‘Equals Trust was established in September 2016 as a multi-academy trust of seven primary schools around Nottingham. The aim was to allow member schools to maintain their ethos and unique identities within a tight local network, with strong mutual accountability, shared support services and a collaborative approach to staff development and school improvement.
The local authority buildings we inherited had been erected in the 1950s and 1960s and were in a poor state of repair. Lots of our classrooms are pre-fabricated CLASP (Consortium of Local Authorities Special Programme) buildings, which were intended to have a relatively short life span. And years of underfunding meant emerging problems had been patched up rather than fixed, leading to significant deterioration.
There were many things in urgent need of repair or replacement, from leaking roofs to draughty classrooms, decaying windows frames, hazardous external cladding, and problem drainage (with pupil toilets overflowing and classrooms flooding in heavy rain). One school had a sub-standard kitchen, several had old and inefficient heating, ventilation and distribution plants, while better security and safeguarding measures were required at a further site.
We had very little budget to remedy these issues. However in my previous role as a headteacher at one of our schools I had worked with ICS Funding Services, an independent consultancy that provides expert advice on accessing finance for school improvements. ICS advised us that, as a new MAT, we would be eligible to apply to the government Condition Improvement Fund (CIF). We appointed ICS to oversee our CIF applications.
Over four years, we worked with ICS and their chartered surveyor partners on several rounds of applications. Our trust soon expanded to encompass 12 schools and we secured a total of £3.7million in CIF funding to carry out 21 improvement projects. Other than our voluntary contributions, this was delivered at no cost to the trust because professional fees were included in the bids.
The support from ICS and its specialist partners has taken all the strain out of the complex and time-consuming application process. It has also allowed headteachers to hand over project management to the experts, freeing them up to focus on teaching and learning.
Around £2.25million of improvements have been carried out in the past year (including the installation of high quality, energy efficient boilers), which has made a massive difference to our schools and staff. Teachers can teach, instead of constantly trying to deal with water leaks, and parents have commented on how much better the buildings look.’
Phil Palmer, CEO, Equals Trust, Keyworth Primary and Nursery School, Nottinghamshire