Pre-opening Programme

Pre-opening Programme

Our Pre-opening Programme is designed to help free school founders deal with issues they face in getting their free school ready to open and provide advice on how to set it up for long-term success.

A short cut to the right advice

Developed in consultation with existing free school leaders, it is focused on the issues that we know are most typical. The programme gives you access to our team of experienced advisers, connects you with other free schools in the same situation and passes on the advice of those who have been through the same challenges before. 

Whether you are leading a multi academy trust or a small community-led group, and whether this is your first or tenth free school project, we can support you through the pre-opening process.

To arrange an initial discussion with our Pre-opening team, click here. 


We run a number of events throughout the year, timed to prepare you for the specific challenges of pre-opening as they arise. These include:

  • Training events that bring together whole cohorts of free schools as they enter critical stages of the preopening process, such as immediately after they have been approved, when their principal designate is appointed and in the final weeks before their free school opens.
  • Expert seminars focused on giving practical advice on issues such as recruitment, project management, and community engagement. 

All our events are delivered by a combination of top performing free school leaders, NSN’s specialist advisers and expert partner organisations. 

Personalised advice

Working closely with the DfE and hundreds of free schools has allowed us to build up a deep knowledge of the preopening process. We pass this onto free schools through:

  • 1:1 meetings over the telephone or in person, with our team of specialist advisers on school leadership, finance, governance and project management. These can be used to answer questions, review your plans and key documents, and point you towards further support.
  • A dedicated question & answer service via telephone and email to help you with specific questions. 


By joining NSN’s Pre-opening Programme you gain access to the experience and insight of more than 500 open and approved to open free schools through:

  • Spotlight visits to Outstanding free schools – allowing you to see them in action, meet the people that run them and share your observations with other free school leaders.
  • Roundtable events for existing networks of free schools focused on school type, specialisms and location.
  • Matchmaking with other free school leaders who have faced similar challenges or who have expertise in particular areas and can pass on their advice. 

Guidance and resources

Learn from the experience of others and make sure you are not re-inventing the wheel. Our library of resources contains a wide range of guidance and resources, focused on the key activities of the pre-opening stage, including:

  • Interactive tools to help you produce project management plans and budget your spending during the pre-opening phase.
  • Guidance covering issues such as recruitment, public consultation and governance.
  • Exemplars of the documents that need to be produced for the DfE.
  • Sample policies produced by other schools, which can be used as a basis for your own.

Supplier directory

Our growing directory of service providers helps free schools find high-quality support quickly and easily in the most common areas of spending for new schools.

Media support

NSN is an active advocate for free schools and works closely with local and national media to make the case for the policy. We can help your school raise its profile or manage its reputation through: 

  • Sharing news about your school through our social media channels.
  • Providing media training for school leaders and bespoke communications advice from our team of media and marketing experts.
  • Using your school as a positive case study in our media campaigns.

To book an initial call about your project and how we can help, click here