Development Programme

The Development Programme includes our most extensive range of support services. It is free to access, like all our support, but you need to enrol.

About the Development Programme

Applicants who successfully enrol on the Development Programme can access a range of services aimed to help you to develop your proposal and write an application that effectively addresses the DfE's criteria. You will receive a combination of the services listed below that we will tailor according to your needs. Some applicants may be in a position where you feel you do not need to utlise all of our services; other applicants will want to benefit from the full range of services we offer.

We have worked with around 70% of approved free schools, and we think that the support we offer is very beneficial to applicants. The feedback we have had from groups who have been on the programme has been overwhelmingly positive, and approval rates for groups on the Programme clearly show its success with Development Programme groups around a third more likely to get an interview, and 50% more likely to get approved than those not on it. 

 Groups on the Development Programme can access a combination of the following range of services based on your needs, as assessed by our team:

  • A named personal NSN Adviser who will work with you on the development of your application.

  • Networking with other free schools.

  • Feedback on your proposal from specialist free school advisers in education, operations, finance and governance, including former head teachers, school business managers, and specialists in alternative provision and special education.

  • A personalised support plan to help you complete the application to a good standard.

  • Written feedback on drafts of your application.

  • A series of tailored workshops on completing a high-quality application and opening a good school.

  • A mock interview designed to replicate the interview you would have with the DfE if you were invited to one. If you have already been through the free school application process we may not be able to offer this to you.

  • Support to help with marketing your school, gathering evidence of parental demand and travel costs. Financial support may be available, although this is not guaranteed and the level of support will be determined on a case-by-case basis. 

Please note that the Development Programme is in no way linked to the DfE’s assessment process.

Enrolling on Development Programme

Our enrolment window for free school applicants aiming to submit an application to the DfE in the Wave 13 application round has now closed. We are not going to have another window until the DfE have released the new criteria for this round. However, we are still accepting groups onto the Development Programme on a case-by-case basis. If you would like to access this support, please contact us at

The enrolment process

We ask applicants to enrol onto the programme so that we can find out more about your proposal and how we can best support you. Once you have submitted an enrolment form you will be contacted by us and we will either:

  • Arrange for you to have a conversation with one of our Advisors to discuss your proposal further.

  • Invite you to an interview to decide whether you have a place on the Programme.

  • Provide you with written feedback on how you can further develop your proposal so that you can fully benefit from the support we offer.

 If you have any questions about enrolling or the Development Programme generally, please email or call 020 7537 9208.