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  • Charlotte Reece

Top Tips for Writing your Free School Application

Updated: May 26, 2023

Writing your free school application can seem like a daunting process. For this reason, we have provided six top tips for writing a strong free school bid. This advice applies to applicants of mainstream, special, and alternative provision free school waves.


Tip 1 – Allocate sections of your free school application appropriately

A free school bid is made up of a variety of sections, covering areas such as curriculum, governance, and finance. For this reason, it best to appropriately allocate sections of your application to be written by the relevant team member. For example, a headteacher or deputy headteacher will take responsibility for writing the curriculum plan, and a school business manager or Chief Financial Officer will complete the school’s budget and financial commentary. You must be able to demonstrate that your curriculum and vision are affordable, so it is best practice to review all sections as a team.

Tip 2 - Give yourself time to draft and re-draft each section

Time management is essential for a successful application. Ensure that you leave yourself plenty of time to draft several iterations of your bid. By allowing plenty of time to proof and re-draft you will increase the strength and quality of your application. This will leave you more time to strengthen key areas of your bid and enhance consistency between each section.

Our advisors at Create: Schools are on hand to assist you with this, by developing a project plan and providing feedback on your drafted sections. Use the link here to get in touch and access our support.

Tip 3 – Get to know the criteria

Free school waves are competitive processes, which means that meeting the criteria will only be half the battle. By familiarising yourself with Department for Education’s (DfE) requirements you increase your chances of meeting them early on in the drafting process. Try to meet as many of the criteria as possible in your first couple of drafts, leaving you plenty of time to elaborate on your unique selling points.

Advisors at Create: Schools can assist by stress testing your application for compliance against the criteria, leaving you more time to focus on refining your proposal. Find out more here.

Tip 4 – Highlight what you do well

If you are an existing school or trust, it is important to highlight your strengths and not to take for granted the things your school(s) do well. Some applicant groups find it beneficial to a run a vision workshop within the bid writing team to help capture the unique selling points and discuss how these will be translated into the new school.

Tip 5 – Include Case Studies and Best Practice Examples

To enhance your application, we recommend using real life examples from your existing school(s) to complement your proposal. A robust free school proposal will include evidence of past successes to demonstrate your capability to meet the needs of the pupil cohort that the new school will serve. Applicants for new special schools can use case studies to help describe the school experience for pupils with different SEND needs.

Tip 6 – External Reviews

As with any piece of written work, it can be difficult to effectively review your own work objectively. Your bid should be clear and comprehensible to external assessors, and you should not assume that they are familiar with your trust and ways of working. Having an external pair of eyes on your application will help identify any inconsistencies or elements that are unclear.


If you have any questions or would like support writing your free school bid, speak to us at Create: Schools by clicking here and an advisor will be happy to help.


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