There are two main sources of SEN funding in schools.

The first is the SEN delegated budget (also called element 2 or the notional budget) and it usually comes as a shock to discover that it has nothing to do with SEN nor is it ringfenced to that area.  The second is Top Up funding (element 3).

Element 2 funding is based on a formula derived by your local authority.  The basic formula is the same across the country, but local authorities decide what percentage of each specified element they take into consideration when calculating it.  Factors that may be included in the calculation include:

  • Prior attainment
  • EAL
  • IDACI (your local deprivation index figure)
  • Free School Meals
  • Mobility

You will notice that there is a key factor missing, SEN.  SEN is considered to be a perverse measure since it is not centrally controlled.  All the factors used in the formula funding are sourced externally and not based on an opinion (bearing in mind the SEN label is very subjective).

The value that the formula spits out is the delegated budget…and it is not worth £6000 per SEN student, how can it be?  We never even looked at SEN values…

So, to kill the SEN myth, this figure comes about because of the difference in element 1 funding (the base amount of money that schools get for allocating a child a place).   In mainstream schools it is funded at around £4000 per child (slightly less in primary) but for a special school placement it is funded at £10000.  The different is £6000.  The suggestion is that if a mainstream school needs to provide more than £6000 of additional support to a child then they are receiving a special school level of education.

The support for the vast majority of children will cost in at a lot less than £6000.

Element 3 funding, or top up, is the extra funding ring-fenced to an individual application.  The government call it top up (and ask for it on their census return) but local authorities may refer to it by a whole range of acronyms.  Generally, schools have to apply for this funding, and it meets the needs of children who have surpassed the £6000 expenditure.  Of course, if you never had the £6000 in the first place then this can be complicated.  Some local authorities automatically apply an element of top up funding when writing their EHC Plans, whereas others leave it to the school to make an application for the additional money they need.

This is why programs such as Edukey’s Provision Mapping are an essential tool in the SENCOs kit. 

Making applications for funding will often involve submitting a costed provision map and providing evidence of interventions and their outcomes.  

Often one of the greatest fears when submitting an application for funding is giving evidence that says a child has not made progress.  It is inherently built into the teaching profession that we must demonstrate improvement or even accelerated progress.  Yet, sometimes, the children we are working with, despite intensive support and intervention are not making those small steps.  These are the children for whom we need additional money to provide more support and different approaches and so we should not be afraid of showing that what we are doing so far isn’t working, but with additional money this is what we can try and achieve.

Be aware of any local authority deadlines for top up funding and any specified format in which they have to be submitted.  (I once worked for a LA where you could only bid in the October for children in odd numbered year groups, which was not helpful for Y3 in junior schools and Y7 in secondary where they may well be settled for that honeymoon period!)