From education to employment

College collaboration fund (CCF) – A peer-support programme to help FE colleges share good practice and develop quality improvement priorities

How to apply for #CCF funding, a peer-support programme to help #FE colleges share good practice and develop quality improvement priorities 

Applications closed on 28 June 2020.

A peer-support programme to help FE colleges share good practice and develop quality improvement priorities.

Successful applicants

This is a list of colleges that have been successful in receiving a CCF grant. Applicants who were not successful can ask the Department for Education (DfE) for feedback.

CCF lead college Partner colleges
Dudley College of Technology Birmingham Metropolitan College, City of Wolverhampton College
Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College Harrow and Uxbridge College, West Thames College,The Windsor Forest Colleges Group, Brooklands College
DN Colleges Group The Sheffield College
London South East Colleges East Sussex College Group
Darlington College Middlesbrough College, Education Training Collective, Hartlepool College, Northern School of Art
Wiltshire College & University Centre Bridgwater and Taunton College
Cirencester College Strode College, Brockenhurst College, The Henley College, Petroc
Wilberforce Sixth Form College Franklin Sixth Form College, John Leggott College, Scarborough Sixth Form College, Wyke Sixth Form College
Truro & Penwith College South Devon College, Petroc
Newcastle & Stafford College Group Shrewsbury Colleges Group
The Windsor Forest Colleges Group Berkshire College of Agriculture
Heart of Worcestershire College Grimsby Institute
Lincoln College Grimsby Institute, DN Colleges Group, Grantham College, Boston College, New College Stamford
Weston College Gateshead College
The LTE Group (The Manchester College) Bury College, Bolton College, Hopwood Hall College, The Oldham College, Tameside College, Trafford College Group, Wigan and Leigh College
Kendal College NCG (Carlisle College), Lakes College, Furness College, Askham Bryan (Newton Rigg College)
Walsall College Birmingham Metropolitan College, National College for Advanced Transport and Infrastructure, South Staffordshire College
Plumpton College Basingstoke College of Technology and EKC Group
Fareham College Highbury College, Havant and South Downs College
Heart of Worcestershire College East Durham College


The College Collaboration Fund (CCF) is a national programme of competitive grant funding for all statutory further education (FE) providers.

CCF enables colleges to collaborate and share good practice and expertise to address common quality improvement priorities. The fund builds on the previous Strategic College Improvement Fund (SCIF).

As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the first application round for the CCF was cancelled. We have now adjusted the application process and opened the second round of the CCF to support FE colleges to respond to the current challenges around quality improvement and capitalise on good practice, including that developed through new ways of working.

We have shortened the timeframe of the application round to allow you as much programme delivery time as possible. We will also ensure that you have access to funding as soon as possible.

Aims of the programme

The CCF aims to:

  • develop greater collaboration between FE colleges
  • stimulate quality improvement through developing sector-led approaches to peer-to-peer support and sharing good practice
  • ensure sustainable FE provision through adopting processes which support high performance
  • produce products and approaches to quality improvement that can be adopted by other FE providers
  • stimulate the market and provider base to support ongoing quality improvement
  • develop a stronger FE offer through improving the quality of FE provision and learner outcomes, including progression to level 3 and beyond qualifications
  • better meet local and national skills priorities and improve labour market outcomes for learners


CCF will run for the financial year 2020 to 2021 and there is one application round. All grant funded activities must be completed by the 31 March 2021. Successful colleges will receive payment of their grant by the 18 September 2020. At risk to themselves, colleges may choose to begin delivery of CCF grant funded activity from the date that they are notified they have been awarded a grant.


In order to apply, you’ll need to meet the eligibility criteria in these sections.

Institution type

Only statutory FE providers can apply as defined in section 91 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992.

These are:

  • general FE colleges
  • sixth form colleges (SFC) (except those in the process of converting to an academy in the 2020 to 2021 financial year)
  • designated institutions

You cannot apply if you’re a school or academy, local authority, independent learning provider, special post-16 institution, non-maintained special school.

Deputies or advisers who work as a contractor for the FE Commissioner are not eligible to receive funds from a CCF grant.

Number of Colleges

Each application will need a lead applicant college and a minimum of one other improvement partner college.

You will need to select the colleges you want to work with before you apply.

You cannot apply as an individual college if you operate as part of college group structure (any application must be in the name of your college group)

Ofsted grade

To lead a bid, you must have either Ofsted grade 1 (outstanding) or grade 2 (good) for overall effectiveness.

Colleges who’ve recently merged or are planning conversion

You can still apply if you do not have an Ofsted rating because you are part of a college that’s recently merged. In this case, as long as one of the 2 previous colleges meets the criteria, you can still apply.

SFCs that are currently in the process or planning conversion to an academy in 2020 to 2021 academic year are excluded and are not eligible to apply for the fund.

Previous strategic college improvement fund (SCIF) applicants

You can still apply if you’ve already received SCIF funding.

Quality improvement themes

Your programme of work, must address at least one of the fund’s 3 quality improvement themes identified by DfE.

A: Quality of education

Programmes of work may focus on delivering improvements and effectiveness of:

  • student engagement and experience
  • teaching, learning and assessment
  • workforce development
  • apprenticeships
  • maths and English
  • high needs provision
  • safeguarding
  • specific vocational areas

B: Financial and resource management

Programmes of work may focus on delivering improvements and effectiveness of:

  • costed curriculum planning
  • financial management controls and processes
  • recruitment and value for money
  • estates optimisation
  • workforce planning
  • efficient curriculum delivery
  • risk management

C: Leadership and governance

Programmes of work may focus on delivering improvements and effectiveness of:

  • business strategy development
  • use of management information and data
  • mentoring and coaching
  • recruitment, development and retention pathway for potential new leaders
  • understanding and responding to local and national skills priorities

In your application, you are not restricted to a predetermined list of activities

We are particularly interested in receiving applications that address the following specific quality improvement needs:

  • curation of quality digital content and resources to support remote and blended delivery
  • developing a digital offer to support catch up over the summer break and beyond
  • enhancing support to encourage vulnerable learners to engage, participate and return to learning
  • developing local partnerships to support learners who are at transitional points with FE
  • supporting learner and staff mental health and wellbeing through online programmes and remote support

Further information on these specific quality improvement needs can be found in Annex A.


The lead applicant college will be responsible for:

  • submitting the application
  • managing the funding allocated
  • accounting for progress on the programme of work
  • submitting monitoring and self-evaluation reports
  • completing a case study
  • contributing to a DfE webinar to promote learning

The lead applicant college and improvement partner college or colleges must work together to:

  • understand the challenges you face
  • develop a costed programme of work
  • plan how you’ll use your combined experience and knowledge
  • deliver the programme of work
  • complete an end of programme evaluation
  • contribute to DfE material to support the promotion of learning

Support from third parties

You can get support from a third party, for example:

  • college outside your group submitting the application
  • school outside your group submitting the application
  • not-for-profit or private provider

If you get support, you will need to:

  • get agreement from all the improvement partner colleges in your group
  • provide the names of any third parties you’ll use on your application
  • provide evidence about the capacity and capability of any third parties you’ll use


You can apply for up to £500,000. The expected minimum application is for £100,000. The total fund is £5.4 million.

College contributions

Your group is expected to contribute total match funding equal to a minimum of 25% of the total cost of your programme of work. The proportion of match funding contribution made by each individual college improvement partner involved in your application is to be determined by your group.

The total cost of your programme of work must include your match funding.

DfE may waive a proportionate amount of match funding contribution where a college is in formal intervention with ESFA and:

  • asking for a contribution would undermine a college’s financial viability
  • where value for money can still be obtained

Any other college in the group that does not meet these criteria will still need to contribute their proportion of match funding.

Decisions will be based on ESFA’s most recent assessment of a college’s financial health and are at DfE’s sole discretion.

Additional costs

Your matched funding must meet any true additional costs, for example, third party fees or additional time-limited internal staffing.

In-kind costs

In-kind costs are not eligible as match funding, for example, salary payments for staff redeployed to the programme of works.

Temporary costs

You can include temporary costs as match funding, for example, replacing staff who are working on the programme of works.


Total eligible costs may include irrecoverable VAT, but you will not be able to claim for additional funding above the amount you have been awarded to cover any additional VAT liability.

Conditions of funding

Your application must:

  • target your proposed programme of work and activities at addressing specific quality improvement needs shared by your group
  • demonstrate how you have used evidence to identify the specific quality improvement needs
  • identify the products, learning and best practice that will be derived from your programme of work and how this will be shared with the wider FE sector.

What’s excluded from CCF funding

You cannot use CCF funding for capital expenditures on assets valued at over £2,500 which are expected to be used for a period of at least 12 months such as:

  • purchasing assets
  • buildings
  • furniture
  • fittings
  • information technology
  • software

Items valued below £2,500 are not counted as capital assets, even where they have a productive life of more than one year.

Also excluded are any:

  • staff restructuring
  • independent business reviews
  • marketing or public relations activities
  • activities that are predominantly focused on a college’s higher education provision
  • activities or services you’d normally get free of charge
  • payments you’ll make for subsidised activities of services at a higher ‘market’ rate


During your programme of work, you’ll need to:

  • provide ESFA with a monitoring return on your use of grant funds at the mid-point and endpoint of your programme of work
  • identify risks that are or could have an impact on your programme of work
  • account for progress against the agreed work programme including KPIs and measures of success.
  • produce and keep a spending profile. There needs to be clarity within your internal accounting systems to provide assurance on the use of funds

When your programme of work is completed, you’ll need to provide:

  • ESFA with an end of project monitoring return on your use of grant funds
  • a summary of your programme of work’s achievements
  • confirmation of your final spending position, including accounting officer sign off

All timescales for submitting completed monitoring forms will be confirmed in your grant award letter


You’ll be required to complete a DfE evaluation form to evaluate and measure your programme of work. DfE may generate data based on this evaluation which may be published in an anonymised way so that individuals and colleges cannot be identified. For your evaluation, you’ll need to define and agree KPIs and measures of success

Payment and repayment of funding

The lead applicant college will receive payment from ESFA under a funding schedule.

ESFA will enter into a contract with the lead applicant college. Any arrangements between the college improvement partners involved in your application are to be determined by your group.

CCF funding will become repayable through a future reduction in ESFA funding if:

  • CCF funding is not spent by 31 March 2021
  • CCF funding is not spent on the eligible activities you have detailed in your programme of work (unless any change has been agreed with the ESFA)
  • reports on expenditures and outcomes are not submitted


Email [email protected] if you have any question about the programme, support in developing an application or how to apply.

Annex A: Specific quality improvement needs

These are the specific quality improvement needs that we are currently interested in and would welcome applications to address. This list is not exhaustive and we welcome applications that address other improvement needs that you may identify.

1. Curation of quality digital content and resources to support remote and blended delivery


To ensure FE teaching staff can easily find and use high-quality digital content and resources that support delivery of the FE curriculum.


The project will bring together a group of FE colleges with proven subject and remote and blended learning expertise to:

  • map existing digital content and resources from across the FE sector, industry and beyond
  • bring together subject experts from across the FE sector to evaluate and identify the best digital content and resources

Proposals could focus on a single subject area or cover more than one subject. Proposals may relate to technical, applied, academic or general subjects.


Outputs might cover:

  • curated list of quality digital content and resources for a subject area or areas for national publication ahead of the start of the new academic year for use by all FE teaching staff
  • a report setting out topics and skills levels where there is lack of quality digital content and resources, to inform future development plans

2. Developing a digital offer to support learner catch-up over the summer break and beyond


To develop a digital offer for FE learners who would benefit from additional support over the summer break and into the next academic year, to prepare them for the second or third year of their study programme.


Most FE providers have quickly switched to online delivery, but provider survey results show significant variation in learner engagement and experience.

As limitations around face-to-face contact are likely to continue into the new academic year we need to make sure learners are able to catch up any lost time to give them the best start to the second or third year of their study programme.

The project will set out plans to develop and deliver catch-up support that lasts a minimum of one week. The offer should be primarily digital to enable delivery over the summer break and alongside other learning during term time. Proposals could focus on a subject area or student cohort.


Outputs might cover:

  • running an initial trial of the new digital offer ahead of national roll out
  • a digital learning resource that can be accessed by all FE learners registered with a funded FE provider, with guidance for teachers, learners and parents as appropriate

3. Enhancing support to encourage vulnerable learners to engage, participate and return to learning


To encourage vulnerable learners at risk of disengaging to return to learning and participate fully in education in the autumn.


The project will bring together different digital and onsite approaches to engagement of vulnerable learners, tailor these to the needs of specific cohorts and test their effectiveness. The most successful approaches would be rolled out across all partner colleges.

Proposals should address the specific issues resulting from limited or no on-site teaching and support, or longer-term issues, or both.

Possible approaches could include:

  • additional support for vulnerable young people, such as enhancing the tutorial offer (which may be delivered remotely, onsite or both) to provide additional group or one-to-one sessions for those students at risk of non-engagement
  • creating a programme of career support and talks targeted at those at risk of non-engagement, to help learners to engage through work-related learning
  • developing enhanced educational and training support to help students at risk of non-engagement to achieve education or training goals and to focus on skills development
  • developing a joint staff training programme focused on how to engage vulnerable learners.


Outputs might cover:

  • reduction in risk and numbers of students disengaging as measured by those who were reluctant to attend in September 2020 against actual attendance in December 2020
  • production of an online toolkit of successful engagement methods and strategies which can be shared across the sector

4. Developing local partnerships to support learners who are at transitional points with FE


To reduce the risk of learners becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training).


The project will encourage collaboration between local colleges and other relevant institutions (such as schools and local authorities) to ensure that learners transition successfully either in to, out of or through further education.

These local partnerships could involve:

  • developing approaches so that at risk learners develop the behaviours and motivation that support effective learning and enable progression
  • sharing information so that provision meets the need of local learners and employers
  • providing a forum for targeted discussions between schools and colleges

This project will test different methods of collaboration to understand what constitutes best practice and is effective in reducing the risk of learners becoming NEET.


Outputs might cover:

  • reduction in risk and numbers of NEET learners as measured by local authorities
  • a partnership toolkit of best practice in local collaboration to be shared across the country

5. Supporting learner and staff mental health and wellbeing through online programmes and remote support


To develop initiatives that will support learner and/or staff mental health and wellbeing, particularly to support students and staff transitioning back into education settings.


This project will bring together colleges to provide additional mental health and wellbeing support for students or staff that has a longer-term impact. This could include developing:

  • an online programme for learners or staff focused on mental health and wellbeing
  • bereavement support for learners or staff, including making remote bereavement support available
  • a staff training programme on mental health and wellbeing, potentially enabling staff to run sessions (including remotely) on student/staff mental health and wellbeing.

This project will test mental health and wellbeing approaches to determine their impact on students and staff, and ensure learning is shared and the most successful strategies are employed across the group.


Outputs might cover:

  • increase in the number of students and staff members accessing mental health and wellbeing support
  • evidence that mental health and wellbeing is more integrated into the college curriculum
  • production of a toolkit of successful mental health and wellbeing strategies and programmes which can be shared across the sector

Published 27 February 2020 
Last updated 23 July 2020 + show all updates

  1. Added a list of colleges who will receive grant funding.

  2. Removed details on how to apply – the application period has now closed.

  3. Reopened the application round and updated the application form and guidance.

  4. Added information about the changed application deadline.

  5. Updated application form and criteria.

  6. Added webinar details to ‘Support for applicants’.

  7. First published.

Related Articles