Funding for SEN (in educational settings) – continue to edit

We often hear in the news about budget cuts and how SEN funding is being squeezed year after year. We also hear about parents being told that schools cannot give their child any more support (or support in the first place) because they have no resources left. There is also the issue of when an EHC needs Assessment can be applied for if the school are not already giving £6,000 of support.

So lets try and clear up some of these issues (and myths).

Different education settings receive different funding depending on the type of setting they are, the age of the children they have and whether they offer specialist support. In mainstream schools and academies there are generally 3 Elements of funding. The Local Offer sets out how West Sussex organises their funding – see funding on the Local Offer for more information.

However, in summary:

  • Element 1 Funding – known as the Age Weighted Pupil Unit (AWPU). This money is given by the government via the Local Authority and pays for the basic costs for every child in the school regardless of any SEN. It’s normally said to cover staffing (including the SENCO) and premises costs. It is sometimes called the “bums on seat” money. Every October a school has to fill in an annual census and each child will get the age weighted pupil allowance funding. Historically the funding has varied across the country but the government announcement above appears to suggest that for a primary school that income will be a minimum of £3750 per pupil for financial year 20/21 and £5000 per child for secondary schools.
  • Element 2 funding – known as the Notional SEN Budget. This is money given to the school to support those children who have SEN. The Government have an expectation that where needed, each child on SEN Support can be allocated up to £6000 by the school to support their SEN. However, the school do not receive this amount for each child as it is presumed that whilst some will need the higher end, many will need a lot less than this. How this element is allocated is down to the school and is not ringfenced. For each child in the school with an EHCP the LA takes that £6000 as a contribution towards the cost of the EHCP.

It is important to note that unless there is an agreement with a particular school to the contrary, the school will always be required to fund the EHCP element first. Thus children at SEN Support will normally be a very firm second in the queue. 

This figure evolved as historically, there was much variation across the country as to how much money was devolved to schools. The DFE considered this and basically carried out a raid on school funding which was sold to schools on the basis that they had certainty of funding to meet the needs of children at School support and a £6000 contribution towards the costs of an EHCPs.  

The £6000 is made up of the following funding lines already allocated to the school:

  • 5% of the age-weighted pupil unit
  • Free school meals funding
  • Income deprivation affecting children index funding
  • The looked after children funding
  • All English as an additional language funding
  • Funding for low prior attainment.

For a school that is very pro-SEN then it is very easy to overspend on this funding. For those that are not so inclusion focussed then it is easy to use that funding in other ways. 

There is much debate over what £6000 actually buys. According to some local authorities, £6000 buys you 15 hours a week of one-to-one support which is interesting, as by the time you take the wages plus the earnings-related costs-employers National Insurance, pensions, holiday and sickness costs in many instances the hourly rate paid to staff members following this model comes to less than the national minimum wage! SEE LOCAL OFFER for WEST SUSSEX

The £6000 figure can be used to dissuade parents from requesting an EHC needs assessment to try and secure an EHC Plan for their child; we often hear parents are told that there is ‘no point’ to an EHC Plan because it won’t allocate any further funding beyond the £6000; this is simply not true! The funding for an EHC Plan must start with the needs of the child, not a funding formula!

  • Element 3 funding – The High Needs Block or Top Up Funding (ALSO known as IAR)

This is the money paid by the Local Authority, in addition to the element 1 and element 2 funding to top up the support within the school to meet the funding needed for individual pupils with an EHCP. Depending on the school and the child’s individual needs this could be a few hundred pounds to £20/30,000. Or even greater amounts if the child needs an independent specialist placement or a residential placement.

Academies receive the same funding but from the Education and Skills Funding Agency rather than the Local Authority.

A practical example;

The provision in part F of Freddie’s EHCP states that he will have 25 hours a week of 1:1 TA support from a teaching assistant who has skills, knowledge and experience of dyslexia and who has received at least 2-day training in the complexity of Freddie’s needs.

Freddie also receives an hour a week of speech and language and occupational therapy and 3 hours a week from a teacher who holds a post-graduate diploma in specific learning difficulties.  

In this example we assume that the SALT/OT is private as the NHS in that area can not provide the therapists. 

Section I of the EHCP identifies that Freddie will be placed at a mainstream secondary school.


  • 25 hours of TA support 1:1 including all employer-related | at a cost of £25,000
  • SALT 38 school weeks x 1hr x £70ph (private) | £2660
  • OT 38 school weeks x 1hr x £60ph (private) | £2280
  • SpLD teacher 38 school weeks x 3 hrs pw x £60ph (private) | £6840

Total: £47,780

  • Element 1 funding £5000 
  • Element 2 funding £6000 
  • Element 3 from the LA paid through the High Needs budget £36,780.00

Maintained special schools and academies/free schools and non-maintained special schools receive £10,000 per place based on the number of places to be funded as agreed with the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

School funding is a tricky area that changes every year. There are specific arguments that need to be deployed on a case-by-case basis about funding. With an EHC Plan, it is essential that the provision in Section F clearly sets out the specific provision that is required; without the specifics then the necessary funding will not follow.