Strategic School Improvement Fund
Funding for eligible schools for a range of school improvement activities.
The £140 million Strategic School Improvement Fund is a grant to support primary, secondary, middle, all-through, alternative provision and special academies and maintained schools, and pupil referral units. It is intended to further build a school-led system, and aims to target resources at the schools most in need to improve school performance and pupil attainment; to help them use their resources most effectively, and to deliver more good school places.
The fund will support a broad range of school improvement activities including, but not limited to, improving leadership, governance, teaching methods and approaches, and financial health and efficiency. The fund will support medium- to long-term sustainable activities across groups of schools with a preference towards school-led provision, that is, support provided by schools, for schools.
The Strategic School Improvement Fund is not intended to support specific projects or activities already funded through other Department for Education programmes. These will include those focused on curriculum enhancement, opportunity areas, Northern Powerhouse, national professional qualifications, initial teacher training (ITT) recruitment, Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund, academy conversion activities or improvements in school buildings or infrastructure.
Teaching schools, multi-academy trusts and local authorities will submit to the Department for Education applications for funding on behalf of the sector to address local improvement priorities across groups of schools. To ensure that support reaches those schools which need it most, and in the most effective way, we expect that, in shaping these applications, regional schools commissioners, multi-academy trusts, local authorities, the Teaching Schools Council, and diocesan representatives will work collaboratively with schools to bring together their local intelligence to identify shared improvement priorities.
To avoid duplication, we encourage teaching schools to make their Teaching Schools Council regional lead aware of their intention to submit an application(s). Similarly, we encourage multi-academy trusts to make their regional schools commissioner aware of their intention to apply.
Each application must support a minimum of 4 schools, of which at least 70% must meet one or more of the eligibility criteria. Eligible schools will be those which are currently underperforming (in line with the schools causing concern guidance), as well as schools at risk of doing so. Where applications are solely in support of special schools, there may be exceptions to the 70% threshold. For such applications, applicants should contact firstname.lastname@example.org in advance of submitting their application.
Applications will need to be supported by evidence that demonstrates why proposed interventions are expected to drive up standards in schools. They will need to set out a clear rationale for why the improvement is necessary, and detail what activities will be undertaken by which providers, and the expected costs, outputs and outcomes.
We expect schools, in particular teaching schools, national support schools, and multi-academy trusts to provide the majority of improvement support; however, applicants are at liberty to use a range of providers and will be responsible for securing and quality assuring all provision.
Applications will be assessed against the criteria detailed below and the Department for Education will also refer to local intelligence to inform its decision-making on priorities.
If there is an urgent need for more bespoke support, there is provision to apply for emergency funding to support an individual school in difficulty.
Applicants should complete and submit the online application form. This link will take you to the application form login page. If you don’t already have an account with the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), you’ll need to register for one.
The deadline for receipt of applications for this round of funding is midday on Friday 23 June 2017.
We expect to inform applicants of the outcome of their applications in August, and for initial grant payments to be made when schools return from the summer holiday in September.
There will be further funding rounds in autumn 2017 and spring 2018, with the next application deadline in September 2017.
On the application form you will find separate guidance on how to fill in the online form; a link to the eligibility criteria; and a downloadable version of the application form for you to draft your application.
All applications must be submitted using the online form. We will not accept applications sent by email.
Who can apply
To apply for the Strategic School Improvement Fund, you should be a designated teaching school, a multi-academy trust, or a local authority.
Multi-academy trusts can apply to support their own schools, but only when they are also supporting at least one school not in their trust in the same application.
Applications will need to be ratified by a senior responsible officer in the applicant organisation. We ask that applicants name this individual on the application form, and that they are in a position to commit their organisation to be accountable to the Department for Education for the correct use of the funding and delivery of the outcomes set out in the application, as well as complying with the terms and conditions of the grant funding agreement. We require applications to be ratified by:
- the headteacher – if you are a teaching school
- the director, assistant director, or equivalent, of children’s services – if you are a local authority, or
- the chief executive officer/accounting officer – if you are a multi-academy trust
In submitting an application, you are confirming your commitment to undertake delivery of the improvement activities, to provide evidence of impact. All parties – applicant, providers and supported schools – must have given their express approval to the application and its provisions prior to submission.
We may seek or draw on further information on applicants and providers in order to confirm their capacity to carry out the activities required for the successful delivery of an application.
Schools eligible to receive support
All primary, secondary, middle, all-through, alternative provision and special academies and maintained schools, and pupil referral units in England that meet at least one of the eligibility criteria qualify for support, with the exception of:
- solely 16+ provision institutions (that is, those which are not part of a secondary school)
- local authority nurseries
- secure units
- schools subject to academy orders (unless exceptional circumstances apply)
- schools which are open but proposed to close
Each application must include at least 4 supported schools, and at least 70% of the supported schools in each application must meet at least one of the eligibility criteria set out in the main eligibility criteria for the fund. This will allow for applications which include schools which do not meet any of the main eligibility criteria, but are identified by local intelligence as being at risk of decline.
A number of special schools may meet one or more of the criteria because they cater for pupils who are working at lower key stage levels or making less rapid progress than their mainstream educated peers. Although such schools may not necessarily be at risk of underperforming, it is important that special schools are able to benefit from the support of the Strategic School Improvement Fund. They will be able to do so either through applications which include only other special schools or applications which include special and mainstream schools. Where applications are solely in support of special schools, there may be exceptions to the 70% threshold for schools meeting one or more of the eligibility criteria.
If you have any questions about eligibility, prior to submitting your application please contact email@example.com.
Funding available per application
There is no set amount of funding per application; however, each application must include a minimum of 4 supported schools. Individual application values will typically be in the range of £100,000 to £500,000 and will support multiple schools to address shared improvement priorities. We are particularly interested in receiving higher value applications that use evidence-led approaches to address improvement priorities across a large number of schools in a locality.
What we will fund
- address local improvement priorities to benefit multiple schools (minimum of 4 schools per application)
- be of a scale and nature that brings about sustainable improvement in school standards and performance across an area, phase or group of schools
- be supported by evidence that demonstrates why proposed interventions are expected to drive up standards in schools
- set out a clear rationale for why the improvement is necessary, and detail what activities will be undertaken by which providers, and the expected costs, outputs and outcomes
Applications may include innovative ideas and approaches to school improvement; however, such applications will still require an evidence base to support why and how they are expected to be successful.
The types of activities that we will fund include, but are not limited to, those which:
- deliver improvements in overall teaching, learning and leadership.
- increase teachers’ capacity, to enable them to focus on their teaching and undertake effective evidence-based professional development. This could include support to review and remove unnecessary workload, in line with the recommendations of the 3 independent reports on marking, planning and resources and data management.
- are specifically focused on raising the attainment of pupils with SEND; in particular proposals which focus on identifying SEND, putting in place effective interventions, commissioning specialist support, parental involvement, transitions, minimising exclusion and preparation for adulthood.
- have a clear impact on the efficiency of schools, to support improved financial health and improved pupil outcomes. This could include sharing of specialist staffing across schools or the creation of new collaborative procurement arrangements, for example.
- improve specifically the performance of a school in relation to its disadvantaged pupils.
- include targeted interventions to improve governance.
Activities which are not eligible for this fund include:
- academy conversion activities that are expected to be paid for through other funds such as, but not limited to, the sponsored academies pre-opening grant or the regional academy growth fund
- any projects which are already being, or planned to be, paid for through opportunity area or Northern Powerhouse funding
- projects supported by other Department for Education funding such as national professional qualifications, ITT recruitment, or Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund
- improvements in school buildings or infrastructure
Applications will be for medium- to long-term improvement support which will start and finish sometime within the period September 2017 to March 2019. All interventions must finish by March 2019 at the latest.
Organisations that can deliver the improvement support
We expect teaching schools and national leaders of education in particular to play a major role in delivering the funded support interventions.
Some applicants may also wish to draw on the expertise and specialisms of other proven school improvement/school-to-school support providers such as, but not limited to, maintained schools, multi-academy trusts, local authorities, higher education institutions, independent schools, charities and not-for-profit organisations as well as private sector providers. Applicants must be of sound financial health and be able to demonstrate how they plan on using their funding efficiently.
The applicant will be accountable for quality assuring all provision and ensuring providers have the capacity and capability to deliver the activity such that it delivers the desired outcomes.
Submitting the application – teaching school/local authority/multi-academy trust (the applicant) submits an application for funding. In submitting an application, the applicant is agreeing to the Department for Education grant funding agreement terms and conditions.
Eligibility and completeness checks – on receipt of applications, we will undertake checks to ensure that the applicant has completed all required fields in the application form, and that the application meets the requirements of the fund.
Assessment of applications – the national Expert Investment Board will assess all applications and make recommendations on funding awards.
Grant payment made – if the application is successful, we will pay the first instalment of the grant to the applicant and establish a payment and monitoring schedule for further payments to be released (payment will be dependent on achievement of milestones set out in the application).
Delivery of activity – the applicant will manage delivery of the activity outlined in the application.
Monitoring, evaluation and reporting – the applicant will monitor progress of delivery and achievement of outcomes, and will report to us as required to release further grant payments. Applicants will be required to participate as required by the Department for Education in any formal evaluation of the fund and/or the associated processes.
The Expert Investment Board will assess the extent to which applications demonstrate:
- An evidence-based programme of work
- How clear is the logic and evidence of how and why the intervention will work?
- The scale and scope of the forecast impact on achieving improved outcomes for children.
- How robust is the action plan? How clear are the baseline measures and outcomes? Has the applicant identified the main risks, and how robust are the mitigations to these? Does the application evidence sufficient capacity, and capability that the activity can be delivered? Is there a good approach to quality assurance of provision?
- Does the application provide a clear plan as to how interventions will develop a foundation for sustainable improvement, for example, by improving practices and behaviours?
- Value for money
- Are the costs clearly set out? Is there evidence that the applicant has taken steps to secure value for money?
Terms and conditions of grant funding
Please ensure you have read and understood the Department for Education grant funding agreement terms and conditions. In applying for the Strategic School Improvement Fund (including emergency funding) you will be agreeing to the Department for Education grant funding agreement terms and conditions.
The applicant will also be required to sign and return a grant offer letter. In the event of an application being successful, the Department for Education will send this to the applicant. This will set out the specific grant conditions, monitoring arrangements and payment details. It will also include a certificate of expenditure (annex G) which applicants are required to submit on an annual basis.
For applicants who already receive grant funding from the Department for Education, for example, teaching schools, the Strategic School Improvement Fund should be clearly identified and included as part of a single certificate of expenditure return.
If you are a teaching school you will need to ensure you have submitted your certificate of expenditure (annex G) return for the last financial year. If you have not yet submitted this, you will need to get this back to us before funding is paid.
Roles and responsibilities
Below are the roles and responsibilities we expect of organisations who wish to draw down support from the fund.
The supported school(s)
Schools that are the recipients of improvement support funded through applications. The majority of these will meet one or more of the fund’s eligibility criteria.
The organisation which submits the application, and which will receive and be accountable for, the grant funding, and achievement of the stated improvement outcomes. Applicants are accountable for quality assuring the providers and the overall provision. The applicant must be a teaching school, a local authority, or a multi-academy trust.
The organisation(s) that delivers the improvement activities set out in the application. Providers can be any organisation, such as a school, local authority, university or charity; however, it is the applicant’s responsibility to quality assure all provision.
Other funds available
Alongside the Strategic School Improvement Fund, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has committed to invest up to £20 million over the next 2 years to further evaluate and disseminate evidence-based programmes and approaches detailed included in a selection of larger-scale applications.
The Strategic School Improvement Fund will sit alongside a wide range of other Department for Education funding streams aimed at improving school improvement including:
- from September, a £50 million a year fund for local authorities to continue to broker and monitor school improvement for low-performing maintained schools
- the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund, which is a 3-year investment worth up to £75 million that will support high-quality professional development for teachers and school leaders in areas of the country that need it most
- the £72 million investment for the 12 opportunity areas - over the next 3 financial years. Opportunity areas will see local partnerships formed with early years providers, schools, colleges, universities, businesses, charities and local authorities, to ensure that all children and young people have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Opportunity areas will also get priority access to the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund.
If you have any queries, questions or comments, please contact us.