Wave 14 updates | newschoolsnetwork.org

Wave 14 updates

Last week, the Prime Minister launched pre-registration for groups applying to open a mainstream free school in wave 14. The Department for Education has updated the criteria and published example mainstream application forms. The deadline for groups to apply to open a mainstream free school is at midday on Monday 11th November. Interviews for wave 14 applications will start in spring 2020, with approvals announced in summer 2020.

Basic need and standards

As in wave 13, applicants are required to demonstrate that there is basic need for a high number of school places that the new free school will provide. The Department for Education (DfE) has added that basic need should be demonstrated for at least half the capacity of the proposed school.

As well as demonstrating a basic need for places, applicants must also demonstrate that the free school will serve an area of educational underperformance. This could include Achieving Excellence Areas in categories 5 and 6, areas identified as ‘cold spots’ by the Social Mobility Commission, areas where a large proportion of schools are rated Requires Improvement or Inadequate, or where educational standards are poor. Evidence of low standards no longer needs to be ‘well below’ the national average, but should be at least ‘below’.


It is still extremely unlikely the DfE will approve post-16 provision, including sixth forms as part of secondary schools.

For applicants proposing 16-19 education, the requirements are the same as in wave 13, but they must now include substantial technical provision with a clear need for places or significantly improved facilities. Applications with plans to collaborate with other providers and evidence of partnership or endorsement by local employers or economic bodies will be warmly welcomed by the DfE.

Education plan

The content of the criteria in this section remains the same, apart from two minor changes. The DfE has added that the education plan should implement a broad and ambitious curriculum for all pupils, referencing behaviour management, support for pupils’ personal development, and preparation for life in modern Britain

As well as this, in Section E2, applications should demonstrate how they intend to meet the requirements set out in Ofsted’s new framework. The school’s data system should also consider the DfE’s Making data work report.

Opening a new free school is a challenging process, but it is also incredibly rewarding. If you are thinking about submitting an application in wave 14, you can easily contact our team who will be on hand to answer any questions you may have. We also welcome you to apply for our Development Programme, a free of charge service which provides a bespoke package of support to help ensure that you submit the strongest possible proposal to the DfE.

Blog topic:
Setting up a free school