Condition Improvement Fund: A Guide to Applications

Applications for this year’s Condition Improvement Fund are now open and academies and sixth-form colleges have until December 14th to bid for funding. First-time applicants must act quickly, as the deadline for registration on the CIF portal is the end of November.

The fund is one of the most important ways for schools to secure finance for heating and ventilation upgrades. Over £535 million was awarded last year, but presenting an application in the right way is vital if you are to be successful.

Read on for our guide to preparing for and submitting an application, or take a look at the key points.

Qualification and Assessment

CIF is designed to help academies and sixth-form colleges address significant need, making school buildings safe and fit for purpose. Given the legal requirements for heating classrooms and the risk of school closure in the event of a system failure, mechanical services projects should be high on the agenda.

For primary and special schools, a project must have a minimum value of £20,000 to be eligible for a grant, rising to £50,000 for secondary, all-through and sixth-form colleges. The maximum threshold in each case is £4 million.

Applications are scored against three weighted criteria:

  • Project need (70%) – assessed through examination of a recent condition survey and other evidence, with priority given to issues such as asbestos removal, gas safety and heating systems;
  • Project planning (15%) – assessors will look for evidence that risks are understood and solutions are both feasible and appropriate to the situation;
  • Project cost (15%) – a breakdown of costs should be provided and assessors prefer to see a level of certainty, such as that provided by 361 Degrees’ fully guaranteed quotes.

Submitting Your Application

An application for CIF must be submitted online by a member of school staff who has previous experience of signing agreements with the Department for Education. This is typically the Head or School Business Manager.

It’s important to understand your needs before beginning the application process, so the submission is clear and well informed. Technical experts from 361 Degrees provide guidance and free site surveys, and we’ll help you prepare a comprehensive application to improve your chances of success.

The deadline for CIF applications is December 14th 2017, with the outcome to be announced by the Education and Skills Funding Agency by April 2018. You can apply for grants for more than one project, but each must be submitted separately and is assessed independently. Successful projects should be completed by the end of March 2019, although larger ones may run until March 2020.

In 2017, a £466 million fund was shared between 1,435 projects. Following the appeals process and allocation of additional funding, a further 216 projects were awarded a total of £70 million. Multiple projects are often successful, as long as the school’s individual applications stand on their own merit.

Securing CIF Funding

While schools are often aware of their needs and funding available, we find many struggle to translate these into successful applications. So here are our top tips for securing the funding you need:

  1. Take the time to fully understand the current condition of your buildings and systems, as you’ll need to demonstrate knowledge of what you need;
  2. Consider the assessors’ priorities. Many CIF applications concern expansion, which can be important to prevent overcrowding, but health and safety implications often make other issues more urgent;
  3. Work with a mechanical services provider who can fully cost a system, so your planning is as detailed as possible and you can provide strong evidence of your requirements and the costs;
  4. Develop a framework and timeline for delivery, as assessors want assurance that the project is feasible;
  5. When your application is successful, follow the process for accepting terms and conditions quickly so you can receive your first payment as soon as possible.

361 Degrees is the perfect partner for CIF projects, as our expert consultants can assess your needs and advise on the most appropriate solutions. Inflated costs from excessive contingency and fees can derail an application, but our fully guaranteed quotes take the risk out of your project. Contact the team to discuss how we can guide you through every step of your CIF application process.

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