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  • Imogen Phillips & Hayden Radford

The Free School Financial Template

Updated: May 26, 2023

The free school financial template can seem a daunting task at first, however, it doesn't have to be. Below we have included a breakdown of each section, with additional guidance to consider when approaching the financial template.



The first tab of the free school financial spreadsheet will be a checklist, which will be useful to keep track of your progress. You should ensure that all checklist fields are filled out correctly as you work through the spreadsheet. As this is a section that you may leave until the end, you should ensure that you still check all information is filled in and correct once complete.

Cover Page

When completing the cover page section of the financial template, confirm that all details are filled out correctly - this will include the local authority, region, opening date and the proposed age group. Be sure to include the date completed once you have finalised the application.

You should pay attention to questions relating to the 'lowest viable number' as this should not be selected if the financial template has been put together based on full capacity, and vice versa.

Pupil Place Numbers

When completing the pupil place numbers section of the financial template, it is important to consider how you will build pupil numbers gradually. AP and SEND schools may reach capacity sooner than mainstream provisions. Additionally, larger schools may take longer to reach full capacity than smaller schools, therefore you should complete this section keeping in mind the size of the proposed school, and the context of need in the local area. Regardless of the size of the school, the financial template should not suggest that the school will be at full capacity in the first year.


With the budget section of the financial template, expenditure costs are completed using pre-existing trust average costs - or using a benchmarking tool for the local area. The assumption column for all rows needs to be inputted.

The overall surplus for the budget should be between 3-5%, any deficits will need to be balanced by a higher surplus in previous or following years. You should also consider that as pupil numbers increase, costs will increase - you should consider this as you put together the financial template for the opening years.

It is vital to ensure that anything referred to in the bid as an expense, or a source of income is included in the budget, such as contingency, top slice for the academy trust, uniform and more.


As you put the staffing section together, you should build teachers and teaching assistants in line with pupil increase each year. When building the staffing structure, teachers can be added individually and built up one by one or as a collective.

It is important to keep in mind that when inputting staff, salaries are accurate in terms of the type of school, the local area, and trust-based salaries. Ensure that the correct pension rate (23.68%) for teachers is inputted for this section, as well as the correct pensions for non-teaching staff - based on existing pension or LA rates. You will need to ensure that teaching and SLT staff are not on the same pension rate as non-teaching staff and TAs, to ensure that the financial plan is as accurate as possible.

Free School Financial Template Summary

In previous waves, the colour coding for ratios may not always work correctly on the summary tab, therefore correct ratios may flag up as red. In this case, pay extra attention and explain this in the assumptions/rationale column.

You should ensure that all ratios are within the stated guidelines in this section, any that are not within these recommendations will need to be justified in the assumptions/rationale column.

Further Support

If you would like to speak to one of our advisors regarding any questions on free school funding and finances, please get in touch with us via our contact page.


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