Establishing a new academy: free school presumption

Guidance on establishing new schools through the free school presumption route, and the qualities new school proposers must demonstrate.

Applies to England


Free school presumption guidance

Annex B: model application form for proposers (ODT)

Annex D: pre-opening expectations


This guidance is for:

  • local authorities
  • academy trusts

It describes the process for establishing new academies (free schools) under the ‘free school presumption’. You should read it in conjunction with the annex documents on this page.

The Education Act 2011 changed the arrangements for establishing new schools and introduced section 6A to the Education and Inspections Act 2006, which is known as the academy or free school presumption.

Local authorities can adapt the annex A model specification to specify what they need from proposers.

New school proposers can use the annex B model application form to submit their proposals to the local authority.

Both local authorities and proposers should refer to annex C, the model criteria for presumption schools, when seeking proposals or making applications.

Both local authorities and proposers should refer to annex D, pre-opening expectations, for information about the requirements (some of which are statutory) to be fulfilled during the pre-opening phase.

Single or multi-academy trusts establishing new academies and free schools should refer to the model academy and free school funding agreements.

Updates to this page

Published 23 July 2015
Last updated 13 May 2024 + show all updates
  1. Updated the 'Free schools presumption guidance' to reflect the emphasis placed on the resilience of new schools during the approval process.

  2. Replaced the 'Free school presumption guidance' and Annexes A, B, C and D with updated versions.

  3. Updated the free school presumption guidance to reflect the expectation that local authorities should involve the department in the assessment process and added a section on community cohesion. Added annex D covering pre-opening expectations.

  4. Updated 'Academy and free school presumption: guidelines' document.

  5. Updated guidance and all annex documents as of May 2018.

  6. Updated advice and added local authority specification form, proposer application form and model criteria for new schools.

  7. First published.

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