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Moving From CIF to SCA Funding

The growth of Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) and, consequently School Condition Allocation (SCA) funding over recent years has been huge. Back in 2016, MATs were only awarded a total of £97 million in funding. However, in the last full round of funding, total awards to MATs were £495 million – a growth of over 500%. With multiple demands on the school estate, rising energy costs and the ongoing impact of the pandemic it is becoming increasingly important to strategically plan your SCA capital programme.


What is School Condition Allocation (SCA) Funding?

School Condition Allocation (SCA) funding is another type of funding allocated by the Department for Education (DfE) every year. It is designed to assist with the maintenance and improvement of buildings and facilities, ranging from minor repairs to major refurbishments and expansions. This funding is distinct from the more commonly known Condition Improvement Fund (CIF). Understanding the differences between these two funding streams is crucial for educational institutions seeking financial support from the government. 

Unlike CIF, which operates on a very competitive annual bidding process, SCA funding is allocated directly to the eligible bodies responsible for maintaining schools. These bodies then distribute the funds across their estates based on need and priority. The DfE considers factors such as the condition of buildings, the number of pupils and specific requirements or challenges faced by the schools when allocating funds. 


Who Can Apply for SCA Funding?

Depending on the size and type of school, bodies are either eligible for SCA or CIF. Simply put, SCA is available to larger educational bodies rather than individual schools. SCA funding is specifically designed to help;

  • Local Authorities and Local-Authority-Maintained Schools 
  • Local Voluntary-Aided Bodies and Voluntary-Aided Schools
  • Academies and Large Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs)
  • Sixth-Form Colleges
  • Non-Maintained Special Schools
  • Special Post-16 Institutions with eligible students

There are two key eligibility criteria to be aware of when it comes to SCA funding;

  • Size of the Trust or Body – The trust or VA body must have five or more open schools. This ensures the funding is directed towards larger bodies responsible for multiple school estates.
  • Number of Pupils – Those open schools must have at least 3,000 pupils counted in the spring census or the individualised learner record (ILR). This threshold is a key factor, reflecting the scale of responsibility held by the trust or body.

It is important to note that eligibility for SCA should not be assumed unless it has been officially confirmed. The Department for Education will notify eligible bodies each autumn, so you will know that you’re going to be receiving this type of funding. 


What Can SCA Funding Be Used For?

Unlike other types of funding, SCA funding must be spent on capital expenditure. This means the funds should be used for things such as maintaining or improving buildings rather than operational expenses like salaries. You can read the Condition Grants Spend Guidance for more information about what SCA funding can be spent on. 

There are some key advantages to SCA funding when compared to CIF. For instance, while CIF is allocated for specific projects, SCA is provided annually and can be spent however the responsible body sees fit. They can strategise and allocate resources across schools based on varying needs and priorities. This flexibility allows them to address immediate needs in some schools while planning for long-term improvements in others. Generally speaking, SCA funding is intended to keep school buildings safe and in good working order. This includes addressing critical issues such as health and safety issues, compliance with building regulations, and energy efficiency improvements. 

How payments are received will differ depending on the type of estate. For instance, some will receive a singular payment in May, whereas others will receive four equal instalments from May to August. Similarly, the time limit you have to spend the money allocated from this fund will differ. Some will have to spend the money by 31st March the following year, whereas others will be able to carry money over into the following year. It’s always beneficial to double-check the spending deadline to avoid any problems in the future. 

Making the Most of SCA Funding

If you receive SCA funding, are you certain that you are investing the income wisely? Many academies fall into the trap of reactively spending the SCA pot on what they perceive to be the most urgent need. However, this may not be the most efficient or effective approach to investment. To get a better understanding of how to run a good estate, the Government has a useful resource on its website for those who have a responsibility for overseeing or managing an estate. They also have a useful self-assessment tool you can use to get some guidance or you could simply talk to an expert.


Using Condition Surveys Alongside SCA Funding

Condition surveys are a useful tool for eligible MATs, academies, sixth-form colleges and voluntary-aided bodies that receive School Capital Allocation (SCA) funding, offering comprehensive insights into the physical condition of their estates. These detailed surveys can help identify areas of school buildings that require urgent attention or improvement, enabling them to be prioritised over other projects. 

By conducting thorough condition surveys, bodies can make informed decisions about where and how to allocate SCA funding most effectively. The results of these surveys not only assist in addressing significant condition problems and ensuring investments are made in critical areas like safety, compliance and efficiency but they also guide strategic planning. They can help ensure SCA funding is spent in a way that yields the most significant impact on improving the overall quality of school buildings. This is a tried-and-tested way to approach managing funding allocations, ensuring that investments are both need-based and impactful.


Managing Your Funding Efficiently

The team at Barker have been working with trusts for 15 years to allocate and manage funding in a strategic and planned manner to get the best value over the long term. A tool that the Barker team has developed – EO Portal – helps trusts with multiple campuses and buildings to monitor, manage and report on the condition of the entire estate. 

The tool helps school leaders and estate managers to prioritise work – ultimately leading to increased cost efficiencies. You can see how the Brooke Weston Trust use this to guide their estates strategy in this short video HERE.


The relationship between Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) and Barker exemplifies how the benefits of strategic estate management improves services and financial effectiveness. Since its formation in 2008, AET has grown to encompass 57 schools and over 33,000 students.


Since inception, AET has worked in partnership with Barker, and the services provided include:

  • Maintenance planning
  • Budget advice
  • DDA audits
  • Development planning
  • Design
  • Contract administration
  • Project management

Barker has also facilitated the batching up of works to provide even greater efficiencies.

The relationship with AET won the property firm the PFM Partners in Consultancy Award.

At Barker, we’re always willing to have an initial, free, no-obligation discussion with your Trust to determine how we can work in partnership to improve your learning environments. Get in touch today via our website: 

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