To Devon and beyond, why the early worm catches the bird.

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For many of us who operate across the academy school sector, May 2023, will be a month of excited trepidation as we and our clients await the publication of those Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) applications that the DfE have awarded.

These capital project awards have a huge impact on the transformation of a school estate, keeping pupils and staff, safe, warm and dry and ensuring that classrooms are fit for purpose.

Traditionally, over 4,000 such submissions are made each December and only circa 1,400 are successful. Just how far the £500 million pot will go this year, against a backdrop of high inflation and low trust budgets, remains to be seen.

With 3x times more unsuccessful applications, the post-mortem often focuses on the ESFA scores and feedback and where it went wrong.

Whilst there are many reasons for why and where a CIF bid falls short, one of the key explanations, is the fact that too few are afforded the time and care that a successful one will need, if it is to differentiate itself from the equally deserving high number of other schools with the exact same life expired building fabric and components.

To this effect, it is never too early to start your trust’s journey towards achieving the DfE’s best practice guide to Good Estate Management for Schools (GEMS) and to commence gathering compliance and condition data in support of December 2023’s CIF submissions for your schools.

One such Multi Academy Trust (MAT) invited us down to survey their 9x school estate. We carried out a variety of roof, mechanical, fire and drainage surveys in order to be prioritise which bids would mee the Education Skills Funding Agency’s (ESFA) qualifying criteria.

Early engagement pays dividends as the quality of the reports that underwrite the CIF bids themselves, are that much better when they are undertaken ahead of the autumn months, when the demand for these services is at fever pitch from many hundreds of other trusts seeking surveys to support their own applications.

Here is a short video of our trip to delightful Devon last month…