Introduction to setting up a free school | New Schools Network


This page contains information on the most important areas to start thinking about if you are considering setting up a free school. 

To set up a free school you have to submit a detailed application to the Department for Education (DfE) using their application form and criteria. The process of setting up a free school is not easy – you will need a committed team with a range of skills who are willing to put in a lot of unpaid time. But it is achievable: we have helped over 200 schools write successful applications in the last five years.

First steps

The free school application process can seem daunting and it can be difficult to know where to start. From our experience, there are three key areas that form the core of an application and it is these you should focus on when starting out.

  • Building a clear vision for your school – this encompasses what you want your school to achieve and will act as the basis for the decisions you will make about your school as you proceed through the application process.
  • Recruiting a team with the right skills – having a team with the relevant skills is essential to putting together a strong proposal.
  • Showing your school is needed in your area – you need to make a strong case for why a new school is needed in your area.

To get a more detailed understanding of how you can go about the steps mentioned above, you can contact us by email ( or telephone (020 7537 9208 or 0161 638 8613).

If you have already started developing your proposal, book a 1:1 meeting to talk through your free school plans with one of our Advisers and take a look at our library of free resources

An outline to the application process through which you can set up a free school.
Links to useful data sources to use when developing your free school proposal.