The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of financial management of trusts and academies. This article by Tim Warneford, Director of Warneford Consulting, discusses what academies need to include in bid applications for the Condition Improvement Fund.

Students wearing school uniform walking up and downstairs at school.

On Friday 13th May, the Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) published its list of successful schools that have secured vital capital funding to improve the condition of their school estate. The fund is worth £498 million from which some 1,405 projects were awarded to 1,129 schools from an estimated 4,000 applications submitted in time for the December 2021 deadline.

What is the Condition Improvement Fund?

The Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) is open to approximately 5,000 CIF eligible schools, including sixth form colleges and voluntary aided (VA) schools with less than 3,000 pupils on roll, in order that they can address significant compliance and condition issues across their built environment.

The ESFA prioritise those projects that pose a threat to the health and security of staff and pupils. Such projects would include fire safety, asbestos removal, and safeguarding. CIF also addresses projects that threaten the day-to-day operations of a school, such as heating and hot water or flooding. The ESFA adopt a fabric first approach and deploy the fund to renew life expired roofing and window projects.

Increasingly, the work packages are including costed options appraisals that evidence life cycle formulas and consideration of sustainable materials. These energy efficiency measures simultaneously reduce energy costs whilst assisting the government’s net-zero targets.

The Condition Improvement Fund submission is comprised of three sections:

Project Need


Project Cost




What is needed in each section of CIF?

The project needs section is made up of condition survey data and evidence that the fabric or key component is in poor condition and requires immediate replacement. Evaluators also assess the impact the non-compliance or poor condition is having on the ability of the school to deliver its core curriculum.

The project planning section will require the applicant to evidence that the works have been adequately planned and risks sufficiently managed to attract the fiercely fought for funding.

Finally, the project cost section focuses on value for money and must outline the prices submitted by market-tested tenders and also the extent of financial contribution the trust is willing to invest in the project themselves.

Due to the competition only those most robust bids will be successful.

Other funding streams for academy trusts

The ESFA has never revealed the total level of financial contribution that trusts have made that is above and beyond its annual pot (See above 2022-23 £498 million). Industry advisors predict that as much as a further 5% could be added making a total of circa £525 million that will be invested in the CIF eligible segment of the school estate.

It may well be that the trust with deeper financial resources are cross-subsidising those schools with greater needs but less wherewithal.

Larger Multi-Academy Trusts, those with more than 3,000 pupils on roll,  are annually awarded School Condition Allocation (SCA). SCA is a formulaic funding stream which means trusts awarded this do not have to submit bids for the funding. The annual SCA fund equates to approximately, £1.5 billion and when the Devolved Formula Capital (DFC) figures are also added, the total investment in capital works is in excess of £2 billion.

However, this £2 billion annual investment is failing to keep pace with the annual dilapidation of our school building stock.

What funding is really needed to improve school estates?

In 2017, The National Audit Office Capital Funding for Schools report, estimated that to bring all school buildings to ‘satisfactory or better condition’ would cost £6.7 billion but by 2022 the ESFA estimate the figure to be closer to £13 billion. We thus still have some considerable way to go if we are going to make our school buildings and the teaching and learning environment fit for purpose.

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The Covid-19 pandemic has altered the landscape of academy and trust financial management. We heard from Tim Warneford, Director of Warneford Consulting, about the Condition Improvement Fund,, and what funds are needed to improve the condition of school estates.

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