Community Engagement in your Free School Application
Updated: Dec 9, 2022
As part of the DfE’s application guidance, you are expected to evidence engagement with the local community through your free school application. Through this blog, we aim to provide clear advice on engaging with the community and evidencing this effectively throughout your application.
In the guidance for section C, the DfE states that you should include ‘evidence of demand from potential parents for your school and how your vision responds to the needs of the local community'. In order to address this, you should clearly target these groups, and lay out your plans to involve them throughout the application, pre-opening and opening phases.
How should you engage with your local community?
There is no one correct way of engaging with your local community. The method you choose may depend on a variety of local factors and your preferences. However, engaging with your community is possible through a range of formats, such as:
· Parent/carer forums
· Community engagement events
Through directly discussing your proposed school with parents and carers in the area, you will be able to collate useful qualitative information and feedback to tailor the details and vision of the proposed school to what the community believes to be important.
Community engagement events
It is also possible to obtain key insights into community opinions through community engagement events. These will allow you to present your proposed school to interested, relevant individuals in the area with the opportunity for instant questions and feedback.
Additionally, surveys are a useful tool for understanding points of view in the area concerning your proposed school. Through online surveys, you will have the ability to collect quantitative information which can be used within your application to indicate that there is a high level of interest in setting up a new school in the local area.
To access support with marketing and engagement to complement your application, our partners at Kinetic Marketing can offer tailored advice free of charge. Their guidance on community engagement can be found here, on our resources page.
If you require further support with organising community engagement, our colleagues at PAG offer a variety of paid services to applicants during this process. PAG can be contacted here.
Evidencing community engagement
When outlining the details of your proposed school, there is a wide range of information you could include when discussing your community engagement. The outcome of conversations concerning your proposed school with relevant members of the community is a key example here.
Most importantly, community engagement should not be a ‘tick box’ activity, but instead a theme which is present throughout your case for the new school. This will strengthen your application by highlighting the importance of community voice to your trust/application team.
If you are able to evidence the importance of community engagement, it will be clear that the voice of parents/carers and potential students at the school has been a vital part of your planning process. Through the vision section of your application, you should outline any interactions you have had with the local community regarding the proposed school; as well as any actions you have taken in response to this. Incorporating community voice into the school’s vision presents an application which has genuine concern and awareness of their identified cohort’s needs and ideas for the school.
Evidencing community engagement in section C (where you will outline your vision for your proposed school), will mean providing evidence that conversations have taken place with the local community. The outcomes of these discussions should have influenced decisions you make about details of the school, but most importantly your vision. Section C is an opportunity to outline how you decided on your vision, including community voice in your narrative will be relatively simple.
In order to effectively present your engagement, you should directly identify conclusions you have drawn from conversations within your community. You should then be able to discuss how you will ensure any concerns raised by your local community are addressed.
For example, parents in the area may have raised their concerns about underperformance in exams in existing schools in the area. Through your application, you could then outline processes you will have in place to ensure the new provision treats local parents' concerns as a priority.
If you have any questions or would like support writing your free school bid, please get in touch with our team of Create: Schools advisors here.