Strategic school improvement fund opens its second round

Applications are now open for the second round of handouts from the government’s £140 million strategic school improvement fund.

Schools have until October 20 to enter submissions, explaining what they want to do with the money and why they deserve it, via an online form on the website.

The recipients of the first round of funding were announced last week, when 56 learning projects shared grants totalling £20 million from the funding pot.

These included schemes to improve progress in reading, modern foreign languages and science. Each will be delivered by schools and local authorities.

The fund is designed to build a “school-led system” by providing additional funding to schools that need to improve performance and pupil attainment. It can be used to support a range of areas for improvement, including leadership, governance, teaching methods or even financial health.

Applicants need to be designated teaching schools, multi-academy trusts or local authorities, and each application must support a minimum of four schools.

In order to qualify for the funding, schools must meet certain eligibility criteria including an ‘inadequate’ rating from their most recent Ofsted inspection, receiving a warning notice during the past three years, or having an overall Progress 8 score of less than -0.25.

Schools must submit their ideas for sustainable school-led activities, and provide evidence showing how these plans would drive up standards. Evidence could include information such as surveys, interviews, expert advice or media reports.

Applications must also set out the expected costs and outcomes of prospective projects.

The National College of Teaching and Leadership, which runs the scheme, said individual applications should “typically be in the range of £100,000 to £500,000”.

The strategic school improvement fund was first introduced by the education secretary Justine Greening in November 2016, as part of a package of resources to support the school system and encourage greater collaboration between academies and maintained schools. The amount available is expected to double to £280 million over the next two years.

In December 2016, Sir David Carter, the national schools commissioner, said the new fund showed a shift in the government’s approach from “mass conversion to mass improvement”.

He wanted the cash to be used to ensure “less patchy” coverage of multi-academy trusts and teaching school alliances, as well as to launch better training routes for teachers in challenging areas, to make sure curriculum ideas such as “mastery” consistently enter all classrooms, and to allow faster intervention when schools are failing.

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