The government-sponsored New Schools Network (NSN), paid to promote and support the opening of free schools, will open its first regional office next week.

Adviser John Briggs will be permanently based in Manchester to support applicant groups and lead on the network’s campaigning activity across the north east and north west.

In an exclusive interview with Schools Week, due to be published next week, NSN director Nick Timothy said that the office would continue advice work for applicants, but would also “facilitate advice provided by others” so that successful bidders could “effectively evolve from being an applicant group to a governing body”.

Mr Timothy has pointed out in the past that 28 per cent of children in the north of England attend a secondary school judged as “inadequate” or “requires improvement”, compared with about 17 per cent of pupils in the south.

“The figures show that neither Greater Manchester nor the region as a whole has yet had the chance to benefit fully from the new opportunities provided by free schools.”

The network has benefited from more than £3 million of government grants, receiving £1.27 million between September 2013 and August 2014, the last year for which figures are available.

Complaints were made when the first grant, given in 2010, was handed over without being publicly tendered. All grants since have been competitively won.