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Resources

Staffing and education plans: Developing your education brief guidance

During the pre-opening period, your group will need to turn the education plan you outlined in your application into reality: by recruiting a principal designate, finding other staff members and drawing up detailed education policies. As well as this, you will need to submit a strong Education Brief to the DfE, produce a range of statutory policies for the school and prepare for Ofsted inspections both before and after your school opens.

Having the right principal in place is critical to the early success of a free school and this appointment will shape the outcome of the other tasks associated with this work stream and others. The NSN guide to finding your principal designate will help your group focus on the skills you are looking for and how to run your recruitment to find the best possible person. We also have free guidance to download around recruiting other members of staff, preparing your Education Brief and preparing for Ofsted inspections (pre-registration and full).

For policy exemplars, more detailed guidance and support around your educational vision and plan, you should consider accessing NSN’s Essentials Advisory Service and the Project Management Partnership.

Download

Staffing and education plans: Ofsted guidance

During the pre-opening period, your group will need to turn the education plan you outlined in your application into reality: by recruiting a principal designate, finding other staff members and drawing up detailed education policies. As well as this, you will need to submit a strong Education Brief to the DfE, produce a range of statutory policies for the school and prepare for Ofsted inspections both before and after your school opens.

Having the right principal in place is critical to the early success of a free school and this appointment will shape the outcome of the other tasks associated with this work stream and others. The NSN guide to finding your principal designate will help your group focus on the skills you are looking for and how to run your recruitment to find the best possible person. We also have free guidance to download around recruiting other members of staff, preparing your Education Brief and preparing for Ofsted inspections (pre-registration and full).

For policy exemplars, more detailed guidance and support around your educational vision and plan, you should consider accessing NSN’s Essentials Advisory Service and the Project Management Partnership.

Download

Communications and consulting: S10 consultation guidance

Before your free school can open, your group must run a consultation to inform the local community of your plans and receive responses. This consultation is an important part of the pre-opening stage both to raise local awareness of your plans and to satisfy the legal requirements around setting up a free school. While the DfE does not issue guidance over the form this consultation should take, NSN has put together a free guide that outlines some of the key issues you will need to consider when planning your consultation, including examples of previous high-quality consultations.

For more personalised help and guidance, as well as access to a consultation scheduling tool, you may wish to consider accessing the NSN Essentials Advisory Service or our Project Management Partnership.  

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Finance and procurement: Pre-opening budgeting tool

As you enter the pre-opening period, you will receive a Project Development Grant (PDG) from the DfE designed to cover all non-capital costs associated with setting up your free school. You need to consider carefully how you will spend your money as efficiently as possible and to ensure the best value for money. Drawing on our associates' expertise and previous free schools' experience, we have created a budgeting tool which will help you decide how to allocate your money according to different work streams.

The Essentials Advisory Service and the project management partnership take into account the fact that finance will have implications for the effectiveness of Delivery across all other work streams. The resources and tools that have been developed for these services have been designed to support schools to extract maximum value through careful financial planning.

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Sites and buildings: ESFA site resource - Heads of Terms

In collaboration with NSN, the ESFA have developed the following resources to ensure that free school groups understand the meaning of Heads of Terms, a key pre-opening milestone; the timescales involved in securing a free school site; and how to interact with the different roles within the ESFA. Heads of Terms is a plain English definition of the document referred to as Heads of Terms in property transactions.

NSN has designed the Site Advisory Service to assist groups in navigating the very complex issues associated with translating an educational vision into a school building that meets the needs of pupils and staff. This service includes very detailed resources that complement and supplement the support provided by the DfE and ESFA. 

Download

Sites and buildings: ESFA site resource - Approval to handover

In collaboration with NSN, the ESFA have developed the following resources to ensure that free school groups understand the meaning of Heads of Terms, a key pre-opening milestone; the timescales involved in securing a free school site; and how to interact with the different roles within the ESFA. Approval to Handover is a chart that outlines the various stages and timescales involved in securing a free school site and building from the point an application is approved into pre-opening to the handover of a site to the academy trust.

NSN has designed the Site Advisory Service to assist groups in navigating the very complex issues associated with translating an educational vision into a school building that meets the needs of pupils and staff. This service includes very detailed resources that complement and supplement the support provided by the DfE and ESFA. 

Download

Sites and buildings: ESFA site resource - Capital project team

In collaboration with NSN, the ESFA have developed the following resources to ensure that free school groups understanding the meaning of Heads of Terms, a key pre-opening milestone; the timescales involved in securing a free school site; and how to interact with the different roles within the ESFA. Capital Project Team is an organogram of the ESFA’s Capital Project Team, detailing roles and responsibilities, to illustrate the escalation route that free schools should employ in the event of difficulties arising during the completion of the capital project. The resource lists issues that could arise during each stage of the development of a site and provides appropriate points of contact

NSN has designed the Site Advisory Service to assist groups in navigating the very complex issues associated with translating an educational vision into a school building that meets the needs of pupils and staff. This service includes very detailed resources that complement and supplement the support provided by the DfE and ESFA. 

Download

Pre-opening guidance: Useful links and resources

Opening your free school on time and within budget is a challenging task. Our experience of working with schools during the pre-opening phase has taught us that it is easy to underestimate the quantity and complexity of the work involved.

This document offers an overview of different documents and statutory guidance from a range of organisations which you may find helpful for various tasks during the pre-opening period.

Your group may benefit from the additional support available from NSN. To find out more about the Delivery Programme, please contact open@newschoolsnetwork.org 

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Sites and buildings: Site and buildings guidance

Finding and securing a site for your school, as well as designing and constructing your school’s buildings, will mean working closely with agencies within the DfE, especially the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and their property company, LocatED. The path to a well sited, fit for purpose and inspiring new school requires difficult decisions as well as risks, particularly regarding time and cost. Handling this requires active management and careful communication with your prospective parents and other stakeholders.

To achieve the best outcome requires attention to details foreign to normal day-to-day school management like property management, school design and operations. The ESFA are the experts from a technical and financial point of view but they do not know your school, your priorities or your ethos. They base their decisions on generic building bulletins, health and safety documentation and legal and capital requirements. Your involvement is critical to achieving the best outcome for you.

This guide includes a glossary and is provided as part of NSN’s Foundation Advisory Service. It should be read in conjunction with NSN’s primer on Finding a Site: Introductory guidance . A more detailed guide including checklists and tools is available alongside specialist site related support under the NSN Site Advisory Service.

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