Setting up a free school requires you to submit an application to the Department for Education using their application form and criteria.

From creating your vision for your school to building a team with the right skills, the process is a demanding one.

Find out what needs to be done and where you should start.


Book a one-to-one meeting


We offer all free school applicants a one-to-one meeting to talk through their plans with one of our Advisers.

This is an opportunity to receive tailored feedback on your proposal, advice on how to develop it further, and information on the free schools application process.

Please also feel free to get in touch by telephone (020 7537 9208) or email ( if you are at a very early stage or would like a more informal discussion.

Book a meeting » 

Enrol on our Development Programme

Our Development Programme is a range of services aimed to help you to develop your free school proposal and write an effective application. It is completely free of charge, like all of our support for applicants.

Find out more about the support you could receive and how to enrol.


"New Schools Network have been first class in their support, wisdom and knowledge."

"A really professional team who always offer first class advice."

"The help provided by NSN has been invaluable."

“Media training was exceptionally good.”

“Having people available over the phone who have great experience, understanding and insight, as well as contacts in the right places, was very reassuring.”

“Opportunities to meet other free school groups have been great in developing a shared ethos amongst free schoolers.”

“The training courses have been great, combining learning from the experts with the opportunity to network with other free school groups and learn from their experience.”

“Excellent support…exploring ideas and developing individual issues relevant to our school.”

"I could not praise the Advisers higher. Their assured understanding of process and content drew our package together into a cohesive bid."

"The bid wouldn't have made completion without the help of our Adviser."

- Former Development Programme member

"Support from our Adviser was invaluable, so great to have somebody to pose questions to and gain feedback from."

- Former Development Programme member

"We feel that our application is of a far higher quality as a result of the process"

- Former Development Programme member

"Our personal adviser responded promptly to all our requests and queries and was very knowledgeable."

- Former Development Programme member

“We couldn't have done it without you! Thank you so much for keeping us on track and motivated”

- Former Development Programme member

“The Development Programme was excellent and offered appropriate support, challenge and rigour.”

- Former Development Programme member

“I would not hesitate in recommending NSN to anyone who wish to open a free school in the future.”

- Former Development Programme member



We hold events across the country for people interested in setting up a free school, from one-to-one meetings to training sessions where you can find out more about the application process and start developing your application.

Find out which events we are running currently.

Browse events » 


Take the first steps to understanding what a free school is and what the process is to set up a free school.



The New Schools Network provides a range of support to groups who wish to set up a free school, all of which is free to access.



Detailed guidance and advice on the key elements of the free school application process.

Read more »