PAG Explains: Free School Bid Writing

PAG Staff2022, Article, bid writing, free schools, Schools

PAG Explains: Free School Bid Writing

With the Department for Education’s announcement back in June of three new free school waves, many trusts and local authorities are now faced with the daunting, and potentially unfamiliar task of writing a free school bid. Here at PAG, we have a team of expert consultants with a wealth of bid writing experience across a number of successful projects, including TCaF, local authority competitions, and of course, central wave free school applications.
PAG has a market-leading record in producing successful free school bids across all ages, phases, and school types. PAG is also the DfE’s sole supplier of free school support and advice through Create: Schools. Create: Schools offers specific support free of charge (e.g., bid reviews) and PAG strongly recommends (and can facilitate) accessing additional support from their team if you are considering opening a free school. PAG’s current success rate, measured by the number of applications produced progressing to interview, is more than 90%.

James Mellors, our Senior Managing Consultant with 5 years of bid writing experience and countless more across the sector, suggests the three most essential things to consider when writing a free school bid are:

Ensuring your free school bid fits the specification

This feels as though it goes without saying, but it is important to ensure that any free school bid is ticking the boxes that it needs to tick. Some of the biggest mistakes that you can make when writing a bid are not following the guidance clearly enough, failing to actually answer the question, or missing off elements of the specification completely! Make sure that you have read the specification and how to apply guidance thoroughly before making a start on your free school bid. Plan your writing accordingly, and something as simple as a compliance checklist can save you a lot of pain later down the line.

Reading between the lines

As well as ensuring that you have answered all of the points in the specification, it is also important that you answer the unwritten but implied questions. This means being able to read between the lines and interpret the guidance given in order to add more depth and understanding to your responses. There is a lot that can also be gained from intelligence gathering and engaging with commissioners, that will give your free school bid an edge.

Reading between the lines is a difficult skill to master, and one that PAG has honed over many years, but if you are able to do this effectively, it will definitely give your free school bid an advantage.

Reflect your organisation's voice

The third and final key is to ensure that your free school bid reflects your voice and vision for the school. It’s important that you don’t just churn out a generic free school bid but craft a document that reflects you and sets you apart from those who may have just used a generic bid writing service.

At PAG, our free school bid writing service takes this into account, and any bid that we write isn’t ours; it’s the clients. As consultants, as well as bid writing, we are able to advise on elements such as strategy and engagement and ensure that your free school bid is as strong as it possibly can be. The weakest free school bids are the ones where applicants just say that they want a school, without having the necessary vision for that school.

Free school bid writing can seem like a daunting task. It is important that each section of the free school bid shows a cohesive plan and vision for what you want your school to look like. If you would like support crafting your free school bid, talk to our team of experts by getting in touch here.

Frequently Asked Questions

When we talk to clients about our free school bid writing service, there are a few questions that pop up almost every time; James has kindly answered them for us below.

How much does the client need to do?

At PAG, our job is to help present the client’s vision; we get the ideas on paper, and we do the heavy writing. That being said, the more the client is involved creatively, the better the bid will be and there are some elements that will always require some input from clients. For example, as consultants we can advise on strategy and engagement – what we can’t do is design a curriculum. The more involvement we get from a client, the more we can accurately reflect their voice and vision in what we do.

How long does it take to write a free school bid?

This question is a bit like asking how long a piece of string is. Naturally the more time we have to write a bid the better it will be. If we had three months to do it, you’d be guaranteed a perfect bid every time! Realistically though, deadlines are usually much shorter, and things can change at any moment, so we make sure that we have the resources at PAG to be able to react quickly and turn something around in a matter of weeks.

How many drafts does a good free school bid usually take?

We usually say three to four drafts minimum, with opportunities for the client to offer feedback. With more time, there is more opportunity to fine tune your free school bid.

If you have any questions about free school bid writing, or the bid writing service that PAG provides, please get in touch by contacting us on, or completing our contact form here.