Our work | Free school advice and support

Our Work

The New Schools Network wants any group with a clear vision, a coherent education plan, a strong team and support from parents to be able to set up a free school. We believe that new free schools will particularly benefit the most deprived and actively work to encourage applications from groups in areas with poor educational performance.


Each group we work with is assigned a dedicated adviser who will provide personal support including:

  • Advice, information and resources. Advisers are available by email and telephone, as well as in face to face meetings and surgeries throughout the process;
  • Setting up meetings with NSN specialists; and
  • Giving detailed and comprehensive feedback on draft application forms before submission to the Department for Education (DfE).

Specialists and Associates

NSN has a network of Specialists and Associates in educational planning and school operations to help groups with school policies, curriculum, financial and HR issues. Our specialists will provide advice:

  • For groups looking to set up mainstream Free Schools;
  • For groups looking to set up special Free Schools; and
  • For groups looking to set up alternative provision Free Schools.

Application feedback

Before submitting an application to the DfE, groups can send drafts of their application forms to NSN for detailed feedback. The feedback will explain:

  • Which minimum criteria need to be addressed or strengthened; and
  • Detailed comments on educational and financial plans. 


NSN runs tailored events for groups at each stage of the application process. All events will have substantial networking opportunities for groups. Find out more in our Events section.



From this website you can:

  • Download detailed, step-by-step guides to completing the DfE application form; and
  • Access information about the policy and resources for the application process.

Development Programme

NSN gives extra support to groups who have extraordinary potential to raise educational standards. Groups can apply for additional services through the Development Programme section of this website.

Delivery Programme

NSN supports groups who have been approved to open a free school through the Delivery Programme, an exclusive package of advice, guidance and support. Find out more here

NSN does not:

  • Write applications for groups – it is important that the application reflects your own work and capacity
  • Advise you on the outcome of your application – we are not part of the DfE and only they can tell you whether you have been accepted
  • Change government policy – we will, like many charities, ask the government to change policy but we are not part of the government.  Individuals who would like to propose amendments to the policy are urged to contact their local MP and the DfE.