Preparing to open | newschoolsnetwork.org

Preparing to open

Support for schools in pre-opening

NSN has supported free school groups in pre-opening since 2014. NSN’s unrivalled knowledge and experience has been informed by our work with over 70% of open and approved free school groups throughout the application and pre-opening phases.

The NSN Delivery Programme has been designed to address the challenges of the rigorous pre-opening process. Whilst proposer groups have a wealth of skills and expertise, the NSN Delivery Programme fills gaps in capacity and capability, providing a range of support options to prepare schools for a successful opening.

Our exclusive programme of advice, support and project management has been developed to comply with the Department for Education and Education and Skills Funding Agency guidance and focuses on the areas that our experience shows will provide free schools with the most value in pre-opening. Our dynamic and adaptable team has built a solid reputation for professionalism and expertise; NSN Project Managers and Associates have worked on over 500 free school projects – ranging from supporting groups in the pre-opening phase to setting up and working in free schools.

Want to find out more about the NSN Delivery Programme? Contact the Delivery team at open@newschoolsnetwork.org

NSN Delivery programme

Foundation Advisory Service

All approved projects have access to our core advisory service, which is free of charge. More +

All approved projects have access to our core advisory service, which is free of charge. This foundational offer includes:

  • An invitation to our annual launch event, delivered in partnership with the DfE

  • A telephone and email service

  • Key pre-opening resources

  • Invitations to our Spotlight events at open free schools

  • An invitation to our events focusing on the final stages of pre-opening

Site Advisory Service

The NSN Site Advisory Service helps groups to navigate the process of securing a site and suitable free school building. More +

Relevant to both sequential and concurrent groups, the NSN Site Advisory Service helps groups to navigate the complex process of securing a site and suitable free school building. Developed to complement the support provided by LocatEd and ESFA, the service includes:

  • A named NSN Project Manager

  • Access to NSN Site Associates

  • Comprehensive and exclusive guidance resources about free school capital projects

  • In-depth support meetings with NSN Project Managers and Site Associates

  • Detailed feedback from support meetings

Essentials Advisory Service

Developed to support the project management and delivery of the non-site related challenges you will tackle in pre-opening. More +

Developed to support the project management and delivery of the non-site related challenges you will tackle in pre-opening, the NSN Essentials Advisory Service focuses on areas such as pupil recruitment and admissions, the section 10 consultation, finance, governance, education planning and staffing. The NSN Essentials Advisory Service provides:

  • A named NSN Project Manager

  • Access to a range of NSN Associates

  • Bespoke and exclusive networking opportunities with existing free schools

  • In-depth meetings with NSN Project Managers and Associates

  • Detailed feedback from support meetings

  • Comprehensive and exclusive suite of guidance resources about all aspects of pre-opening

  • Spokesperson training for principal designates 

Project Management Partnership Service

Based on our vast experience, the NSN Project Management Partnership is for groups planning to outsource the project management of pre-opening. More +

Based on our vast experience, and developed with the DfE’s Pre-Opening Guidance in mind, the NSN Project Management Partnership is for groups planning to outsource some or all of the project management of their free school in pre-opening.

Split into two phases, the NSN Project Management Partnership takes into account the volume, complexity and timing of tasks in different phases of pre-opening. With additional bolt-on services available to buy, the NSN Project Management Partnership is the most bespoke service offered as part of the NSN Delivery Programme. 

Our free diagnostic tools

Our experience of working with schools during the pre-opening phase has taught us that it is easy to underestimate the quantity and complexity of the work involved. Whatever phase of pre-opening you are in, use our free diagnostic tools to gauge how prepared you are to manage the pre-opening process and the challenges it presents:

NSN Launch Assessment Part 1

Enables you to identify possible strengths and shortcomings in capacity or capability or both. This resulting report provides you with a useful framework for reporting to your members, trustees or other stakeholders on the team’s level of preparedness for pre-opening.


NSN Launch Assessment Part 2

Assesses how developed your understanding is of what is involved in the pre-opening process. Your responses will be used to build a detailed picture of your understanding and therefore readiness for pre-opening. This will be explained to you in the launch assessment debrief report.

"We very much felt that they were the experts in supporting free school applicants and we're very grateful to them for their support."

"NSN offered thoroughly professional and knowledgeable insight, advice and challenge."

"The workshops and the advice that you're getting, the people who are presenting and sharing information with you are absolutely involved in the free schools process."

"NSN is a really great organisation – they have been so open"

"NSN support is really good - I rely on NSN for anything I can receive help with"

"We go to NSN for advice, I think they’re a great organisation. It’s always nice to know that they are there and they’re open – and I think of them if we experience any challenges"

“Excellent support as a sounding board for exploring ideas and developing individual issues relevant to our school”

“Just a really professional team who always offer first class advice”

“The training is of far higher standard than other education training providers I have experienced”

"Knowing people are available over the phone who have great experience, understanding and insight was very reassuring”