Now that the dust has settled from the bidding round for Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) monies in the 2019/20 period it is worth considering what schools should be preparing for their bids for funding in the next round of bids this coming autumn. In the first of a three-part article Alex Manuel, education specialist at Lambert Smith Hampton, explores changes to the assessment criteria
Autumn may seem a long way off but, as a result of the impact of the changes made to the bidding process which has just ended, and the potential for further changes to the assessment criteria in the next round, it is critical that you do not underestimate how much information needs to be gathered to support your bid – and how long this can take. A key factor in this is how well-prepared your school was this time round, and how closely aligned you already are to what the ESFA/DfE are seeking from those running academies.
This year there were two new features – the weighting of the project cost criterion was increased by 10% to give additional focus to value for money – and the project need criterion was correspondingly reduced – and projects were asked to demonstrate that they were designed to satisfy the performance requirements of the Output Specification 2017 (OS). This latter point raises the need to ensure that the scope of work of a project is properly considered, giving thought to quality of materials, lifespan and suitability to the use/wear and tear which it will be subject to – cheapest is not always (very rarely, in fact) best value; the old adage of ‘You get what you pay for’ developed for a reason!
There are limitations
However, there are issues with the OS. Firstly, it is not very detailed or specific about what it expects and, secondly, there are questions about the ability of the ESFA to monitor compliance/adherence to the specification, as well as proof that a suitable standard is achieved. This means that there can still be wide variance in what is delivered on-site because measurement is not defined. In addition, the ESFA does not appear to have the resources in place at present to check this satisfactorily.
A good consultant will ensure that it is not lip service to say that the works which are the subject of a bid meet the OS, and that the specified works, which are the subject of the bid, truly do achieve good standards and that all warranties are thorough in the protection they afford the school – as well as easily called upon, should the need arise.
In addition to the changes to the assessment criterion the ESFA guidance document stressed the importance of two other areas – not just in terms of providing supporting evidence for a bid, but also for the wider benefit of the school:
- an up-to-date, independent condition survey.
- an indication of how the project fits into the overall plan for managing the school estate.
Parts two and three of this article series will focus on these aspects.