In order to successfully set up a free school you must demonstrate that you have a team with the necessary skills and expertise to set up and run a good school. You will also need to prove you have the time to commit to the project and are clear on the role your group will play in the ongoing operation of the school.
The two areas that it is most important to have expertise in are education and finance.
It is crucial that you have individuals on your team who have strong and relevant educational expertise. This should come from an experienced school leader with a track record of success in the type (e.g. mainstream) and phase (e.g. primary) of education you wish to provide.
For example, if you are proposing a mainstream secondary school you will need to have expertise from a Deputy Head or Head of a secondary school that has been rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted.
It is critical that you have individuals with this expertise who are committed to your project.
You will also need expertise from individuals with experience of financial planning and financial management. This would ideally come from a school bursar or school business manager, but could also come from an accountant, someone working in financial services or someone who has run their own business.
Other useful expertise
The DfE will also expect you to demonstrate that your team will have access to individuals with as many of the following types of expertise as possible:
- Managing school finances
- Project management
- Human resources
Your team members must have significant time for the project throughout; before you apply, as you prepare to open the free school and once it is up and running.
You will need to make an assessment of the time that will be needed in pre-opening for each area, and the best way to do this is to speak to similar free schools who have been approved. As a general rule however, we would recommend that:
1. Individuals in the pre-opening team or on the governing body with expertise in education, finance or project management are able to commit at least a day per week to the project
2. The time commitments across the team managing the project in pre-opening add up to at least the equivalent of 1 FTE equivalent person across the group as a whole (35-40hours/wk)
- Reading our full guide on building your team will give you a clear understanding of the skills and expertise you will need on your team and how you can recruit additional team members.
- Assess the suitability of your existing team by conducting a skills gap analysis to identify any areas where you need additional expertise.
- The capacity, capability and governance sections in our handbook give more detailed guidance on writing this section for your application. This varies depending on the type of school you are wishing to set up. Review what is required for mainstream, special and alternative provision schools.