who have adhered to good housekeeping principles and who have built up healthy reserves and who possibly inherited an estate from their local authority that was sufficiently invested in.

However, this leaves those trusts who converted without adequate due diligence and by so doing, transferred the liabilities, with a legacy issue that without the aid of the funding streams such as CIF address historical under investment, they are condemned to ever depreciating estate assets, resulting in a haemorrhaging of staff and pupils and ultimately facing the likely lottery of being re-brokered.

The liabilities will need to be addressed at some stage but what seems evident is that the ESFA are not going to empower those trusts who do not meet its ever tightening financial qualifying criteria and that they are prepared to wait until they can negotiate with another trust to finance the addressing of these long term estate condition issues.

Download my CIF Guidance Digest document here (PDF)

Video of me at the recent Education Estates Exhibition:

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