Archive Website of the UK government

Please note that this website has a UK government accesskeys system.

Public services all in one place

Main menu

Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Setting up a Free School

Free Schools are state-funded schools for children of all abilities, which are set up due to parental demand for more choice in local education. Find out what makes Free Schools different from other schools, who can set one up and how to go about doing it.

How are Free Schools different from other state schools?

Free Schools are non-profit making, independent, state-funded schools. Unlike normal state-funded schools, Free Schools are not controlled by the local authority. Free Schools are similar to academies, but will usually be new schools. Academies are usually the result of a change to an existing state school.

Because Free Schools are not controlled by the local authority, it means they:

  • can set their own pay and conditions for staff
  • do not have to follow the National Curriculum
  • have control over their own budget
  • can change the length of school terms and the school day

Free Schools will be funded in a similar way to other state-funded schools, and groups running Free Schools cannot make a profit. Free Schools will have the same Ofsted inspections as all state schools and will be expected to maintain the same high standards.

Pupil admission arrangements for Free Schools

The pupil admission arrangements of any Free School must be 'fair and transparent'. This means that Free Schools should be open to pupils of all abilities from the area. They won't be able to select pupils on the basis of their marks or academic ability. Free Schools will have to take part in their local area's coordinated admissions process. This means that parents will apply for places for their child in the same way as for any other local school.

Who can set up Free Schools?

A Free School could be set up by any suitable proposer, where there is evidence of demand for one from parents. This evidence could be a petition or declaration from interested parents, along with a clear and well thought out business case. A link to details of how to set up a Free School, including writing a clear business case, is at the end of this section.

Free School proposers could include one or more of the following groups:

  • teachers
  • charities
  • academy sponsors
  • universities
  • independent schools
  • community and faith groups
  • parents
  • businesses (on a not-for-profit basis)

Proposers have to comply with strict suitability and vetting tests before they can set up a Free School. All proposals will be checked by the Secretary of State for Education, who will consider each proposal on its merits.

Any proposers who advocate violence, intolerance, hatred or whose ideology runs counter to the UK's democratic values will have their application rejected.

Help with setting up a Free School

If you are interested in having a Free School in your area, advice is available from the New Schools Network, an independent charity. The New Schools Network can also link parents with more experienced groups to help make a new school a reality.

More information about how to set up a Free School is also available on the Department for Education website.

Additional links

Simpler, Clearer, Faster

Try GOV.UK now

From 17 October, GOV.UK will be the best place to find government services and information

Useful contacts

Access keys

If you would like to take part in our website visitor survey, please visit the site and then come back and select this link to take part in the survey.