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. In October 2018, 65 local authorities submitted bids to the DfE to open a special or AP free school. The DfE has now published a list of the approved local authority bids which can be found here. The application criteria has also been published and can be found on the DfE website. This joint special and AP wave is separate from wave 14, which is for mainstream applicants only. The DfE are seeking to approve 39 special and AP free schools through this process.

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 timeline for the special and AP free schools competition is outlined below:

24th July 2018 - DfE publish guidance for local authorities

15th October 2018 - Deadline for local authorities to submit a bid to the DfE

11th March 2019 - Successful bids announced and competition launched

30th September 2019 (midday) - Deadline for proposer groups to submit their application

Winter 2019/20 - Successful providers announced

You can find out more information about this process here.

NSN support

New Schools Network supports groups applying to open special and alternative provision free schools.

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 .