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Emergency capital cash handouts soar to £12m

The cash handed to small trusts which fear their school buildings could be dangerously rundown has increased by more than 300 per cent in just 12 months.

Schools Week analysis also shows funding approved through the government’s urgent capital support (UCS) scheme has hit a six-year high – with academies using the money to fix collapsed ceilings and tear out ageing pipework.

The scheme is only for building “issues that pose the threat of immediate school closure” and cannot wait until the next round of the condition improvement fund (CIF).

This comes after the number of successful CIF projects fell by almost 60 per cent since 2020-21.

Tim Warneford

School buildings expert Tim Warneford said: “It’s a sign of the times. What it seems to suggest is that it’s the larger-value projects that are being rejected [for CIF] and then falling into UCS.” 

Figures show that £11.8 million was awarded through UCS in 2023-24, up from £2.8 million the year before. The amount is more than at any point in the past six years and was split between 17 successful bidders, equating to an average of £695,000 per application.

The Kibblesworth Academy in Gateshead received £414,000 from the DfE, without a loan or the need to offer a contribution, following a “partial ceiling collapse”.

Headteacher Craig Steel had “applied for support through CIF for a number of years without success, with each year requiring greater sums of money to rectify the problem. The amount that was finally allocated far exceeded the sums we had initially asked for.”

Only trusts with fewer than five schools or 3,000 pupils are eligible for the cash. Most applications will be offered “primarily as a loan, subject to an assessment of finances”.

The Department for Education noted the number of successful UCS applications was broadly similar in 2022-23 and 2023-24.

But it added a few cases in the latest round presented complex condition issues that required more extensive work, with the funding provided reflecting this.

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