The Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) is a vital source of funding for schools and colleges in England that need to carry out essential maintenance work on their buildings and facilities. However, the fund is becoming increasingly competitive and many schools are missing out on the opportunity to improve their learning environments. In this blog post, we will look at some of the key facts and figures about the CIF, and offer some tips on how to prepare a successful application.

What is the CIF and who can apply?

The CIF is an annual bidding round for eligible academies, sixth-form colleges and voluntary-aided (VA) schools to apply for capital funding from the Department for Education (DfE). The fund aims to address significant condition needs, such as roof repairs and fire safety, as well as support a small number of expansion projects for schools rated good or outstanding by Ofsted that can demonstrate a need to grow.

To be eligible to apply, schools must meet certain criteria based on their size and type. For example, stand-alone academies, small multi-academy trusts (MATs) and small VA bodies can bid for CIF, while larger MATs and VA bodies receive direct school condition allocation (SCA) to invest in their priorities. Sixth-form colleges can also apply for CIF, but they must have plans to convert to academy status or join a MAT.

How competitive is the CIF?

The CIF is highly oversubscribed and only a fraction of applications are successful each year. In the 2023-24 financial year, only 19 per cent of schools — or 859 out of the more than 4,500 eligible — successfully secured funding, a Financial Times analysis of official data has shown. This was down from 25 per cent the previous year and represents a record low in the number of schools to receive funding through the CIF scheme since it was launched in 2014.

The total amount of funding available for CIF 2023-24 was £456 million, which was allocated to 1,033 projects at 859 schools and colleges. The average grant size was £441,000, but this varied depending on the type and scope of the project. The DfE prioritises projects that address urgent health and safety issues, building compliance and poor condition over those that seek to improve functionality or efficiency.

How to prepare a successful CIF application?

Given the high demand and limited supply of CIF funding, it is crucial for schools and colleges to prepare a strong and compelling application that demonstrates the need and impact of their proposed project. Here are some tips on how to do that:

– Start early: The CIF application window usually opens in October and closes in December, but it is advisable to start planning well in advance. This will give you enough time to gather evidence, obtain quotes, consult stakeholders and write a clear and concise application.

– Follow the guidance: The DfE publishes detailed guidance for applicants every year, which sets out the eligibility criteria, assessment process, scoring methodology and project categories. It is important to read and follow this guidance carefully and ensure that your application meets all the requirements and expectations.

– Focus on condition: The main purpose of the CIF is to address significant condition needs that affect the safety and suitability of school buildings. Therefore, your application should focus on how your project will address these needs and improve the condition of your premises. You should avoid requesting funding for cosmetic or minor improvements that do not have a significant impact on the learning environment.

– Provide evidence: Your application should be supported by robust evidence that demonstrates the need and feasibility of your project. This may include photographs, surveys, reports, quotes, risk assessments, planning permissions and letters of support. You should also provide evidence of how your project aligns with your school development plan and curriculum priorities.

– Be realistic: Your application should be realistic and proportionate to your needs and budget. You should avoid requesting funding for projects that are too ambitious or complex for your school or college. You should also consider alternative sources of funding or match-funding if possible, as this may increase your chances of success.

– Seek advice: If you are unsure about any aspect of your application or need help with preparing it, you can seek advice from various sources. For example, you can contact the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) using their enquiry form, or consult with professional advisers such as building consultants or CIF specialists. Help for Schools can assist you in finding the right specialist. Help for Schools can offer you guidance and support throughout the application process.


The Condition Improvement Fund is a valuable opportunity for schools and colleges in England to access capital funding for essential maintenance and improvement projects. However, the fund is very competitive and requires careful planning and preparation. By following the tips above, you can increase your chances of submitting a successful CIF application and securing the funding you need to enhance your learning environment.