Preparing to open |

Preparing to open

Support for schools in pre-opening

NSN has supported free school groups in pre-opening since 2014. NSN’s unrivalled knowledge and experience has been informed by its work with over two-thirds of open and approved free school groups throughout the application and pre-opening phases.

The NSN Delivery Programme has been designed to address the challenges of the rigorous pre-opening process. Whilst proposer groups have a wealth of skills and expertise, the NSN Delivery Programme fills gaps in capacity and capability, providing a range of support options to prepare schools for a successful opening.

NSN’s exclusive programme of advice, support and project management has been developed to comply with Department for Education and Education and Skills Funding Agency guidance, and focuses on the areas that our experience shows will provide free schools with the most value in pre-opening. Our dynamic and adaptable team has built a solid reputation for professionalism and expertise; NSN Project Managers, Advisers and Associates have worked on over 500 free school projects – ranging from supporting groups in the pre-opening phase, to setting up and working in free schools.

The core elements of the Delivery Programme are outlined below in more detail. Although presented as four distinct services, NSN is quite accustomed to ‘bespoking’ its services to best meet the needs of free school groups. In each instance, NSN’s experienced Advisers will look to develop a tailored proposal that offers additional support in areas where the group has reduced capacity and/or capability, and remove elements where work has already been completed.

To find out more about the Delivery Programme’s services, click below; to read our Delivery Programme brochure, click here. To read about our support for groups in pre-opening and beyond, click here. To read about our support for open free schools, click here. If you have any further questions or queries, please contact

Foundation Advisory Service
All approved projects have access to our core advisory service, which is free of charge.
Site Advisory Service
The NSN Site Advisory Service helps groups to navigate the process of securing a site and suitable free school building.
Essentials Advisory Service
Developed to support the project management and delivery of the non-site related challenges you will tackle in pre-opening.
Project Management Partnership Service
Based on our vast experience, the NSN Project Management Partnership is for groups planning to outsource the project management of pre-opening.

Our free diagnostic tools

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. Whatever phase of pre-opening you are in, use our free diagnostic tools to gauge how prepared you are to manage the pre-opening process and the challenges it presents:

NSN Launch Assessment Part 1

Enables you to identify possible strengths and shortcomings in capacity or capability or both. This resulting report provides you with a useful framework for reporting to your members, trustees or other stakeholders on the team’s level of preparedness for pre-opening.

NSN Launch Assessment Part 2

Assesses how developed your understanding is of what is involved in the pre-opening process. Your responses will be used to build a detailed picture of your understanding and therefore readiness for pre-opening. This will be explained to you in the launch assessment debrief report.

"We very much felt that they were the experts in supporting free school applicants and we're very grateful to them for their support."

"NSN offered thoroughly professional and knowledgeable insight, advice and challenge."

"The workshops and the advice that you're getting, the people who are presenting and sharing information with you are absolutely involved in the free schools process."

"NSN is a really great organisation – they have been so open"

"NSN support is really good - I rely on NSN for anything I can receive help with"

"We go to NSN for advice, I think they’re a great organisation. It’s always nice to know that they are there and they’re open – and I think of them if we experience any challenges"

“Excellent support as a sounding board for exploring ideas and developing individual issues relevant to our school”

“Just a really professional team who always offer first class advice”

“The training is of far higher standard than other education training providers I have experienced”

"Knowing people are available over the phone who have great experience, understanding and insight was very reassuring”