Free School FAQs | New Schools Network

Frequently asked questions

All free schools receive all or part of their funding from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), which is part of the Department for Education. However, different types of free school receive different amounts:


Yes. In addition to the criteria for all applicants, existing providers wishing to become AP free schools must meet the following requirements:
  • Be registered as an independent school,
  • Have no significant outstanding issues on compliance in their most recent inspection report,
  • Have a good track record of financial management; and
  • Provide a link to their most recent inspection report with the application.

No. Whilst free schools can find additional sources of funding beyond their core funding, this must feed back into the running of the school. All free schools must be run by non-profit making academy trusts, which are exempt charities.

If a governor, or a person connected to a governor, is paid for providing goods or services to the Academy Trust then this represents a potential conflict of interest. 

Governors can be employed by the Academy Trust or provide services to it if this conflict is managed and obligations relating to public procurement rules are complied with.

Yes. Non-maintained and Independent Special Schools can convert to become Special Free Schools, where they have proven that they will enhance choice and quality locally or meet a need for places. In order to convert to become a special free school, they must also demonstrate that they have no significant outstanding issues on compliance in their most recent inspection report and have achieved a judgement of good or better in key areas, relating to the quality of education provided and students’ personal development and welfare.

No. NSN can support groups with their application but we are not part of the Department for Education and only they can tell you whether you have been accepted. Being accepted on to our Development Programme will not affect the way in which the DfE will assess your free school application. 

This will depend on the school you are proposing and your local area, and the DfE will look for the option that represents best value for money. Whilst in some circumstances the Education Funding Agency has commissioned a new build for some free schools, predominantly they are set up in newly refurbished existing buildings.

Free schools are a type of academy. A free school is run by an independent charitable company called an academy trust, rather than the Local Authority. An academy trust is made up of members and directors. Directors act as the governors of the school and are held to account by the members.

If your application is approved the ESFA will work with you to find a site that is suitable for your school. 

Subject to agreement with the DfE, a charity (or organisation) can be involved in a free school in a number of ways.