Special Education Needs Funding in Schools

In April 2013 the government made changes to the way that funding is provided to schools. The funding changes do not change the legal responsibilities of schools and local authorities for children with special educational needs (SEN).

Under the requirements of the Children Act 2014 governing bodies of maintained schools and academy trusts are required to use delegated and earmarked funding to make best endeavours to meet the needs of children and young people with special educational needs.

Funding streams are different depending upon the whether the school is a mainstream primary/secondary school or academy or a specialist setting such as a special school or special support centre (SSC) and whether or not the pupil or student is pre or post 16.

This document sets out the funding arrangements for pupils and students with high needs in each type of setting in West Sussex. A summary Matrix of High Needs Funding in West Sussex is at Annex A.


Mainstream Primary and Secondary Schools and Academies


Schools and academies are funded for a financial year according to a formula using factors set in national regulations and are allocated a ‘School Budget Share’. A statement informing schools of their funding for the new financial year is published each year.

Funding is allocated to mainstream schools and academies under three main headings:

The Basic Entitlement per pupil (sometimes referred to as the Age Weighted Pupil Unit (AWPU) and Element 1):

Schools get most of their funding based on the total number of pupils in the school. Every pupil in a school attracts an amount of money. The amount varies from one authority to another. There is usually more funding for each pupil in a secondary school than in a primary school. This is the core budget for each school and it is used to make general provision for all pupils in the school including pupils with SEN.

Additional Support Funding - The School’s Notional SEN Budget (sometimes referred to as Element 2):

Within the “School Budget Share” there is a ‘notional’ sum for SEN. It is called the “notional” SEN budget because governors of schools are legally responsible for deciding how the budget share is to be spent in the best interests of all the children of the school. When funding is delegated to schools, they can spend it in the way they think is best. However, schools have a duty to identify, assess and make special educational provision for all children with SEN; and the local authority has a duty to set out what schools are expected to provide from their delegated budget.

A school should use its notional SEN budget to fund up to £6,000 worth of special educational provision for a pupil with SEN (on top of the basic entitlement (AWPU) sum). This is an average figure, as not all pupils with SEN require special educational provision up to the amount of £6,000. It will depend on the individual needs of each pupil with SEN.

A list of West Sussex schools and their notional SEN funding for 2019/20 is at Annex B.

Additional SEN Support

Apart from the basic entitlement per pupil and a lump sum, mainstream school funding is based on a number of formula factors that differentiate funding on the basis of pupil data such as prior attainment at the end of a curriculum Key Stage, deprivation data etc. This funding forms part of the notional SEN budget. If schools develop best practice in inclusion of pupils with high needs or develop, there may be some circumstances when they do not have sufficient notional SEN funding to meet the £6,000 element 2. if the percentage of pupils with high needs in receipt of a mainstream Individually Assigned Resource (IAR) is greater than 3 per cent of the total pupil roll (excluding nursery classes and sixth form pupils) West Sussex will allocate Additional SEN Support funding of £6,000 pro rata for the number of high needs pupils in receipt of an IAR above 3 per cent of the pupil roll. Eligibility for Additional SEN Support is calculated in November annually.

Top-up Funding (sometimes referred to as an Individually Assigned Resource (IAR) or Element 3

In addition to funding delegated to schools for elements 1 and 2 described above, if the child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or a statement of special educational needs local authority determines that a child needs additional support to meet specified high needs, it can then provide IAR funding (element 3) towards the extra cost of that provision. The IAR (element 3) is funded by the local authority in which the pupil lives.

Element 3 is provided by the local authority for an individual pupil who has a high level of needs and schools are expected to use this funding to make provision for that individual pupil.

An individually assigned resource is allocated by the LA to enable the school to make appropriate educational provision to meet the educational outcomes in the Statement or Educational Health and Care Plan. Again, governors of schools are legally responsible for deciding how the funds they receive are best used to meet the child’s educational outcomes.

For the very small number of children in mainstream education who have exceptional needs requiring more support above elements 1 and 2 and an IAR, a case can be presented by a school to the local authority SEN Panel to obtain a personal supplement, the amount of which will vary according to the assessed need.

The funding a mainstream school/academy receives as an IAR/personal supplement (element 3) will vary through the year as this money “follows” the child. If a child with an EHCP joins the school part-way through a year, an IAR, and exceptionally a personal supplement, will be allocated to the school on a pro-rata basis, calculated according to the number of school days left in the financial year. Equally, if a child leaves, a proportion of the IAR/personal supplement originally allocated will be removed from the budget, again on a pro-rata basis.


Special Schools and Special Support Centres (SSCs)


Special schools and SSCs are funded on the basis of an agreed number of planned places (base funding) plus top up funding for each occupied place. SSCs provide specialist support for a specific type of high need e.g. sensory, physical disability. SSC provision is integral to a limited number of mainstream schools and academies. Statements/EHCPs will name the SSC as appropriate provision to meet the pupil’s needs. The core curriculum is provided through the school and pupils are fully integrated within normal classes in as far as their need allows. SSCs are funded to provide the specific specialist support to individual pupils as identified in statements/EHCPs.

Base Funding (elements 1 and 2)

Planned places are agreed each year between the establishment and the local authority taking into account the current places and estimated place numbers required in the following September.

Special schools and SSCs are provided with base funding of £10,000 for each agreed planned place commissioned by the local authority.

Top Up Funding (element 3)

Special schools and SSCs are allocated top-up funding for every occupied place. The top-up is funded by the LA in which the pupil lives.

Top-up funding is initially allocated according to the number of children occupying places in January. The rate of top-up varies for each establishment. This is due to how budgets were calculated prior to the introduction of the Government’s new arrangements in 2013/14 and the Government’s expectations that no school should be worse off under the new formula, provided the establishment was full. If a school were not full, the Government stated clearly that the budget would reduce.

The funding a school/SSC receives as top-up will vary through the year as this money “follows” the child. If a child joins the school/SSC part-way through a year, a top-up will be allocated to the school on a pro-rata basis, calculated according to the number of school days left in the financial year. Equally, if a child leaves, a proportion of the top-up originally allocated will be removed from the budget, again on a pro-rata basis.

The top-up for special schools is slightly different because of a more complex arrangement in funding them previously. The numbers of planned places are agreed each year as described above. However, the planned places in a special school are spread across five different “bands”. These bands represent different levels of need, with Band 1 having the lowest level of need and Band 5 having the highest level of need. The bands are calculated on a percentage basis which represents approximately the number of children in each band. Each band in each school has a separate rate of top-up for which it is funded when the budget statement is initially issued

Not all special schools would receive top-up funding for all five bands as this will depend upon the specific needs for which the school is catering for, e.g. some special schools may not cater for Band 1 or 2 children.

Exceptional Needs Funding (ENF) in Special Schools and SSCs

This funding is an additional top up which is used in specific circumstances for an individual pupil. ENF is currently used for:

  • A short term intervention (e.g. maximum of one academic year) or

  • Funding to cover a specific crisis or

  • To meet a need outside the usual cohort of children at a school and 

  • Linked to individual pupil need over and above what is expected from normal place/pupil funding


Personal Budgets - Education


A personal budget is an allocation of money identified to support an eligible child/young person to meet their identified needs. The money must meet the outcomes specified in the EHCP or statement. A personal budget can be managed in a number of different ways e.g. by way of a direct payment. Young people over 16 and parents have a choice regarding whether to request a personal budget or not. Parents or the young person must always be involved in planning the Personal Budget.

A Personal Budget (PB) may consist of funding from Education, Health and Social Care.

A Personal Budget for Education is not the same as a Personal Budget for social care or health because a large amount of special educational needs funding is already paid direct to the school, college or other education setting to make special educational provision. In the majority of cases, the SEN Funding is sufficient to deliver the educational provision detailed in Part F of the EHC Plan.

A small number of children or young people may be eligible for additional top up (Element 3) funding and it is this element that may be used by parents or young people to secure provision themselves.

There are statutory regulations which have been issued by the Government about Education Personal Budgets and Direct Payments eg:

- A personal budget and in particular a Direct Payment cannot be made in respect of provision which will take place in a school, post 16 institution or early years setting without the written consent of the head teacher, principal or the person occupying an equivalent position.

- The options for a personal budget within a specialist school may be more limited than that of a mainstream school as the provision is more integrated.

- The Parent/carer/young person will be responsible for ensuring the health and safety of any individual employed to deliver all or part of the agreed provision detailed in a Direct Payment Agreement and that they are approved or certified by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

Further details can be found in West Sussex LA’s Policy Guidance document on the Local Offer here


Alternative Provision College (APC)


Alternative provision is education provided for pupils who have been permanently excluded from school or whose needs cannot be met in a school. The APC is the provider of the majority of alternative provision places in West Sussex. Funding for the APC is similar to that of special schools in that it is provided for an agreed number of planned places plus a top-up for actual pupils on roll. .


Further Education Colleges/Independent Specialist Providers (ISPs)


Base Funding

Funding for post 16 students with high needs attending Further Education colleges comprises element 1 for core curriculum costs (approximately £4,000), plus £6,000 (element 2) for additional support for students with post 16 EHCPs or statements of SEN agreed by LAs. Elements 1 and 2 are funded by the Education Funding Agency.

Top Up Funding

The LA may allocate top-up funding (element 3) according to a student’s assessed needs. Top-up will vary through the year as funding follows the student.