How are free schools funded? |

How are free schools funded?

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:


  • Mainstream schools are funded on a per pupil basis, in the same way as other schools, but they receive this money direct from the ESFA. The amount that they will receive per pupil depends on which local authority the school is in, but is an average of £4,000 per pupil across the UK.
  • Mainstream schools will also receive the pupil premium for their pupils who are eligible for Free School Meals, those who are in the care of the local authority and children of service personnel.


  • Funding is calculated using the ESFA funding formula that incorporates factors including student numbers, student retention, higher cost subjects, disadvantaged students and area costs.
  • This is supplemented by additional funding for high needs students, bursaries and other financial support awarded to individual students.


For pupils with an EHC Plan:

  • Funding of £10,000 per place from the ESFA.
  • An additional amount to meet the costs of provision, as negotiated between the free school and the commissioning body (the LA). This is known as the top-up fee.

For pupils without an EHC Plan:

  • Pupils will receive funding based on levels for students with similar SEN without an EHCP in the LA. This would be in line with a pupil with this level of SEN attending a mainstream school in the local authority. 

Alternative Provision

  • £10,000 per full time equivalent (FTE) place from the ESFA. This place can be filled by multiple children throughout the year. For example, an AP with 10 FTE places may have 20 pupils all on a half time timetable, but would receive funding for 10 FTE places.
  • For each child the AP will then negotiate a top up fee with the commissioner - the school or LA - that is referring that child. This fee is set by the AP and will cover the remaining cost of the child’s placement beyond what is covered by the ESFA base funding.

The DfE have published guidance on revenue funding for free schools on here.