Please note: The Department for Education no longer funds New Schools Network to provide support for free school applicant groups. For more information about applying to open a free school, visit These sources are no longer updated and may be out of date.

This page contains links to data sources that can be useful to groups applying to set up a free school. Applicants can use data sources to help them identify where a free school is needed. Some of the data sources referenced on this page can be used to provide information about your local context, which should inform the vision and rationale for the school. This page also includes links to information about open schools, which can be used by applicants for the purpose of benchmarking and comparison.


DfE School Capacity and Forecasts Data

This dataset shows projected pupil growth in local authorities and school place planning zones, based on NHS live birth data and internal migration data, and capacity in existing schools. Please note that these data do not take into account planned school expansions and potential population growth from approved housing developments. Local authorities will keep their own school place planning data which may differ significantly, and should be contacted directly if you wish to request this.


Local context

Department for Communities and Local Government, Index of Multiple Deprivation map

This is a clickable map, showing Super Local Output Areas (SLOAs), which are a subdivision of local government wards, and their ranking nationally for a range of deprivation indicators such as the educational levels of adults, health outcomes, employment, crime, poverty, and poverty affecting children. This tool can help when developing a need case partly based on social mobility or social need, or when providing additional contextual data to Section C or E. The data behind this map can be downloaded for greater analysis.


DfE Further education area reviews

These were a series of reviews conducted in partnership between the RSCs, local authorities, and the principals and chairs of governors of sixth form colleges, FE colleges, and representatives from Local Enterprise Partnerships. The reviews were geographically organised, and aimed to assess the need case for new further education provision, and what necessary structural changes may be necessary for existing further education provision in an area.


DfE Schools, Pupils and their Characteristics

Taken from the school census, these data show the number of pupils in each school in the country who are on free school meals, have SEND needs or are identified as EAL, and also the ethnic backgrounds of pupils in each school. These data help build a contextual picture of schools, and you may wish to use publically available demographic data from the ONS to understand whether the schools local to you are representative of the community.


The Office for National Statistics has statistics on the following: Local Authority Profile, Ward Profile, 2011 Census Local Characteristics. These datasets give information on the demographic makeup of wards and local authorities, which may be useful when used in conjunction with the DfE Schools, Pupils and their Characteristics data.


Office for National Statistics, Internal migration data

These data show the number of people leaving and arriving within each local authority in England over the course of a year. Detailed anonymised data also show the age and sex, and departed local authority, of every person who has arrived in each local authority over the course of the year. This allows you to show the trends in numbers of arrivals in an area of school-age children.


DfE NEET data

This is a range of data which outline the total number and the percentage of 16-18 year olds who are in education, in employment, and not in education, employment or training (NEET), split by age, sex, and local authority.


DfE Local Authority Interactive Tool

This tool provides a range of information about various contextual factors affecting children, including educational attainment, children’s social services referrals and performance, and information relating to health outcomes and crime.



SchoolDash collates a huge range of data on pupil characteristics, attainment and progress at all key stages, and staffing and finance. The data cover multiple years, so trends over time can be noted. These data are searchable by local authority, parliamentary constituency and local government ward. 


DfE Get Information About Schools

This tool allows you to search for information about individual schools, multi-academy trusts and approved academy sponsors. This allows you to see which academies are within each single or multi-academy Trust, which schools are supported by which approved sponsor, and, if the school is a converter or sponsored academy, which school was the predecessor school. You can also find information about trustees, local governors, the accounting officer and financial officer of each single or multi-academy trust, and about the governors of maintained, foundation, voluntary-aided or voluntary-controlled schools.


Comparison and benchmarking

DfE Compare School Performance

This tool is a searchable database of every school in England, which can be divided by local authority or area, which displays school attainment and progress data, in addition to destinations data and contextual data (such as pupil premium eligibility, EAL, and SEND). This tool is very useful when building a need case based on school standards.


DfE Schools financial benchmarking service

This allows you to assess the income, expenditure, and workforce of a school, broken down into a number of categories, over time. Income and expenditure is represented as total amounts, and per pupil and per teacher amounts. The tool also allows you to compare a number of schools across each measure, which can help to benchmark costs when completing a budget.


Education Endowment Foundation Families of Schools database

This tool allows you to search for a school and find out about the attainment and value-added scores of schools with similar pupil rolls, and with similar levels of pupil premium, English as an Additional Language (EAL), and with similar proportions of pupils living in different IDACI bands. The tool also represents graphically where a school’s performance is in comparison to a number of schools with similar contexts.