Free school criteria updates July 2016

Free school criteria updates July 2016

The DfE have recently updated their guidance on how to set up a free school. We have outlined the key changes below, but it is essential that if you are applying in September you read the new criteria in full to establish how they relate to your proposal.

The deadline for submitting your application in wave 12 will be midday on the 28th September 2016. For more information, please see the DfE's 'Opening a free school' page.

Mainstream schools

Evidence of need
As a result of recommendations from NSN, there are now additional ways in which you can show that there is a need for your school. The full list of categories is outlined below:

  • Basic need-  a projected shortage of places
  • Educational need- due to low standards in local schools shown by Ofsted and results data
  • A need for greater choice and diversity- by providing information about the current local choice
  • Social need- by demonstrating that the school will address a social issue relevant to its location
  • Parental demand- by providing evidence that local parents want and would choose your school.
  • A need for innovation that will lead to better outcomes for students

Full details can be found on pages 22 to 23 of the criteria for setting up a mainstream school. If you think that any of the above apply to your proposed school you should think about how best to present your evidence in section E1.

Special schools

Special school applicants will need to include explicit information about how their proposed school will foster students' skills in independent living, employability, healthy lives and participation in society.

They are also required to send their application to their Local Authority, either before it is submitted to the DfE or at the same time.

All applicants

All groups, including those replicating their existing model, now need to complete a resiliency exercise in section D3, explaining how they would adapt their staffing structure if they were to recruit less pupils than expected.


We have updated our application guidance to help you prepare your free school application, taking into account the changes to the criteria. There is a separate document for mainstream, Special and AP schools.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to call us on 020 7537 9208 or email info@newschoolsnetwork.org.You can also book a one-to-one meeting to talk through your proposal with one of our advisers.