April 14, 2024

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‘Devastating’ drop in schools winning capital funding

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The number of school repair projects receiving capital funding from a government pot has fallen again this year, amid severe concern about the state of buildings.

A total of £423.9 million has been made available for the 2024-25 Condition Improvement Fund (CIF), down from £456 million in 2023-24 and £498 million the year before.

The Department for Education has confirmed that this will fund 866 projects across 733 schools and colleges – a 16 per cent reduction year-on-year.

For 2023-24, 1,033 projects received funding across 859 schools and colleges, and this was down from 1,408 projects the year before.

Tim Warneford, an academy funding consultant, said: “At a time when the school estate is desperate for adequate levels of capital funding to address non-compliance issues such as fire safety, or poor condition issues such as broken heating and hot water systems, the announcement today that just 866 projects will be funded is hard to understand, especially with a general election just around the corner.”

The average number of funded projects over the 10 years of CIF equates to 1,391, and so “this year, the number of successful projects fell by 525 or 38 per cent” in comparison, he added.

Issuing a warning on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) about the cut in project numbers, he said: “I feared we could see the number of schools awarded drop to 900 and so 733 is devastating.”

Of the 866 winning projects this year, 838 are for schools, compared with 711 last year.

Mr Warneford previously told Tes that the sector was “desperate” to hear the size of the funding pot would be increased in line with inflation for 2024-25.

CIF is a capital funding pot for smaller academy trusts and voluntary aided bodies that are not large enough to automatically receive school condition allocation (SCA).

Schools and trusts must bid for the funding, and there was a 36.4 per cent success rate for 2024-25.

In total, 4,363 academies, schools and colleges were eligible for the 2024-25 CIF. Within that, 2,016 applied for 3,034 projects.

The total approved includes 40 projects across 35 schools that are still pending approval.

Projects approved range from issues such as urgent boiler replacements, fire safety upgrades and defective roof repairs.

Breakdown of CIF approvals

Regional breakdowns of CIF bid success have also been published. For example, Yorkshire and the Humber had the highest success rate, with 46.4 per cent of bids being approved, compared with a regional low of 20.3 per cent in the North East.

Only 22.2 per cent of special schools that applied for the 2024-25 CIF were successful.

The DfE also announced today that schools and colleges would benefit from £1.8 billion in total funding to help maintain buildings.

This comes amid calls for more capital funding for schools as they deal with issues such as reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), leaks, damp, asbestos and more.

No further capital funding was announced in the recent budget, despite unions saying an extra £4.4 billion would be needed a year to maintain the school estate.

The DfE has also invested £850 million to create new special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and alternative provision placements, and announced a list of 25 trusts that will run 30 new special free schools.

The DfE was contacted for comment.

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