Applying to open
Applying to open
To apply to set up a free school, you will have to submit a detailed application through one of the three routes:
- Central Route: The Department for Education invite applications to open schools in areas of educational underperformance and basic need. This requires you to submit an application directly to the DfE, demonstrating how you meet the criteria. If you are planning on applying through the central route, you can find out more about our Development Programme here. NSN will open the Development Programme to central route applicants when the DfE publish the How to Apply Guide for wave 14. If you intend to submit an application in wave 14 and would like NSN support, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7537 9208.
- Local Authority presumption competition: The local authority publish a specification for a school and invite trusts to apply to run that school. This requires you to submit an application to your local authority, demonstrating how you meet the local authority’s criteria. Presumption competitions are announced throughout the year and can be for any type of school.
- Special and AP Competitions: Local authorities can bid to the DfE, outlining a school specification. If this is approved, the local authority runs a competition to find the best provider to run the school. This requires you to submit your application to both the local authority and the Department for Education (DfE), who will co-assess your application against set criteria. Find out more here.
New Schools Network provides a range of services to support free school applicants, all of which are free of charge. We have many resources and offer guidance to all free school applicants. Our most extensive support for applicants is offered through the Development Programme.