Since 2010, New Schools Network has supported thousands of groups – comprising teachers, parents, charities, businesses, arts and sports organisations, and others – as they have navigated the complex free school application process. The knowledge and expertise NSN has accumulated, not only of the application process but beyond into pre-opening and once open, has made NSN the leading provider of support for those committed to demanding something better for the children in their community.

Today, there are over 550 open free schools and 200 approved and in the pipeline. Thousands of families have benefitted from the programme, and thousands more will continue to do so as open free schools mature and those in pre-opening start welcoming children in the coming years.

It is with deep regret NSN today has to announce that the Department for Education will no longer be providing funding for NSN to support applicant groups. This applies to central mainstream waves; special and alternative provision waves; and local authority presumption competitions.

This is incredibly disappointing for everybody at NSN, and the groups that have already been working on applications in anticipation of wave 15. This news comes shortly after the most recent wave of successful applications was announced, and after research from NFER released this week highlighted the successes of the programme – including free schools being the highest performing type of state school at GCSE and A level, more likely to be rated Outstanding by Ofsted, and more popular with parents.

This will also be disappointing for the many families across the country yet to benefit from the programme, in areas like Blackpool, Grimsby and Knowsley. Although the Spending Review in September did not include a commitment to funding future free school waves, the Government’s levelling up agenda and 2019 manifesto pledges suggested free schools would be at the heart of education policy over the course of this parliament. It will now be significantly more challenging for communities to see new and innovative schools open in their local area, which will be critical more so than ever before as we look to the country’s future beyond COVID-19.

NSN will continue to support free schools groups in the pre-opening period, and open free schools, as they grapple with the unique challenges setting up a new school brings. When future free school application waves are announced, NSN will endeavour to commence supporting applicant groups as soon as possible.

Unity Howard
Director

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