CIF bid writing – your questions answered








If your academy is considering submitting a bid for the next round of the Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) you may be wondering where to begin.

With increasing competition and rising qualifying thresholds, CIF bid writing can be an incredibly daunting process.  We have put together a list of some of the most commonly asked questions.

What is the Condition Improvement Fund (CIF)?

The Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) is an annual bidding round for eligible academies and sixth-form colleges to apply for capital funding.

Funding is available to deal with school building condition items to ensure they remain safe and in good working order. This includes projects to rectify health and safety concerns, issues with building compliance and poor building condition.

CIF also supports a small proportion of expansion projects. These are for academies and sixth-form colleges rated good or outstanding by Ofsted that can demonstrate a need to expand.

When is the application deadline?

The next round of funding for 2020 – 21 academic year is likely to open in the autumn term. Whilst the deadlines have not yet been released, in previous years the deadline for registration has been November with all bids submitted on the ESFA CIF bid portal in December.

What information should I read?

Every year the Department for Schools and Education update their guidance document and this information is crucial for your bid selection and preparation. The document gives the criteria under which CIF bids are assessed. If your bids do not closely align with the CIF policy criteria/ priorities then it is unlikely it will be successful.

How can I strengthen our bid?

The provision of compelling evidence is critical and greatly strengthens your CIF bid writing.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words and images can clearly illustrate the issue and impact on the school.

Independent evidence such as condition surveys, asbestos reports, cost breakdown records, energy bills, user statements, records of interruptions to teaching and learning (the list goes on), all reinforce the issues your school is dealing with until funding is secured.

Finally, don’t forget your options appraisal, contractor’s prices and delivery programmes which support your preferred solution.

Should our school make a contribution towards a CIF funded project?

Your CIF bid will score higher and have a much better chance of success if your school makes a contribution, takes out a loan contribution, or includes a Salix loan funded element. There is no real magic formula in terms of school contribution value, but as a rough guide, from previous successful outcomes, your school should consider contributing at least 10% of the project value. This will help to demonstrate your commitment to the project and could give you the extra marks needed to push your bid over the qualifying threshold.


How much time should we allow?

Don’t underestimate the job at hand. Too often we get contacted by a school that has left their bid to the last minute. Time is your friend in bid preparation. The amount of work in preparing the bid and supporting information is extensive and should not be underestimated. Consider utilising the services of an expert CIF bid Consultant to put together the bid(s) for you.

The earlier a consultant such as Synergy is involved the better and the sooner you can have help collecting the key evidence to support the bid. There are other advantages with early engagement of your CIF bid consultant; surveys and contractor visits can take place over the holiday period minimising disruption to the day-to-day running of the school and allow unrestricted access to investigate the issues.

What should we do if we are unsuccessful?

Don’t give up – get advice. In the CIF 2019-20 round only one in three bids nationwide were successful. If your bid was unsuccessful in the last round, request feedback and speak to us.

Synergy has helped many schools successfully appeal outcomes and in the last round our success rate totalled 7% of all of the successful appeals nationwide. We also assist schools with resubmitting bids which have been successful in a subsequent bid round. 

For further information how Synergy can assist your school with the CIF bid process please get in touch. 

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