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.

NSN recognise that many trusts may need additional advice and guidance during the pre-opening phase to navigate a complex, long-term project, which they may be undertaking for the first time. Securing a funding agreement for your free school is a key milestone on the road to opening, and this service focuses on supporting the delivery of non-site related work streams that the funding agreement is contingent upon. NSN primarily supports work around staffing and education plans; marketing, student recruitment and admissions; governance; finance and procurement; external communications and public consultations.

Every aspect of the service has been developed to complement the support provided by local authorities, the DfE and the ESFA. The service includes:

Access to a named NSN Adviser

NSN’s Advisers possess an unparalleled knowledge of regional and national free school processes. They have experience working with every type of free school (i.e. mainstream, special and alternative provision) and each free school route (i.e. central, local authority presumption and special free school competitions). Named Advisers serve as a trust’s primary point of contact at NSN. NSN Advisers design and deliver personalised support plans for each group; organising meetings around project milestones, and directing you towards key premium resources to guide your group through pre-opening.

Access to a range of NSN Associates

NSN’s deep institutional knowledge is supplemented by its team of Associates – experienced specialists with strong track records, whose expertise is embedded into our advisory services. The Essentials Advisory Service provides you with direct access to Associates’ expertise through a series of Associate Meetings. During the course of these meetings, NSN’s Advisers and specialist Associates brief groups on what to expect from each stage of pre-opening, advise on how to best prepare for forthcoming tasks and deadlines, and quality assure plans, as well as completed work.

Detailed feedback from in-depth meetings with NSN Associates and NSN Advisers

Following each meeting, comprehensive minutes, detailed feedback and additional resources are provided.

Two bespoke Spotlight visits to high-performing open free schools relevant to your school

NSN organises two tailored visits to successful open free schools. These meetings are an opportunity to hear more about the school’s journey from conception through to its first Ofsted inspection on a one-to-one basis. The meetings, facilitated by your named Adviser, provide an opportunity to form a professional relationship with other school leaders, share in their experiences and best practice, and to better understand how the project group mitigated risk during pre-opening and addressed areas of concern. These visits will be planned with your free school project in mind, and you will have an opportunity to both shortlist schools, and shape meeting agendas.

Training for free school media spokespeople

An intensive session with an experienced media trainer to prepare free school leaders for media engagement.

A comprehensive and exclusive suite of premium resources about all aspects of pre-opening

Rather than duplicating existing support provided by the ESFA or the DfE, NSN’s premium resources elucidate some of the more complicated, nuanced and technical aspects of the pre-opening process. 

Find out more about the other Delivery Programme services