Funding for eligible schools for a range of school improvement activities.
Applications for round 3 closed on Friday 20 April 2018 at midday.
The £140 million Strategic School Improvement Fund is a grant to support first, infant, primary, secondary, middle, all-through, maintained nursery schools, alternative provision and special academies and maintained schools, post-16 academies, 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 will not support specific projects or activities already funded through other Department for Education programmes. These include specific programmes relating to curriculum enhancement, opportunity areas, the Northern Powerhouse, initial teacher training (ITT) recruitment, the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund, academy conversion and growth activities, and improvements in school buildings or infrastructure.
Teaching schools, multi-academy trusts (MAT) and local authorities should submit to the Department for Education applications for funding 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 in sub-regional improvement boards, and with schools, to bring together their local intelligence to identify shared improvement priorities.
To avoid duplication and help with sub-regional co-ordination of applications, we encourage teaching schools, multi-academy trusts and local authority applicants to make their Teaching Schools Council regional leads aware of their intention to submit an application(s). Multi-academy trust applicants should also continue to keep their contacts in their regional schools commissioner’s office appraised of their intention to submit an application.
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 that are currently underperforming, as well as schools at risk of doing so. Where applications are solely in support of special schools, pupil referral units and alternative provision units, the 70% threshold does not apply because the needs of these schools are not always apparent from performance data.
Applications should set out a clear rationale for why the improvement is necessary, and should detail what specific activities will be undertaken by which providers and when, and the expected costs, short-term and long-term 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 assessment criteria detailed below, and the Department for Education will also refer to local intelligence to inform its decision-making.
If there is an urgent need for more bespoke support for an individual school in difficulty, there is provision to apply for emergency funding – a separate application process, set of eligibility criteria and guidance are used for such applications.
Who can apply
To apply for the Strategic School Improvement Fund, you must be a designated teaching school, a multi-academy trust, or a local authority. Applicants must be of sound financial health and be able to demonstrate how they plan to use their funding efficiently and effectively.
Multi-academy trusts and teaching schools within multi-academy trusts
Multi-academy trusts and teaching schools within multi-academy trusts can apply to support schools within their trust or intending to join the trust during the lifetime of the improvement programme, providing that at least 25% of supported schools in the application are not in the MAT, or not due to join; or, for applications in support of more than 20 schools, there is a minimum of 5 schools not in the MAT or not due to be.
For applications from multi-academy trusts or teaching schools within multi-academy trusts, where more than 50% of the supported schools in the application are in the trust or due to join, the additional requirement below must also be met:
- all schools not in the MAT or not due to join must meet one or more of the supported schools eligibility criteria
For the purposes of this guidance, we are defining ‘due to join’ as the supported school’s governing body having passed a resolution to join the MAT.
Please note: the above conditions are in addition to the eligibility requirements that, in any one application, at least 70% of the total number of supported schools must meet one or more of the supported schools eligibility criteria AND there must be a minimum of 4 supported schools in any one application.
Ratification of applications
A senior responsible officer (SRO) in the applicant organisation will need to ratify all applications. This must be an individual who is in a position to commit the applicant organisation to be accountable for the correct use of funding, and for delivery of the outcomes set out in the application.
The SRO is also accountable for ensuring compliance with the Department for Education’s 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 be accountable for correct use of funding; to quality assure all provision; to provide a termly progress report and to participate in any departmental evaluation of the fund.
All parties – applicant, providers and supported schools – must have given, prior to submission, their express permission to be included in the application and to be bound by its provisions. Where not all parties have given this express permission, the application will be deemed ineligible.
An applicant may submit more than one application, providing they are able to demonstrate in the application form that they have the capacity and capability to manage several simultaneous programmes.
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.
Making sure your application is eligible
Applicants should ensure prior to submission that their application(s) meets all aspects of eligibility by using the.
This checklist brings together in one easy to understand format all the requirements for an eligible application as set out in the various sections of this guidance.
Applicants should read the guidance first so that they understand the context of the requirements prior to developing their application.
Where a school is eligible because of an unpublished Ofsted judgement, the applicant must state this in the application form as evidence of need.
Schools eligible to receive support
Types of school (settings) in scope for support
All first, infant, primary, secondary, middle, all-through, maintained nursery schools, alternative provision and special academies and maintained schools, post-16 academies, and pupil referral units in England qualify for support, with the exception of:
- solely 16+ provision institutions which are not academies and not part of a secondary school
- secure units
- schools subject to academy orders (unless exceptional circumstances apply)
- schools which are open but proposed to close during the course of the improvement programme
In the case of schools subject to academy orders, the relevant regional schools commissioner will determine whether or not exceptional circumstances apply based on their judgement as to whether the school is in need of support through the fund in addition to that it will receive on joining a multi-academy trust.
Eligibility criteria for supported schools
There must be at least 4 supported schools in each application, at least 70% of which must meet at one or more of the supported schools eligibility criteria. The remaining 30% of schools may be those that do not meet any of the eligibility criteria, but which local intelligence has identified as being in decline or at risk of decline.
Eligibility of supported schools in relation to criteria E6 to E14 can be based on either the 2015/16 or 2016/17 published performance data. The performance data for key stage 4 and 16 to 18 was published on 25 January 2018. We will treat as eligible for support any school that meets one or more of the eligibility criteria based on either year’s data.
Until such time as key stage 4 and 16 to 18 data is published, applicants will need to use their local intelligence to determine if schools meet any of the criteria E6 to E14 based on 2016/17 data. Applicants should also use local intelligence to determine whether schools meet the newly-introduced early years criterion E15, the data for which is not published at school level.
Information about which schools are eligible for support through the fund is available to potential applicants from members of the sub-regional improvement boards, specifically Teaching Schools Council regional leads, local authorities and the regional schools commissioners.
Where schools are receiving support (from rounds 1 or 2) or are due to receive support (in round 3) through multiple applications, it is the applicant’s responsibility to work with the supported school, and any other applicant applying to support or already supporting the same school, to reassure themselves that the school has the capacity to participate fully in multiple simultaneous improvement programmes.
Flexibilities for special schools, pupil referral and alternative provision units
A number of special schools, pupil referral units and alternative provision units 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 peer; however, this may not always be apparent from the eligibility criteria. It is important that these schools are able to benefit from the support of the Strategic School Improvement Fund. They will be able to do so through either applications which only include other special schools, pupil referral units and alternative provisions units, or applications which include these and mainstream schools.
Where all of the supported schools in an application are special schools, pupil referral units or alternative provision units, the requirement for 70% of supported schools to meet one or more of the eligibility criteria will not apply.
Flexibilities for applications supporting SEND pupils in mainstream schools
Where applications are solely to support improvements in outcomes for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in mainstream schools, we will allow some flexibility in the requirement for 70% of supported schools to meet one or more of the eligibility criteria – please consult email@example.com to discuss your application before submitting it by the closing date.
Flexibilities for first and infant schools
Similar to special schools, improvement needs of first/infant schools may not be apparent from the eligibility criteria as they do not have pupils eligible for assessment at key stage 2, yet may still require support. It is important that these schools are able to benefit from the Strategic School Improvement Fund. Where applications are specifically to increase the proportion of children in infant/first schools meeting or exceeding expectations for language and communication, literacy, and mathematics, the requirement for 70% of supported schools to meet one or more of the eligibility criteria will not apply.
Schools with no performance data
Certain types of schools, for example, new schools, small schools, primary schools with no pupils eligible for key stage 2 assessment, middle schools with no pupils eligible for key stage 2 or key stage 4 assessment, may be disadvantaged by some of the performance-related eligibility criteria.
Where applications are to support improvements in such schools we will allow some flexibility in the requirement for 70% of supported schools to meet one or more of the eligibility criteria – please consult firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your application before submitting it by the closing date.
Schools with new URNs
Where schools have new URNs with no associated Ofsted or performance information, for example following conversion to academy status, we will use the information associated with their previous URN to determine eligibility for support.
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. Typically, we expect applications to be in the range of £100,000 to £500,000. However, we will fund applications that exceed £500,000 where they demonstrate good value for money, have a strong evidence-base and track record of provision, and include robust sustainability plans.
We expect that:
- the vast majority of funding will be spent on direct delivery of the improvement activities, with no more than 35% in total on administration (including travel and subsistence), project management, and application development costs
- day rates for national leaders of education (NLE), specialist leaders of education (SLE) and other system leaders will be in line with national indicators of approximately £500-£650 for a national leader of education; £400-£500 for a local leader of education; and £350-£400 for a specialist leader of education
Inclusion of VAT in application costs
Where applications involve work or activity undertaken by third parties registered for VAT (for example consultants/private providers), then applicants should state all costs including VAT within the project costs on the application form. If VAT is not included in the application form, and the application is successful in securing funding, then the VAT costs must be borne by the applicant.
What we will fund
We will fund applications that address local improvement priorities to benefit multiple schools (minimum of 4 supported schools per application), and which meet all the requirements of the fund, and are eligible.
a) deliver improvements in overall teaching, leadership and/or governance.
b) be of a scale and nature that bring about sustainable improvement in school standards and performance across an area, phase or group of schools.
c) set out why the proposed improvement approach is appropriate for the group of schools involved, what is expected to change in the classroom/school as a result of the activity, and be clear about how it fits with any other improvement activity that is happening in those schools.
d) be supported by evidence that demonstrates why the proposed improvement approach is expected to drive up standards in those schools. See the classification of types of evidence document and how they might be used.
e) set out a clear rationale for why the improvement is necessary, and clearly detail what activities will be undertaken by which providers, and the expected costs, short-term and long-term outcomes.
Applications should focus on those areas identified as local priorities for improvement in their area and match the needs of the schools involved. We particularly welcome applications that deliver:
Improvements in curriculum design and teaching
We welcome applications that seek to improve the design and teaching of parts, or all, of schools’ curricula. Successful bids will demonstrate how they take account of the Department for Education’s plan to improve social mobility through education, Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential and the knowledge-based approach set out in the national curriculum, national primary assessments and/or GCSEs and A levels. Research evidence suggests that teacher quality is the most important factor influencing pupil attainment after pupil characteristics (note 1). The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is gathering an evidence base of what works in teaching, with a particular focus on what works with improving education for disadvantaged pupils.
We particularly welcome applications that demonstrate how they will improve teaching so that all pupils can access lessons and stay on track. Applications proposing small group or one-to-one interventions will only be successful if they set out how those interventions build from other improvements to curriculum design and teaching. For example, applications to fund key stage 1 or key stage 2 reading interventions must be able to demonstrate that the schools involved already have high quality phonics teaching in place or that improvements are being made in the teaching of phonics, and that the proposed reading intervention builds from that.
The Department for Education funds a number of Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund are not already available to the schools in the area.to support effective teaching of curriculum subjects and increase participation in some subjects at GCSE and A level. Before submitting an application, please check that these programmes, or programmes funded through the
For some aspects of teaching, the following considerations apply:
Improvements in the standard of language, literacy and numeracy in reception
We welcome applications that focus on increasing the proportion of children achieving a good level of literacy and numeracy at the end of the early years foundation stage. The Education Endowment Foundation has produced an overview of early literacy approaches, an overview of early numeracy approaches, and a guidance report for improving literacy in key stage 1. This could include, for example, improving early assessments of children’s needs and the delivery of support during the reception year in eligible schools, or early years providers, which feed those schools in order to improve school-readiness and attainment during the reception year, and proposals which build on this through fostering good transition between reception and key stage 1. We expect applications to respond to the ambition and challenges to close the word gap in the early years as set out in Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential.
Supporting improvements in the teaching of English
We welcome applications that support the aims set out in the English national curriculum programmes of study. The Education Endowment Foundation has published guidance reports for improving literacy in key stage 1 and improving literacy in key stage 2. In particular, we welcome proposals that enhance the effective teaching of systematic synthetic phonics and promote wide reading by pupils to help develop fluency, a wide vocabulary and a love of reading. Applications proposing key stage 1 or key stage 2 reading interventions must be able to demonstrate that the schools involved already have high quality phonics teaching in place, or that improvements are being made in the teaching of phonics and that the proposed reading intervention builds from that. Applicants should refer to the following paper that sets out the government’s approach to the teaching of reading – Reading: the next steps.
Supporting improvements in the teaching of mathematics
We welcome applications that support the aims set out in the mathematics national curriculum programmes of study. The Department for Education funds a national network of maths hubs to support developments in the teaching of mathematics in primary and secondary schools. Successful applications will be able to demonstrate that their local maths hub is supportive of the proposed programme of work in advance of submitting an application. Applications focusing on maths need to outline how the activity is complementary to the work of the local maths hub. In respect of mastery teaching, the Department for Education aims to spread mastery teaching to half of all primary schools by 2020 and half of all secondary schools by 2023. Not all mathematics applications need to have an explicit mastery focus, but successful bidders (particularly projects aimed at teaching for key stages 1 to 4) will need to show how they will build on and complement the national expansion of mastery. The Department for Education recognises mastery approaches that meet the principles set out by the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM). Successful maths applications will also include an explanation of how a maths hub(s) will either be directly involved in the implementation of the project or kept informed of progress. Applicants can find their local maths hub.
Supporting improvements in the teaching of science
We welcome applications that support the aims set out in the science national curriculum programmes of study. We welcome applications that focus on improving the attainment of pupils in science at key stage 2 and key stage 4, increasing the take up of triple science, and of science qualifications post-16, especially physics, especially amongst girls. Successful applications will demonstrate that the schools involved are not able to access support from their local Science Learning Partnership, the Triple Science Support Programme, or the Stimulating Physics Network.
Supporting schools to deliver the English Baccalaureate
In July 2017 the government announced the EBacc policy, with an expectation that 75% of year 10 students will be studying for the full combination of EBacc GCSEs in 2022, and 90% in 2025. We particularly welcome proposals to support improvements in the teaching of languages. Successful languages applications will demonstrate how they build on the findings of the Bauckham Review of Languages Teaching published by the Teaching Schools Council.
Improvements in the performance of a school in relation to its disadvantaged pupils
We welcome applications that focus approaches to increasing the progress and attainment of disadvantaged pupils and reducing the gaps between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. We encourage applications based on evidence of effective practice, drawing on sources such as the EEF and Hattie, and demonstrating how this builds on/complements or helps make more efficient the use of the pupil premium in these schools.
Increased numbers of high quality, experienced teachers working in challenging schools
We welcome applications that focus specifically on increasing the number of high quality, experienced teachers working in challenging schools, to deliver improved pupil progress in a way that will ensure schools will sustain these improvements beyond the period of the project. We also welcome applications that seek to increase the subject knowledge of teachers, for instance if they are teaching outside of their specialist subject.
Improvements in the attainment of pupils with SEND
We welcome applications that focus specifically on raising the attainment of pupils with SEND, particularly proposals that focus on identifying SEND, putting in place effective interventions, commissioning specialist support, parental involvement, transitions, minimising exclusion and preparation for adulthood.
Improvements to how schools use their resources more effectively including to improve social mobility
We welcome applications that support schools to get the best value out of their resources so that they can be most effectively used in support of curriculum delivery. This could include schools working in partnership to increase efficiency by sharing specialist staff; collaborative procurement arrangements to help get the best value from non-staff expenditure; or developing schools’ capability for effective financial management.
Improvements in teacher capacity to focus on better pupil outcomes
We welcome applications that focus on increasing teacher capacity by removing unnecessary workload, enabling them to focus on activities that improve pupil outcomes and to undertake effective evidence-based professional development. This could include support to review and remove unnecessary workload, in line with the principles and recommendations of the independent reports on marking, planning and resources and data management.
Activities not eligible for this fund
- academy conversion and growth activities that are expected to be paid for through other funds such as, but not limited to, the sponsored academies pre-opening grant, the pre-opening converter grant, or the MAT development and improvement fund
- continuing professional development funded through the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund, such that, if a teacher or school leader is benefitting from development opportunities through the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund, those same opportunities cannot also be funded as part of an application to this fund
- any other projects supported by other Department for Education funding including (but not restricted to), ITT recruitment, opportunity area or Northern Powerhouse funding
- applications which seek funding solely for the purposes of paying for qualifications such as national professional qualifications or Master’s degrees
- improvements in school buildings or infrastructure such as IT hardware, and other capital investments
Providers of 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, maintained nursery schools, multi-academy trusts, local authorities, higher education institutions, independent schools, charities and not-for-profit organisations as well as private sector providers.
Providers have a responsibility for ensuring they have the capacity and capability to deliver their specific activities. 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 – the applicant (teaching school/local authority/multi-academy trust) 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 the fields in the application form, and that the application meets all requirements of the fund.
- Assessment of applications – we will assess all applications against the assessment criteria and the national Expert Investment Board will make recommendations to ministers on which applications to fund.
- Grant payment made – if the application is successful, we will pay application development costs and the first termly payment to teaching schools and multi-academy trust applicants, and application development costs to local authority applicants. We will make further termly payments on receipt of satisfactory termly monitoring reports.
- Delivery of activity – the applicant will manage delivery of the activity outlined in the application.
- Termly monitoring – the applicant will monitor progress of delivery and achievement of outcomes, and will submit a termly monitoring report to evidence that the improvement programme is on track and further grant funding can be released.
- 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.
In determining which applications to fund, we will assess the extent to which they demonstrate:
An evidence-based programme of work
- the strength of the evidence about why the improvement is a priority for schools in the area
- the strength of the evidence that the support will reach the schools which need it most and that they are able to fully benefit from it
- the strength of the evidence to support why and how the intervention will successfully address the improvement need identified, and lead to improved outcomes for children
- the extent to which appropriate and measurable short and long term outcomes have been identified, and will provide evidence of impact
- the robustness and credibility of the action plan, and of the plans to monitor progress, measure impact and manage risks, including how providers and supported schools will manage any impact on workload
- the strength of the evidence that the specified providers have the capacity, capability and track record to successfully deliver the activity such that it delivers the desired outcomes
- the extent that improvements will be sustained beyond the period of funding, through embedding improved practices, behaviours, systems and people, for example, in the school’s(s’) business as usual operations, including accountabilities for making this happen
Value for money
- the extent to which costs are minimised, and the delivery model is clear and cost effective in relation to the scale of activity and intended impact
We will prioritise applications that address improvement priorities identified by the sub-regional improvement boards, and improvement approaches that have a strong evidence base and demonstrate a strong track record of relevant provision.
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, you will be agreeing to the Department for Education grant funding agreement terms and conditions.
In the event of an application being successful, the applicant will be required to sign a grant offer letter. 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.
In receiving a grant for the Strategic School Improvement Fund, the applicant is consenting to participate in the Department for Education’s evaluation of the programme and any statistical releases of information.
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. At least 70% of these will meet one or more of the fund’s eligibility criteria, except where certain flexibilities outlined in the guidance apply.
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. Providers are responsible for ensuring they have the capacity and capability to undertake their allocated activities.
Other funds available
Alongside the Strategic School Improvement Fund, the Education Endowment Foundation has committed to invest up to £20 million over the next 2 years to further evaluate and disseminate evidence-based programmes and approaches 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 schools including:
- from September 2017, 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.
Applications in round 1 closed on Friday 23 June 2017 and we would like to congratulate the 55 successful applicants which will collectively provide support to just under 1,350 schools of all types across the country. Find out which organisations were successful.
Applications in round 2 closed on Friday 20 October 2017 and we would like to congratulate the 73 successful applicants which will collectively provide support from 75 projects to just over 1,370 schools of all types across the country. Find out which organisations were successful.
 Hattie, J. (2003). Teachers Make a Difference: What is the research evidence? Australian Council for Educational Research Annual Conference on: Building Teacher Quality, 1–17
Please use this email address for all questions and enquiries.