When I gave a presentation at the Academies Show at London’s ExCeL recently, discussing the funding available for building improvements, it was clear that schools’ management teams and business managers are keen to understand how they can maximise their revenue and make the best use of it.
At Sika Liquid Plastics, alongside our building surveyor partners, we have helped academies to secure more than £20m in Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) grants over the past two years, enabling them to carry out essential works to improve their campus environment. By working with schools, compiling roof condition surveys and developing full technical specifications and project costings before academy business managers submit their CIF bids, we have been able to help them present a compelling business case to secure grants for the works.
The latest tranche of successful funding bids has recently been announced, and the next application window opens in November. The Government has given assurances that the pattern of application windows for CIF funding will continue in the short-term but the funding landscape is changing, and part of the reason we were keen to be part of the speaker programme at the Academies Show was to explain how that landscape will evolve.
Alongside CIF Funding, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) also provides School Condition Allocation (SCA) funding for multi-academy trusts (MATs), which is automatically allocated to trusts with at least five schools and more than 3000 students. This funding is allocated according to a devolved formula based on pupil numbers and type of school and applies to MATs with primary, secondary or SEN students.
As the MAT model gathers pace, it seems likely that more trusts will be eligible and more building improvement programmes will be delivered through SCA funding. This presents both challenges and advantages. The lack of a bidding process strips time-consuming and onerous administration out of funding building improvement programmes. However, the funding is automatically allocated based on the size and type of academies in the trust rather than the urgency of repair, maintenance and improvement requirements so, as MATs become bigger, with an increasingly large estate to look after, prioritising a fixed, allocated amount of funding will become increasingly complex.
Often, the business managers at MATs with responsibility for allocating SCA funding to capital works projects are former teachers with little experience of estates management, maintenance or construction projects. Consequently, we believe it will be necessary for MATs to work with companies like Sika Liquid Plastics and our building surveyor partners.
By developing long-term relationships with MATs, we can help them to identify the most urgent works across their estate and devise appropriate plans to manage their building maintenance budget effectively over the course of several years. What’s more, as part of Sika UK, we can also work with our sister companies to offer a complete solution from the basement to the roof.
In fact, we are already working with MATs in this way, using a traffic light system to develop a long-term building maintenance programme of urgent, medium- and long-term works by surveying school buildings and considering the multi-site estate as a complete suite of buildings. We’re providing this expertise to MATs free of charge as part of long-term relationships that will genuinely enable us to add value and help trusts to keep their estates in good order as they grow.
One-off CIF payments have been invaluable in enabling distinct improvements for academies and, hopefully, single academies and smaller trusts will continue to benefit from that funding stream for some time to come. But the academies sector is changing, and we believe the way that we work with trusts must change along with it; that’s why we’re placing Sika Liquid Plastics at the vanguard of a truly collaborative approach to MAT estates maintenance.