DfE Free School Waves
Throughout last year and this, the DfE ran a number of free school waves with the objective of creating and establishing further, high-quality mainstream, SEND, and alternative provision free schools.
All applications should now have been submitted and the waves are now in various stages of completion.
While no new bidders can now enter the process, if you did submit a bid in any of the three waves and require our expert support, please use the contact page above.
Live Local Authority Competitions
Outside the DfE central waves, free schools can be opened through the local authority (LA) presumption competition route.
Below, you will find all current live local authority presumption and DfE Safety Valve competitions. Please click their links to find out more.
At the bottom of this page, you can find information on what exactly a local authority presumption competition is, how you can apply, and how we can help.
Current Live Opportunities
Local authorities have a statutory duty to ensure there are sufficient school places in their locality. The main route through which local authorities create new free schools to address demand for new places is through a local authority competition, also known as the free school presumption route. Local authority competitions are typically only open to current academy sponsors. Mainstream, alternative provision (AP), special, and faith/church schools of all phases can be established through this route. Schools established through the presumption route are also more likely to be part of the local authority’s co-ordinated admissions process. The sponsor and the local authority should decide jointly whether this will be appropriate.
The local authority will be responsible for providing the specification and delivering the site and capital works for the project. This route runs parallel with the DfE's central free school waves, so all new schools established through it are classified as free schools.
What is an LA presumption competition?
Once a local authority competition is live, you will be able to find it listed on the Department for Education website or in the above section of this page. You will see links to all live local authority competitions, which will direct you to the relevant authority’s website for details of the specification, school information, and guidance on how to apply. Make sure to read the specification thoroughly, as application requirements will differ across local authorities.
How to apply for an LA presumption competition
Key considerations for LA presumption competitions
There is no sure way of finding out when a local authority competition will happen, so be sure to keep an eye out for them. Local Authorities should consult their communities before the launch of the competition. Speaking to your LA contact or Regional Director about upcoming opportunities is beneficial, particularly if you are considering growing your trust.
The local authority will assess a possible sponsor's familiarity with the area's context and current offerings, as well as their track record of interacting with their current communities for the benefit of students and their families. Be sure to show off your knowledge of your community!
Whilst Create: Schools is funded to provide support with the DfE central waves only, many of our resources and engagement events cover topics relating to key aspects of LA free school applications, such as establishing a vision, community engagement, and preparing for pre-opening. We are also happy to answer any questions you may have about the presumption process.
If you are looking for bespoke support specifically with LA competitions, PAG has a market-leading record in producing successful free school bids across all ages, phases, and school types, as well as supporting local authorities with consultation and engagement. The current success rate, measured by the number of applications produced progressing to interview, is more than 90%.
Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com if you have any questions about local government competitions, free school bid writing, or sponsoring an academy.