Spotlight on the Development Programme |

Spotlight on the Development Programme

Last week, the Department for Education (DfE) released criteria for applying to open a free school in Wave 14. The Wave, which is for mainstream applicants only, continues to focus on areas where there is both a need for more school places and low education standards.

The most recent application Wave, which closed in November last year, saw 124 free school groups submit applications. These explicitly targeted areas of long-term educational underperformance in addition to providing school places where they were most needed, based off a list provided by the DfE.

The criteria for Wave 14 is similar, outlining different ways applicants can demonstrate the educational need of an area including looking at social mobility ‘cold spots’, existing poor school results or low Ofsted standards. A key difference, though, is that applicants will need to identify areas for themselves, and build the case for a new school there.

With the criteria released, NSN is accepting applications to join the Development Programme, our most intensive support package. Securing a place on NSN's Development Programme provides access to a range of services designed to help groups write a strong free school application. Like all NSN support for groups in the application stage, the Development Programme is free of charge.

NSN has worked with around two thirds of approved free schools, and feedback from groups who have been on the Development Programme has been overwhelmingly positive. Approval rates for groups on the Development Programme clearly illustrate 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 are eligible for a range of services which will be tailored to the needs of each individual group, as assessed by our team. These include:

  • A named NSN Adviser, who will work with the group on the development of their application
  • Networking opportunities with other free school groups
  • Feedback on the application from NSN’s network of specialist free school advisers, including former head teachers and school business managers, covering topics such as education, operations, finance and governance
  •  A personalised support plan to help ensure the application is high-quality
  • Written feedback on drafts of the 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 with the DfE
  • Support to plan marketing the proposed free school

Groups are asked to apply for a place to join the Development Programme, as this ensure support is given to the groups who are best placed to submit high-quality applications that meet the DfE's criteria.

If you’re thinking of submitting an application, you can book a one-to-one meeting with our Advisers to discuss your proposal here. To find out more about the Development Programme, click here; to apply to join the Programme, click here.

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

Blog topic:
General education