Funding for SEN in schools and educational settings

Funding for SEN in schools and educational settings

What funding there is for special educational needs (SEN) in mainstream schools, including maintained schools, academies and free schools

A mainstream school can be:

  • a maintained school controlled by the council
  • an academy school run by Academy Trusts
  • a free school, which are self-governed and supervised by the Education and Skills Funding Agency

The SEND Code of Practice says that schools, academies and colleges need information on their website about:

  • the kind of support available and how children can access it
  • how settings should involve and keep parents, carers, children and young people
  • how the setting will adapt teaching to meet the pupil’s needs 
  • any staff that can provide support
  • how progress is reviewed
  • what support is provided when moving up from school to college

What SEN funding is for

Schools should use some of their budget to buy resources and make provision for children who need extra help. Children with special educational needs might need:

  • changes to the curriculum
  • special equipment
  • to use extra information technology 
  • small group work
  • additional support in the classroom
  • somewhere quiet to work 
  • the people who work with them to get specialised professional advice

Where funding for SEN comes from

Mainstream schools

All mainstream schools have money for special educational needs support and resources. The council:

  • makes sure there are enough school places for all pupils, including those with SEND
  • allocates high needs top up funding called the ‘high needs block’

All mainstream schools are funded based on their pupil numbers.  The amount of funding each pupil attracts into the school varies according to that pupil’s circumstances. 

Every pupil will attract a Basic Entitlement amount, which varies by Key Stage. Pupils may also attract additional funding into a school if they: 

  • get free school meals
  • live in an area of deprivation
  • have English as a second language
  • have low attainment

Schools use this funding to make general provision for all pupils in the school. Some of this funding must be used to support pupils with special educational needs.  This is called the school’s “notional SEN budget”.

How much different education settings get

  • pre 16 resource bases get £6K: pre 16 special units and resource bases: £6,000 per place and top up, where applicable
  • post 16 special units and resource bases: £10,000 per place and top up, where applicable
  • pre 16 and post 16 maintained special schools and special academies: £10,000 per place and top up, where applicable
  • special free schools: £10,000 per place and top up, where applicable
  • non-maintained special schools: £10,000 per place and top up, where applicable
  • pupil referral units (PRUs) interested in becoming alternative provision (AP): £10,000 per pre-16 place
  • independent special schools: currently sit outside high needs place funding system
  • further education institutions with 14 to 16 year olds: £6,000 per place

What SEN funding pays for

Schools use their SEN funding to pay for things like:

  • buying specialist resources and equipment, including simple auxiliary aids, such as a pen grip to additional specialist software that supports spelling
  • employing additional specialist support staff
  • professional advice from local area partners such as educational psychologists or speech and language therapists
  • arranging specialist staff training

High needs block funding

If your child has very complex needs, the school can ask for some additional funding to ‘top up’ the funding provided to a setting. The setting must spend it to provide support for the pupil that the top-up funding is for. Types of specialist support can include:

  • access to Bristol Autism Team, Sensory Support Service or Educational Psychology Services 
  • therapeutic interventions 
  • highly specialised resources, such as social communication and interaction groups, specialised speech and language therapy or ICT modifications 

You can also apply for top-up funding to support your child in school.

Fill in the top-up funding application form (word doc, 81KB) (opens new window)  with your child's teacher or SENCo and send it to

You'll also need to send your child's evaluated SEN support form or EHCP annual review.

The next deadlines for applications are:

  • 7 June 2019 for primary schools
  • 10 June 2019 for secondary schools

You can find out more about how your child’s school uses their SEN money by reading their SEN information report. Search for individual schools’ SEN information reports using our Schools finder.

Investing in our ‘high needs’ young people. report. September 2018

Easy read version of Investing in our 'high needs' young people report

Special schools and educational settings

Special schools do not attract per-pupil funding in the same way as mainstream schools and they don’t have notional SEN budgets. They get £10,000 for each place that the council commissions.

If a particular pupil has specific or very complex needs and they require more support, the council may award “top-up” funding to the special school. If allocated, this money has to be spent on support for that particular pupil.

If your child has an EHC Plan

If your child has an EHC Plan (EHCP), the council must make sure that the school gives the special educational provision specified in their plan. This is checked when EHCP the council looks at the annual review paperwork.

If you’re concerned that the specified and quantified provision in your child’s EHCP isn’t being delivered, first speak to their education setting and then tell the SEND Casework team by calling 0117 9223700 or emailing 

How to ask for extra educational support for your child

All schools aim to support children who need extra educational help through a “graduated approach”, which takes into account their individual learning needs. If your child hasn’t made reasonable progress, it’s important you discuss with the school what should happen next.

If you feel the school isn’t meeting your child’s educational needs, you should firstly speak to the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO). The SENCO is responsible for making sure your child is getting the right support from his or her class or subject teacher or tutor.

If you want to formalise your concern, you’ll need to give it to the school in writing. 

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