How is SEN funded in schools

Mainstream schools (LA-maintained schools and academies)

Funding for pupils’ education is delivered using a 'place-plus' approach. Place-plus means that schools receive funds based on their pupil numbers (place) and additional funds based on other factors, such as deprivation and low prior attainment (plus).

There are three elements to funding for pupils with SEN:


Element 1 (place)


Universal funding


Age-weighted pupil unit (AWPU)

This is funding received by all schools based on actual pupil numbers.


Element 2 (plus)


Notional SEN budget


This is funding received by all schools and is based on a national funding formula. Schools are required to use up to £6000 of their budget per pupil to meet the needs of children with SEN. This doesn't mean that they have to spend £6000 on every pupil with SEN, but should identify the provision required as part of their graduated approach to meeting need.


Element 3 (plus)


Top-up funding from 'High Needs Block'. The High Needs Block comes from the government to the local authority, and can only be used to fund the education provision of children who have a ‘high’ level of need. 


This is top up funding to meet the needs of children with complex or significant SEN whose needs can't be met through elements 1 and 2 alone.  In Shropshire top up funding may be allocated through a graduated support plan (GSP) or an education, health and care plan (EHCP)

GSP top up funding is allocated in increment levels of £500

Level 0.5   £500
Level 1     £1,000
Level 1.5   £1,500
Level 2     £2,000

EHCP top up funding is allocated in increment levels of £1,000

Level 1     £1,000
Level 2     £2,000
Level 3     £3,000
Level 4     £4,000

The top up funding in Shropshire is in addition to element 2 (notional budget) which is £6,000 so if a school should be spending the notional budget amount plus the top up amount on a child's provision, for example... 

Child on GSP Level 2 - School should be spending £8,000 in total on the child's provision (£6,000 notional budget and £2,000 top up)

Child on EHCP Level 4 - School should be spending £10,000 in total on the child's provision (£6,000 notional budget and £4,000 top up.

Top-up levels - mainstream schools and academies (element 3): graduated support plan (GSP)

The graduated approach provides early support for those pupils that schools have identified as requiring SEN support. This means that children will receive an individualised learning plan that describes the provision that the school will put in place. Sometimes children require a higher level of targeted support that will cost more than the school can be reasonably expected to provide from element 1 and 2 funding (described above). Schools are able to request additional funding using the graduated pathway without the need for an education, health and care plan (EHCP). Where funding is agreed a graduated support plan (GSP) will describe the education provision that is to be put in place, and funding will be allocated to support the cost of any education provision that exceeds element 1 and element 2.

The level of funding required is determined by a multi-agency panel using evidence provided by the school, and is allocated in increments of £500 per annum (paid monthly on a pro-rata basis).

Funding in maintained special schools, specialist academies and pupil referral units (PRUs)

Funding type

Place funding


All schools receive £10,000 per commissioned place. This is paid from the 'High Needs Block' of funding that is allocated to each local authority. Local authorities must determine the number of commissioned places that are required each year.

Funding type

Top-up funding


This is funding allocated on a per pupil basis to meet individual needs of pupils. Top-up funding is allocated by a multi-agency resource panel using a banding criteria which takes into account a range of needs. Top-up values will vary across settings.

Residential overnight stays

Occasionally children may attend a local special school that offers a residential element. Overnight board and lodging will only be funded where this provision is written into an EHCP, and where the assessment has identified that an overnight stay is necessary to meet an identified need. It's expected that all educational provision will be provided at the school during the course of the normal school day.

We also commission overnight stays as part of our short breaks offer. These aim to provide respite to parents/carers. A statutory needs assessment, carried out by a social worker, is necessary to determine whether a family is eligible for this type of support.  

Independent special schools

Occasionally we may place a child in an independent specialist setting that has been approved for this purpose by the secretary of state, or in a non-maintained special school. This type of school is specially organised to make special educational provision for children/young people with special educational needs. A list of these schools is published by the Department for Education (DfE). We'll name a school from either of these lists if local maintained specialist schools/specialist academies aren't able to meet assessed need. In Shropshire decisions about whether an independent placement is required will be made by a placement panel. 

Where we name this type of special educational provision in an EHCP this is funded through the High Needs Block. The cost of placing a child in an independent special school is determined by what the school charges. A school's charge may be regulated by the West Midland Regional Framework and the level of assessed need.

When we make decisions about funding high-cost independent special school places, we have a duty to ensure best value for money. By that we mean that we need to strive to secure effective and efficient provision at the best price.

Residential schools

Sometimes it may be necessary for a child to attend a residential specialist school. Education-only residential placements will be limited to term-time only, ie 38 weeks. This will occur only where it's been determined through the EHC needs assessment that there's no local provision available to meet need. Where there's no assessed social care involvement, and the placement is solely to meet the educational needs of the child/young person, the placement will be funded from the High Needs Block fund.

Where a child is placed in a 52-week residential setting, this will be deemed to be social care provision, and both education and social care services will contribute to the cost of such provision. Where there's an additional health need identified, tripartite funding will be required to fund the placement. The element to be funded by each agency will be determined through a funding panel.

Independent mainstream schools

Parents may choose to pay for their child to attend an independent mainstream school. We're not under a duty to name that school in the EHCP. However, we must have regard to the general principal that children should be educated in accordance with their parents’ wishes, as long as this doesn't mean unreasonable public expenditure (Section 9 of the Education Act 1996).

In Shropshire this means that where we've prepared an EHCP and identified a state-funded mainstream school or academy that can meet the child’s assessed special educational needs, parents may choose to arrange for their child to be educated in an independent mainstream school. However, we won't fund the cost of the school placement in these circumstances or any cost associated with the child’s special educational needs, where this would normally be met through the resources available in a maintained mainstream school or academy.