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SEN Funding in Mainstream Schools and Settings

This information is about Special Educational Needs (SEN) funding in mainstream schools. This includes Academies and free schools. 

What is SEN funding?

The SEND Code of Practice says

'Schools must use their best endeavours to make sure that a child with SEN gets the support they need – this means doing everything they can to meet children and young people’s SEN' (section 6.2)

Schools should use some of their budget to buy resources and make provision for children who need additional help. This can take many forms. For example, children with SEN might need:

  • changes to the curriculum
  • special equipment or teaching materials
  • the use of additional information technology
  • small group work
  • support in the classroom
  • a base to work in or have quiet time

Where does SEN funding for mainstream schools come from?

All mainstream schools receive money for special educational needs support and resources. Schools can decide how to spend this money. This is called Delegated Funding because it is given to schools by local authorities or the Education Funding Agency from money they receive from Central Government.

The SEN part of the school’s income is sometimes called the Notional SEN budget.  This is because it is not based on the school’s actual numbers of pupils with special needs, but on a formula.

Funding for SEN provision is from three sources, referred to as elements:

Element 1

Schools get money for each pupil, based on actual pupil numbers. This is sometimes called Basic Entitlement Funding and was previously known as Age Weighted Pupil Unit (AWPU) . It is part of a schools delegated funding. Some of this money is for general SEN provision. This might, for example, include the cost of providing the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) and some other resources.

Each local authority sets the Basic Entitlement Funding for their schools, and the Education Funding Agency sets the funding for academies and free schools. The Basic Entitlement Funding differs according to whether the school is primary or secondary etc.

Element 2

Element 2 funding is SEN-specific and is to provide SEN Support for children who need it. This is support that is additional to or different from the support that most other children get. 

The Local Authority provides this funding for schools.  It is responsible for using a formula that determines the amount of money the school gets. The formula gives more money to schools that, in the past, had more children:

  • on free school meals
  • who were not doing as well as others in English and Maths

The Education Funding Agency provides this funding for academies and free schools. Element 2 funding is also part of the schools delegated budget.

Government guidance says schools should provide up to the first £6,000 (on top of the Basic Entitlement Funding) of additional or different support for those children who need it.  This includes those with an Education, Health and Care plan. This does not mean that the school will spend £6,000 on every child with SEN. Sometimes schools use funds to help groups of children. Some children will need less help – and some children may need more.

You can ask your school how it uses its SEN budget to support your child and whether it has enough to make all the provision they need. The Local Authority also publishes a Local Offer that explains what type of resources this money might be spent on.

Element 3

Where a school has children needing very expensive provision which might use a lot of the SEN support funding, the school can request additional funding. The Local Authority is responsible for managing Element 3 funding, sometimes called the High Needs Block.  It can be used to make specific provision for an individual child or a group of children if the school or academy can show it is necessary.

You can find details of how this funding is allocated in the Local Offer.

These funding arrangements do not override the Local Authority’s duty to your child to ensure they receive any necessary provision that the school itself cannot make. The law says that the Local Authority must find out via an EHC needs assessment whether an EHC plan is needed when a child or young person may have SEN that may need the Local Authority to secure provision. So, if your school is unable to make all the provision your child needs, you have the right to ask for an EHC needs assessment.

Who manages the School's SEN resources?

The SEND Code of Practice says:

'It is for schools, as part of their normal budget planning, to determine their approach to using their resources to support the progress of pupils with SEN. The SENCo, Head Teacher and governing body or proprietor should establish a clear picture of the resources that are available to the school. They should consider their strategic approach to meeting SEN in the context of the total resources available, including any resources targeted at particular groups, such as the pupil premium.' (section 6.97)

School governors are responsible for the school’s policy on SEN. The Head Teacher and the SENCo ensure that the policy is put into practice.  The SENCo organises support for individual children, but every teacher is responsible making sure that your child’s special educational needs are met in the classroom. The SEN Information Report on the school’s website tells you more about the arrangements for SEN support and how to contact the SENCo.

How can I find out what support and resources my child is getting?

The first step is to talk with your child’s teacher or the SENCo. This may be:

  • at a parents’ evening
  • at a support plan meeting
  • at a review

You can ask for a written copy of any support plan in place for your child.

If your child has an Education, Health and Care plan, it must set out the support and resources that must be provided.


SEN Funding in Early Years

The local authority must ensure that all providers delivering funded early education places meet the needs of children with SEN and disabled children. To do this the local authority has funding arrangements in place so that early education can provide suitable support for these children.

Funding for SEN support may be provided by a combination of the following (subject to eligibility):

  • Early years pupil premium for 3-4 year olds
  • Inclusion funding
  • Free childcare funding for 2-4 year olds
  • Disability access fund


The following information is about supporting Special Educational Needs (SEN) funding from age 16 in school, college or university.

SEN Funding in Further Education Settings

Further education settings (e.g. 6th form or college) must use their best endeavours to put support in place for students who have a learning difficulty or disability. 

Special educational support might include, for example:

  • assistive technology
  • specialist tuition
  • note-takers
  • one-to-one or small group learning support
  • accessible information such as symbol based materials

Schools and academy 6th form, further education colleges and 16-19 academies are provided with resources to support students with additional needs, including young people with SEN and disabilities.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and, in some cases, local authorities will calculate and allocate funding to institutions that provide education to young people with SEND. 


Higher Education Funding

The Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) provides funding for students with disabilities. It can fund non-medical helper support, such as study skills tutors for students with specific learning difficulties and mentors for students with mental health conditions or on the autistic spectrum.

It can also help fund equipment, such as computers and assistive technology.


Where can I get further information, advice and support?

It will be helpful to review SEN Information Reports (schools), or policies regarding special educational needs and disabilities on school, college or university websites.

The Local Offer is the place to find out about services available locally, and the arrangements that schools and other settings are expected to make for children and young people with SEN.