This page contains information on the most important areas to start thinking about if you are considering setting up a free school. 

To set up a free school you have to submit a detailed application to the Department for Education (DfE) using their application form and criteria. The DfE have not yet announced when the next window in which applicants can apply to set up a free school will be. With the announcement of the general election, the government will now be in purdah until June 9th, therefore we do not expect that the deadline or updated application criteria will be published until after the election.

The process of setting up a free school is not easy – you will need a committed team with a range of skills who are willing to put in a lot of unpaid time. But it is achievable: we have helped over 200 schools write successful applications in the last five years.

First steps

The free school application process can seem daunting and it can be difficult to know where to start. From our experience, there are three key areas that form the core of an application and it is these you should focus on when starting out.

To get a more detailed understanding of how you can go about the steps mentioned above, you can contact us by email ( or telephone (020 7537 9208 or 0161 638 8613). If you have already started developing your proposal, book a 1:1 meeting to talk through your free school plans with one of our Advisers. The DfE application forms and criteria can be found here

Your team

You need a strong team with a shared vision to develop your application and deliver the school. Review the skills and capabilities you will need.

Evidence of need

Free school applicants must provide evidence that there is a need for their proposed free school in their area..

Data sources

Links to useful data sources to use when developing your free school proposal.