Education Bulletin

DfE Update on Free School Presumption Route

The Department for Education (DfE) has updated its guidance on the free school presumption route, indicating a preference for bids from multi-academy trusts (MATs).

This shift comes as educational institutions manage financial constraints and declining student numbers, heightening concerns about the sustainability of some schools.

The presumption route, unlike direct free school applications, involves local councils selecting bidders to propose to the Government.

The updated guidance now emphasises the necessity for new schools, especially special and alternative provision (AP) schools, to demonstrate operational and financial resilience due to their typically smaller size.

MATs, known for their ability to operate at a larger scale, are likely to have a competitive edge in securing approval to run these schools.

The Government’s guidance suggests that trusts can more effectively meet the resilience criteria required for new schools under the presumption route.

Furthermore, if a new school is established as a single-academy trust (SAT), the DfE expects clear growth plans demonstrating how it will transition into a MAT to ensure its future resilience.

This update aligns with the Government’s broader educational strategy to consolidate more schools into MATs.

It also responds to the ongoing challenges faced by the sector, including a significant per-pupil funding change this year that led to minimal increases despite overall school funding rising by 1.9 per cent.

If you have a question about the financial and regulatory implications of joining a MAT, please contact us. We have many years of experience supporting schools and SATs with this transition.

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