Frequently asked questions about the Free School application process.

 Can I apply to set up a school in September 2015?

This application process is primarily for those wanting to set up a school which will open in 2014. We will only consider 2015 applications on an exceptional basis where they make a strong case for the need for an extended lead-in time.

 Can I submit an application to open a 16-19 Free School?

Yes. You should follow the same guidance as for mainstream Free Schools, paying attention to any specific 16-19 guidance within that.

 Can I submit an application to open a special Free School or an alternative provision Free School?

We welcome proposals for Free Schools that either cater for pupils with a statement of special educational needs, or offer alternative provision. Separate application guidance, forms and templates for these types of Free Schools will be available shortly.

The process for judging these applications will be similar to the process for mainstream Free Schools, although the criteria for successful applications will be different.

 Can an existing fee-paying independent school become a Free School?

Yes. If an independent school becomes a Free School, however, it will not be able to charge fees. As well as the requirements outlined in the application guidance, independent schools must meet the following additional criteria:

  • they must have no significant or outstanding issues on compliance in their most recent inspection report;
  • they should have achieved a judgement of good or better in the key areas of their most recent inspection report (see the 'how to apply' guide for details); and
  • they must show a good track record of managing their accounts.

We will also take into account factors including examination performance; the popularity of the school; demand from parents who do not currently have children at the school, the level of deprivation in the area and whether the case for becoming a Free School offers good value for money.

Further information is included in the application guidance.

 I submitted an application in a previous round which was unsuccessful. What should I do with the feedback I received on that proposal?

You should reflect carefully on the feedback you received and how it might apply to the criteria included in the 2014 application guidance. However, this is a competitive process, and even if we provided the feedback that a particular element of your proposal was strong, you may still need to build on and develop your plans in this area before submitting a brand new application by 6:00pm on Friday 4 January 2013.

 When can I submit my application to the Department for consideration?

The Department is releasing details of the application process for setting up a Free School in September 2014 now so that groups have sufficient time to work on their proposals before the application deadline. In line with international good practice, we will be accepting applications between Monday 17 December 2012 and 6pm on Friday 4 January 2013. Applications received by the Department before 17 December 2012 or after 6pm on 4 January 2013 will not be considered.

 Do I need to secure a site before I apply?

No. It would be helpful if in your application you were able to identify up to two potentially feasible sites for your school to give us some idea of where you would prefer your school to be located.

You are not required to enter into any negotiations for sites and must not do so if you expect the Government to fund the acquisition of your site.

 Is there a specific level of demand I have to demonstrate for my Free School in order for my application to be considered?

No. As the guidance says, however, the more you can show that your school will fill its available places the better.

As your application will be judged against others, it is impossible for us to say what level of demand you will need to show to be amongst the strongest contenders.

We can say that last year the vast majority of applicants invited to interview had evidence of demand from parents of the relevant school age for more than 50 per cent of the available places in the first two years, and the strongest showed that they would be full or oversubscribed. It is our expectation, however, that the overall strength and quality of applications will continue to increase. 

 Do I need to show there is a shortage of school places in my area in order for my application to be successful?

No, although we welcome applications from areas where there is such a need. What you do need to show is demand from parents and the local community for the specific school that you want to set up, rather than  – not just a demand for any new school.

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