With budgets seemingly becoming tighter and tighter, academies are being asked to be more creative in increasing income to schools for different projects that would have traditionally been part of core funding, including capital improvements.
The performance in the financial statements is under increased scrutiny, and with an ever increasing number of schools converting to academies they need to employ experienced and dedicated business managers and finance directors to assist with this. Many school’s budgets at best will be maintained year on year, but with a potential influx of pupils and increased staffing costs from rising employers contributions to national insurance and pensions, seemingly the resources are being spread more thinly. Schools are being actively encouraged to find alternative ways to bring income in to the school. All academies will be more than aware of the Condition Improvement Fund (CIF), but this really is only one element of a multitude of grant funding being supported by external sources and applications far outweigh the value of the Condition Improvement Fund available each year.
Some examples of projects that we see being funded through alternative sources are listed below:
- new Floodlight 4G AstroTurf pitches;
- new playground surfaces and equipment;
- staffing and equipment costs for activity/arts themed;
- breakfast/lunch/after-school clubs;
- sport/arts/heritage projects; and
- sports/gym/arts/IT equipment and resources.
The good news about these types of projects and external funding is that all schools are eligible. Single academy trusts, multi academy trusts, primary, secondary, further education, higher education, PFI, are all eligible to apply dependant on meeting the funding providers criteria.
The comments raised from the business managers and financial directors of academy, school and college clients are that they are busy with the day to day business of running their school or college, finding the time to search for the correct funding stream for the project they are seeking inevitably moves down the priority list. Additionally to start planning the bid writing process is a big ask on top of a busy role. Therefore before embarking on the road to seeking alternative external funding, please see below a checklist of items for consideration.
- Match funding
Does your project require match funding? Depending on the size of the project and the funding provider, some funders like to see your commitment to the project by you putting funds in to match the funding provider’s contribution.
Is there a need for the project? Funding providers will want you to demonstrate if the project is viable and its specific objectives.
Can the project continue long term after the initial set up? Many funding providers like to know the long-term plan of their funding and what it will achieve.
- Planning approval
Is planning approval required? On larger capital projects such as sports halls and 4G facilities (artificial pitches), planning permission will be needed.
Is there currently enough staff to cover the running of the project or to maintain it? If there is not sufficient staff you may need to think about recruitment and training needed to fulfill your project.
Do you have a business plan in place? Do you have the correct staff in place to manage your project? Have you demonstrated steps to mitigate risk?
Do you have a strict timeframe and deadlines in place? Allowing sufficient and realistic timescales for your project to be funded is crucial. Different funding providers have different timescales for return on decisions.
Do you have clear project objectives? This should meet your viability and reason for your application. Although community use on larger projects may be needed for example 4G artificial pitches facilities, your pupils are benefitting from enhanced facilities at the school site.