Building Guidance

PLEASE NOTE the DFE has announced that LCVAP funding will be distributed directly to dioceses for 2020/2021. The new process to match this is currenty being developed and will be published when the DFE give final confirmation of the distribution in this manner. Training will also be provided. Please keep checking the website for any updates (Schools and building consultants will be informed of any updates directly). 

Providing these guidelines are followed, professional consultants and DBE officers undertake many of the tasks associated with capital premises related work on behalf of governors: bills are paid from DBE funds and grant claimed or used on behalf of the governing body; governing bodies, with prior approval of DBE, may defer their payments, although we do expect governors to repay their portion of the costs as soon as possible.

The governing body is responsible for building work at the school.
VAT must be paid (and not reclaimed) on all Capital work which is the governors’ responsibility – see section 4.

This work is much more complex than building work in homes. There is a range of regulations to which schools must conform when undertaking building work (See Appendices 2, 2(a) to 2(e)) and these have cost and bureaucratic implications. To assist governors and ensure all regulations are met, each school has a DBE-approved building consultant.  The work is administratively intensive and the DBE assists in managing cash flow.


Governors must

  • Have the written approval of the DBE before undertaking any capital work;
  • Inform the DBE office as soon as work is contemplated, but prior consultation by the governors or consultant acting on their behalf is usually most helpful. The consultant should apply on the form Capital/Bid (see section 7.4) for work in the following year which the school cannot fund from its DFC;
  • Unless the work is entirely funded from DFC, the prior approval of the Education Funding Agency (EFA) is also required (this is obtained through the DBE office) for any LCVAP or other grant-aidable work. In case of an emergency contact the DBE office immediately;
  • Ensure that anyone undertaking building work in schools has adequate and appropriate professional indemnity insurance. All DBE-approved contractors have this.



  • Has a duty to ensure all regulations are met and appropriate procedures followed;
  • Negotiates on behalf of governors to secure grant;
  • Acts for the governors paying all bills;
  • Holds the school's DFC and completes the ESFA year-end assurance form;
  • Completes the ESFA year-end assurance form for LCVAP
  • Oversees the work of the school's consultant;
  • Provides legal advice on all matters of education law relating to school buildings and land.

Work begun without

  • The approval of the ESFA may lead to grant being withheld. Governors would be liable for the whole cost;
  • The approval of the DBE or against the advice of the Board’s officers would leave governors responsible for the payment of all bills. Such work would contravene the Diocesan Boards of Education Measure 1991;
  • The appropriate health and safety conditions could lead to the governors facing action by the Health and Safety Executive.

This introduction is all most governors will need to read. It can be downloaded here. The downloadable appendices are largely for the use of consultants.

Contents of this section:

Revenue Work

Capital Work


Sources of Grant

Financing the Governors’ Contribution

Undertaking Capital Work

7.1 General
7.2 Statutory proposals
7.3 Projects funded entirely from DFC
7.4 Projects funded with LCVAP grant

Responsibility for Work

Repairs to remedy faulty work

Appendix 1: The School Building Consultant’s Role and Fee Levels

1(a) The DBE Role

Appendix 2: Information for Consultants

2(a) Statutory and Best Practice Criteria
2(b) The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM)
2(c) Asbestos checks
2(d) Sustainable school buildings
2(e) Design quality indicator (DQI) for schools

Appendix 3: Capital Expenditure

Appendix 4: Insurance

Appendix 5: ESFA Grants

Appendix 6: VAT

Appendix 7: Buildings Forms available to download


Each school needs appropriate professional advice to guarantee compliance with regulations and to ensure that the best building solution is achieved. This advice is provided by a consultant, selected by the governors and approved by the DBE. Their work is monitored by an independent technical adviser working with the DBE. Apart from unforeseen repair work, building work should form part of a building development plan produced with the agreement of the governors by the school’s building consultant.

The role of the consultant is explained in Appendix 1.

Most of the work explained in this section is undertaken by either the school’s building consultant or DBE officers. However, the consultant’s role is to advise; it is for governors to make decisions. At every stage, the governors must be informed by the consultant and where appropriate give their agreement.

The funding of such work comes from several sources depending on the type of work. Some (revenue work) is funded directly from the school’s delegated budget from the LA, some (capital work) receives grant of up to 90% from the ESFA (with the governors finding the other 10%) (See Section 5 and Appendix 5), some may be funded from other sources (such as special Government or Local Authority (LA) initiatives) and some must be paid for entirely by the governing body (such as areas entirely for Church use).  Governors may also undertake capital work funded entirely from the school’s delegated budget.


All revenue work is LA liability and the funding is normally delegated through the school’s budget. Such work does not attract grant and schools should arrange such work and payment in accordance with their LA’s guidelines, without reference to the DBE office. Revenue work is any work which is under £2,000 or is not capital work. VAT is reclaimed by the LA for revenue expenditure.


The definition of capital work is deliberately vague (see Appendix 3), enabling governing bodies in many smaller projects to decide whether they wish to class work as capital and obtain 90% grant, or as revenue and fund it entirely from their school budget. Since governing bodies may use money from their delegated budget towards their 10% grant aidable / 100% non-grant aidable payment, it is often beneficial, where possible, to class work as capital when capital funds are available.  All capital expenditure requires the approval of the DBE.

VAT cannot be reclaimed by governors on capital expenditure.


Aided schools have VAT on Revenue items recovered by the LA. 

However, because governing bodies are responsible for the work, VAT cannot be recovered on capital work in aided schools.  Grant is paid inclusive of VAT to take this into account.

For a very small number of projects, the work can be zero-rated. Further advice is in Appendix 6 and specialist advice is needed in such cases.


Funding for capital work comes from a variety of grants from the ESFA, the major ones being:

Each year the school receives a Formula Capital allocation based on a lump sum plus an amount per pupil. This allocation shows the amount which can be spent on small scale capital work or as a contribution towards a larger project. The ESFA grant 90% of this amount and governors must provide 10% of the cost. The money can be rolled forward for three years, but any money not spent after three years will be lost (the DBE will inform schools and consultants if there is a danger of this occurring). The DBE holds schools’ DFC on their behalf and schools are advised by email of the amount that has been received and the balance held. Whenever a project is approved, schools are advised of the DFC balance remaining. If information is required at other times, please email Sandra Jones.

All schools have agreed to pool their DFC. This enables us, in approved cases, to allow schools to expend money from their allocation for the following year.

At the financial year end, a declaration is required by the ESFA about DFC spending. DBE officers undertake the administration of this.

LCVAP (LA Co-ordinated Voluntary Aided Programme)
Larger projects are usually funded by this grant which is co-ordinated by the LA. Each LA is allocated funds depending on the number of pupils in VA schools in their authority. Officers of the DBE negotiate with the LA and other diocesan colleagues (including the RC dioceses) in order to receive allocation for projects.

Schools apply for this grant using form Capital/Bid which consultants are reminded to download in January each year from the DBE website. This must be returned by the end of June for work which schools would like to begin in the following year. The bids always exceed the finance available and consequently not all bids are successful. The priority of bids is determined through issues affecting Health and Safety, capacity and suitability. The bid should refer to the school’s building development plan agreed with the governors and their consultant. Normally schools are expected to contribute from their DFC allocation towards these projects. Schools are notified of the outcome of bids usually by February or March prior to the work commencing. The work must be completed within the agreed timescale.

At the financial year end, a declaration is required by the ESFA about LCVAP/Other Grant aidable spending. DBE officers undertake the administration of this.

Schools will be advised when the Government makes any announcement about other grants. See Appendix 5 for other grants.


There are a number of ways in which governors can finance their contribution towards building work. Governors are recommended to have their own account separate from the school’s various accounts. The governors’ contribution can be paid from the following sources:

  • School Budget
    Money from the school’s delegated budget can be used to finance the 10% grant aidable / 100% non-grant aidable contribution towards capital work.
  • Profit from Lettings
    Money made from any lettings belongs to the governing body. All expenses such as heating, lighting and caretaking must be reimbursed to the school’s delegated budget, and any profit then paid into the governors’ account.
  • Money raising events
    Many schools hold events at which money is raised in order to help finance building work. This may be particularly effective when parents can see the plans for a new scheme. Some schools ask for donations from parents or outside bodies towards building work. All Church Schools are Exempt Charities and as such are eligible for income tax refunds on money given through Gift-Aid. Further advice is available from the DBE office.
  • P.C.C.
    Some schools are in the fortunate position where their P.C.C. supports them financially. 
  • Trusts
    Some schools are supported by local trusts that may finance building projects to some extent. Governors should always check with the charity’s trustees before committing themselves to building work. 
  • Deferred Payments
    If governors are unable to finance their contribution immediately, they should consult DBE officers before the project is approved with a suggested timetable of repayments. The DBE may be able to defer the payment in approved cases. On rare occasions, the DBE may agree to the payment of a grant to governors and application should be made on the Grant Application form downloadable here.


7.1 General

  • The procedure to be undertaken depends on the category and cost of the work (see sections 7.3 and 7.4).
  • For approved work, governors receive a grant of 90% towards the cost, including any fees and VAT.
  • Section 7.3 explains how to proceed with work funded entirely from DFC.
  • Section 7.4 explains how to proceed with work that cannot be afforded entirely from DFC.
  • Prior to undertaking any work, governors should ensure that it is their responsibility (see section 8). 
  • Work cannot start on site until full ESFA and/or DBE approval is given. Governors could be personally liable for any work undertaken without full approval.

7.2 Statutory Proposals

Before certain classes of work can be undertaken, public notices must be published and the approval of the LA, Adjudicator or Secretary of State received. This is a separate approval from that necessary prior to the work commencing and governors should be aware that the process takes several months. Such approval is required for:

  • Alteration of upper or lower age limit by 3 years or more;
  • Adding/removing a sixth-form;
  • Transferring to a new site;
  • Closure of a site in a split site school.

For further advice contact DBE officers.

7.3 Projects funded entirely from DFC

  • To obtain approval for ICT only projects with no Building Consultant involvement where there is NO structural work
    Form DFCICT/Approval (which can be downloaded from here) should be submitted to the DBE office with supporting documentation, in duplicate (ORIGINAL plus ONE COPY).
    • Governors must ensure there are adequate funds remaining in the DFC allocation. Requests to bring forward money from a future year should be made by email to Sandra Jones or in writing to the DBE office.
    • Projects will not be approved unless certified by the governing body.
    • When a project is approved to proceed, consultants and headteachers will be notified by email and this will include a project number.
    • Once approval is received from the DBE, the project may commence.
    • Invoices and fee notes should be sent to the DBE office for payment.
    • If costs are more than projected on DFCICT /Approval, a new submission must be made.
  • When the project is completed, Form CDBE/FC must be completed and forwarded to the DBE office.
  • To obtain approval for other DFC only projects via Building Consultant
    Form DFC/Approval (which can be downloaded from here) should be submitted to the DBE office with supporting documentation, in duplicate (ORIGINAL plus ONE COPY). Governors should ensure the form is fully completed, including the amount/s and where the Governors liability will be met from in section 8.
    • Projects will not be approved unless submitted by the school’s consultant (and will be subject to the payment of fees) and certified by the governing body.
    • Governors and consultants must ensure there are adequate funds remaining in their DFC allocation. Requests to bring forward money from a future year should be made by email to Sandra Jones.
    • When a project is approved to proceed, consultants and headteachers will be notified by email and this will include a project number.
  • When the project is finalised, Form CDBE/FC must be completed and returned to the DBE office via the consultant.

7.4 Projects funded with LCVAP grant
The following procedure is undertaken:

  • Bids for work must be made on form Capital/Bid. Failure to complete the form fully will hold up any submission. It is advisable to discuss such projects with DBE officers prior to such submissions;
  • Forms will not be processed unless submitted by an approved consultant;
  • It is expected that governors will use part of their DFC allocation to help fund the project. They must ensure there are adequate funds remaining in their DFC allocation for the part being funded from that source;
  • Grant for these projects comes from LCVAP (See Appendix 5).
    Schools are notified of the outcome of bids usually by February or March prior to the work commencing.
  • The process which is then followed by the consultant can be seen in Appendix 2. Forms Approval and VADBE/Approval should be fully completed and returned to the DBE office via the consultant. Governors should ensure they have completed section 3 of form VADBE/Approval.
  • When a project is approved to proceed, consultants and headteachers will be notified by email and this will include a project number.
  • When the project is finalised, Form CDBE/FC must be completed and returned to the DBE office.


The governors are responsible for:

  • The existing buildings (internal and external) including kitchens, dining areas, medical/dental rooms, swimming pools, caretakers’ dwelling houses;
  • perimeter walls and fences, even if they are around the playing fields;
  • playgrounds;
  • furniture, fixtures and fittings – including initial provision of ICT hardware and other equipment (see Appendix 5 for more details);
  • other capital items (which can include boiler replacements and replacement of services).

LAs are responsible for:

  • any revenue items (including repairs to any equipment)
  • playing fields (including sports pitches and hard surfaced games areas);
  • buildings on those fields and related to their use.

If buildings are provided solely for parochial use, then no grant is payable for either their provision or maintenance. Governors should ensure that they are entirely funded by the parish. Teacher’s houses, unless they have been adopted for school use, are the responsibility of the trustees. For further advice contact DBE officers.


  • If remedial work is found to be necessary either during a project or prior to the final settling of accounts, then it should be carried out at either the contractor’s or consultant’s expense.
  • In other situations, consideration will need to be given as to whether there are grounds to pursue a claim against those responsible and the advice of DBE officers should be sought to ascertain whether governors should seek legal or technical advice. Delay in commencing proceedings can result in a claim failing due to the expiry of the statutory limitation period. Cases should only be pursued where there is a reasonable prospect of success.
  • The cost of meeting professional fees in pursuing a legal remedy should normally be met from governors’ insurance. The Secretary of State may consider paying grant on costs when insurance cover is exhausted. Each case is considered on its merits.

Grant may not be paid if governors have repaired faulty work at their own expense when a claim should have been pursued. Use of a different contractor to repair faulty work will invalidate any guarantee of the previous contractor.

Building Forms
Building forms available for aided school governors and consultants to download.