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Writing Successful CIF Bid Applications

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Noor Shameel

Marketing Manager | Award-Winning Integrated Property Consultants

In the United Kingdom, many schools face the complex task of bidding for funding to maintain and upgrade their estates. Navigating the competitive funding landscape to secure the financial support required isn’t always easy. A lot of work can go into creating funding bid applications and successful bid writing is an essential part of running the school estate.

For academies not in large trusts, the annual Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) is the most important capital funding round. It is also one of the most competitive funding streams for education and one of the most difficult to bid for. The amount and level of detail required for CIF bid applications can be daunting for schools and colleges. Out of the 4,547 schools eligible to apply for CIF funding this year, 2,076 applied for 3,061 projects. Only 1,033 of those projects at 859 schools received funding, so it’s crucial to ensure your bid is ticking all the right boxes.

CIF application window opens in Autumn each year. So, now is the time to start thinking about your next bid. From our experience schools should look to prepare well in advance for a strong, evidence-based bid. 

What Type of Projects Does CIF Cover?

Three different project categories are covered by CIF funding; condition, condition with expansion, and expansion. Each of these categories has its own strict criteria that need to be met otherwise your bid could be disqualified by the Department for Education (DfE).

The majority of condition projects aim to address Health and Safety compliance issues and support Legislation Compliance. Typical examples could be asbestos removal, fire, electrical and water safety. Condition with expansion projects should address significant condition needs and the new Gross Internal Floor Area (GIFA) should be larger than 10% of the existing GIFA being replaced. Lastly, expansion projects should create additional places or address overcrowding and the GIFA of the new building must be more than 10% larger than the previous or add functional areas or facilities.

To learn more about these project categories and their assessment criteria, you can read the Condition Improvement Fund 2023 to 2024: Information for Applicants. However, there may be some amendments made to this guidance for the next round. Below our dedicated bid writing team at Barker has put together some information to help you secure the funding you need. 

Tips for Writing CIF Bids

When you’re applying for funding in the education sector, there are several essential factors to take into account. Here are some of our top tips on writing successful CIF bids;

Prepare Early

Don’t leave your bid writing to the last minute. It takes more time than you might think to prepare a thorough bid that will stand out. If you rush your application, you’re less likely to meet all of the criteria and you may not receive the funding you require for your project. Start collecting the evidence and supporting information as soon as possible. 

It’s often beneficial to enlist the help of experienced bid writers, like the Barker team, to help you ensure you have everything you need for your funding application. At Barker, we can put together the applications for CIF bids for you, so you can concentrate on other important tasks. We will provide your application with the attention it needs to ensure it follows the guidelines set out by the DfE and nothing important is being overlooked. 

Identify and Prioritise

It’s critical to demonstrate the need for your project, whether it’s a condition, condition with expansion or expansion project. As mentioned above, this fund is highly competitive and thousands of other schools, colleges and academies will also be bidding for funding. Be realistic and objective, and only bid for works that are urgent and high priority.

For a successful CIF bid, you will also need to undertake independent surveys. Building condition surveys and energy efficiency surveys, for instance, will help you to determine which projects are most essential for your estate. A specialist survey for the specific work you are applying for can help to demonstrate the need for the funding as well as the value for money. 

At Barker, we can assess your estate and help you to identify the best projects to bid for. Our experience puts us in the best position to offer tailored advice based on what we see during a site visit. We can guide you through the application process and create the best strategy. 

“We got BOTH bids! That is amazing, such a boost for our school. Thank you so much for all your help!” – Park High School

Evidence is Key

Once you have identified your project, ensure you are providing the assessor with sufficient evidence to understand the urgency and impact of the issue on teaching and learning. This evidence can be photographs or independent reports, and you should cross-reference them within your application whenever possible. 

Your CIF bid application should explain the issues your estate is facing to someone unable to see the condition needs for themselves. The clearer you communicate your project needs, the more likely your funding bid is to be successful. Ideally, make it as easy as possible for the assessor to understand your project and why it can’t wait for future rounds of CIF.

Tick the Boxes

When completing an application, you need to ensure that you meet all the core requirements of the bid process. Be sure to read the applicant guidance and criteria fully, so you aren’t missing anything crucial to the success of your bid. 

To tick all of the boxes of a good application, it’s essential to satisfy the assessors that your project is well-developed and low-risk. Evidence of cost planning, risk management, and deliverability will enhance your bid. You should also present different options, including a “do nothing” option, to further support your need for funding. 

To assist you with your application, there is a ‘checklist’ within the DfE’s CIF Information for Applicants document. This checklist isn’t exhaustive, but it will help you to stay on track. You will also find a list of documents you need to upload for your application. 

Bidding for Education Funding in the UK 

Hopefully, the information above will be beneficial if you need to bid for additional funding to keep your estate in good condition. Here at Barker, we are an Approved Partner to sector specialists such as CST, ISBL, ASCL and TTN, and the UK’s leading CIF bid consultancy. In the latest round of CIF bids, Barker secured millions in funding for our academy clients.

Should you need some assistance with bidding for education funding in the UK, we can guide you through the whole process and submit carefully designed bids that target all of the required ESFA guidelines. Our funding experts go above and beyond to ensure the best possible outcome for schools, colleges and academies in need of financial support. Not to mention, we work on a ‘no win no fee’ basis, offering a low-risk solution to schools that need assistance. 

Contact us on 01279 647111 or to book a CIF bid consultation today.

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