To bid or not to bid, CIF is the question

Earlier this month, the Education Funding Authority, published their most comprehensive guidance yet for those schools making an application for 2017/18 round of Condition Improvement Funds.

Any academy school considering making such an application, will benefit enormously from reading this years CIF guidance brochure, available via the EFA web site.

Once again there will be enormous competition between the high number of applicants.Given that circa 6,000 schools will be mulling over any such submission it is essential to consult the qualifying criteria ahead of such an undertaking.

There is both an absolute and relative criteria.

The funds available remain largely static but with the increase in schools making the decision to academise the demand grows each year. Last year the EFA awarded £435 million across 1030 schools for 1276 projects. There were over 3500 applicants.

The absolute criteria concerns the ability to evidence the need for the funding whilst the relative criteria, is how that need is evaluated against competing schools also making an application premised on the same set of needs. Its a race to the bottom.

The school must be able to produce evidence that meet the need based criteria. The EFA define the three main needs as:
1- Issues relating to compliance or health and safety, such as fire alarm systems, emergency lighting or of the existence of asbestos. Specific surveys and reports must be commissioned and the evidence collected and collated for inclusion within the bid.  Average value of such works would begin at £100k
A school would be subject to closure if it could not ensure that its pupils, staff and stakeholders were afforded the type of safety required of any landlord. Any school who has transferred from a local authority provision of such services has also transferred the risk with them.

2- Issues pertaining to the school’s boilers and the distribution pipework that are beyond repair are also deemed worthy of funding. The school however, must commission a specially prepared condition survey that highlights all the failures and inefficiencies. These reports are highly detailed and accordingly expensive. The school must determine if it has the appetite to speculate to accumulate. The cost of replacing a heating system for an upper school could be as much as £1 Million but the cost of the survey, report and specification could be £10k. The school would be subject to closure if it could not provide hot water and heating for its pupils and staff.

3- Issues concerning water tightness of the external envelope such as its roofing or window systems.
It is fairly simple to engage a roofing system manufacturer to conduct a survey and take samples to evidence the condition of the covering, insulation and decking. Again, such data would be used to underwrite the overall application for such essential funding. The average cost for a programme of roofing works would be £600k for an average lower school and considerably higher for an upper school.

If there is evidence of the penetration of rain to the extent that school lessons are disrupted and as a result the quality of the children’s education is at risk this too can be seen as threat to the viability of the school functioning.

The school would also need to employ a professional to undertake the other elements of the bid that relate to how the works would be delivered, what procurement path to take and how the works would be programmed and all associated and encompassing health and safety requirements.
Finally, the bid would need to contain fully costed works packages and also for option appraisals and risk registers to be prepared.
There are also options for securing loans for energy efficiency works (Salix Loans) that are premised on an 8 year pay back time frame.
If the savings made from the installation of such works can be projected (Based on previous years energy bills) then the loan will be made and the school simply pay back the annual saving until the load is repaid and thereafter, the school will benefit from the annual savings and from a more thermally efficient building.

Schools can access loans themselves and any contribution from the school will assist in their overall score and thus increase the chances of securing the vital funding.

MAT’s enjoy top sliced funding from the EFA whilst grant maintained schools will be busy lobbying their local authorities to fund their essential works. For the stand alone academy, the annual round of CIF is the life blood for any capital works and as such the competition is high.
School business managers need to contact a professional at their earliest convenience for advice as to the strength of any such bid.

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