Free schools now tougher to set up


The Department for Education has published new rigorous guidelines on its website  for people hoping to set up free schools, making the process much harder.

Under the old system, a fairly short document was all that was required and the Department would decide on the basis of that document and an interview whether to approve the application. If the proposal was approved, further opportunities would be provide by the DfE to flesh out the proposal in preparation of the final stage which was the signing of your Funding Agreement.

Under the new system, groups will have to submit something that looks much more like an Outline Business Case  - which is a very detailed document which sets out admissions policy, curriculum, business plan, etc - before the proposal will even be considered by the DfE.

Since its launch in June 2010, demand for Free schools has been higher than we expected, says the government, receiving over 320 proposals, or a rate of more than one per day.

As a result,  from September 2012 the application system will insist that:

  • All groups provide information to a set deadline, rather than submitting an initial proposal at a time of their own choosing. This will require detailed and robust responses to questions about things like parental demand, the type of education the school will provide, its ethos and the capacity and capability of the groups themselves.
  • Groups that meet the minimum requirements will be judged against each other and scored on the strength of their proposals.
  • Shortlisted applicants will be called for an interview to discuss aspects of their proposal. Interview panels will consist of Department for Education officials, financial experts, education advisers, headteachers and organisations with a track record of setting up and running schools.