Special and Alternative Provision free school competitions | NSN

Joint special and AP free schools wave

This page outlines the application process through which you can set up a special or alternative provision (AP) free school through the local authority-led special and AP free school wave. 

The Department for Education (DfE) has launched the local authority-led special and alternative provision (AP) free schools competition. The application criteria can be found on the DfE website. This joint special and AP wave is separate from wave 14, which is for mainstream applicants only. 

A list of local authorities with links to their published specifications is available here. As part of the joint wave, a number of local authorities are hosting engagement events for prospective applicants. NSN is confirmed to deliver sessions on the application process and the support NSN offers at the following events (Note: These events have not been arranged by NSN. To find out more about these events, please contact the relevant local authority.):

Local Authority

Event date


Essex13th June13:30 - TBCFor venue information, click here.
Hartlepool1st July13:00 - 16:00For venue information, click here.
Hertfordshire28th June13:30 - 16:00For venue information, click here.
Leicestershire14th July14:00 - 16:00For venue information, click here.
North Yorkshire12th JulyTBCTBC
Salford13th June9:30 - TBCFor venue information, click here.
Sandwell26th June10:00 - 12:00For venue information, click here.
Suffolk4th July9:45 - 12:15For venue information, click here.


The application process

  • Setting up a free school involves completing a DfE application form that meets a local authority’s (LA) specification document. You will submit the application to the DfE and LA.  
  • The DfE ask you to pre-register
  • The DfE and LA assess your application against their criteria and decide whether or not to invite you to attend an interview where they will question you on your proposal. They then decide whether or not to approve your proposal based on your application and your performance at interview.

The deadline for proposer groups to submit their application is 30th September 2019 (midday). It is expected successful providers will be announced in Winter 2019/20.  

NSN support

New Schools Network supports groups applying to open special and alternative provision free schools. As part of the joint Special and AP wave, a number of local authorities will be hosting engagement events for prospective applicants that NSN will be attending. You can see which events are confirmed by clicking here.

If you are interested in applying for a live competition and would like to apply to join NSN's Development Programme, click here. Alternatively, you can contact us on info@newschoolsnetwork.org or call 02075379208 .