Free schools

NSN has supported open free schools since 2009 by providing advice, training and networking opportunities. Our dynamic and adaptable team has built a solid reputation for professionalism and expertise.

Applying to open

Groups that want to set up a new free school must submit an application to the Department for Education (DfE). There are different routes available for doing this, depending on the type of school you wish to set up. Please note: The Department for Education no longer funds New Schools Network to provide support for free school applicant groups. For more information about applying to open a free school, visit Our resources remain available, but are no longer regularly updated.

For free school groups in the long and complex pre-opening period, NSN provides support to help you navigate and complete key tasks, ensuring that your free school project opens successfully.

Preparing to open

The NSN Delivery Programme is designed to address the challenges of the rigorous pre-opening process. The Delivery Programme provides personalised support products for your project, providing your team with advice, quality assurance and even delivery of crucial documents, helping you best prepare for critical tasks and add capacity to your project. This exclusive Programme has been developed to comply with Department for Education and Education & Skills Funding Agency guidance to fill gaps in your capacity and capability, providing a range of products to prepare your school for a successful opening.

Open free schools

NSN’s deep institutional knowledge is supplemented by its team of Specialists – experienced specialists with strong track records supporting complex free school projects and growing MATs. Collectively, NSN’s Advisers and Specialists have worked on over 500 free school projects – ranging from supporting groups in the preopening phase, to setting up and working in free schools. To find out more about our free support for open free schools, click here