December 2014


  • re:SEND
    Richard Newton Chance explores how the calculation of funding for special needs education is changing as the system moves from statements to education, health and care plans (EHCPs). More
  • Tackling Inequality
    Carolyn Roberts wonders why inequality persists when it comes to recruiting leaders and offers some ideas regarding how to tackle the barriers still faced by key groups More
  • Rethinking post-16 advice
    Changes to AS and A levels are creating a minefield when it comes to advising students on post-16 options. Tim Miller outlines the issues and some possible solutions. More
  • Meducation
    Chronic health conditions can permanently damage a young person’s educational chances without the right support. Libby Dowling looks at the policies, training and other measures schools need to think about under a new legal duty. More
  • Impact is what counts
    Workload pressures in schools are exacerb ated by the often arbitrary demands of ‘compliance’, says Brian Lightman. The government needs to recognise the fact and take a grown-up approach to accountability and inspection. More
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Richard Newton Chance explores how the calculation of funding for special needs education is changing as the system moves from statements to education, health and care plans (EHCPs).


The way that funding for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is worked out by local authorities (LAs) is quite complex, and hand in hand with the changes in the Children and Families Act 2014 causes a lot of confusion.

First, all schools, including academies, are funded through their LA’s funding formula. The LA gets its money from government in three blocks: early years, schools and high needs. The local funding formula distributes the schools block to primary and secondary schools, according to a number of factors. It used to be up to LAs to design the factors but now the Department for Education (DfE), in preparation for a national funding formula, has limited the number of factors that LAs can use. The LA local formula has to be revised and consulted on with their schools forum and all their schools every year.

All local authorities have to identify a notional special educational needs (SEN) amount that is made up of all or parts of a number of the factors in their funding formula. Notional SEN funding is designed to enable schools to meet the needs of all students with identifi ed SEN up to the fi rst £6,000 above the age weighted pupil unit (AWPU). These are often referred to as low cost, high incidence (LCHI) students. Above that threshold they are defi ned as high need. In generating their notional SEN, LAs have ended up using quite a variety of factors but the majority have stuck with the following ones.

They almost all use a prior attainment factor as the basis for a large part of a school’s notional SEN. From 2014-15 this factor is based on the number of students who left Key Stage 2 with below a level 4 in either maths or English. This is a change that extends the number of eligible pupils from about 10 per cent to 21 per cent. As a result, most LAs have reduced the amount going out under this factor for 2014-15. Most will also identify 5 per cent of the per pupil funding (age weighted pupil unit) as notional SEN. This is often a considerable amount of the overall total.

Deprivation factor

LAs have to have a deprivation factor based on either FSM6 (having been in receipt of free school meals at any time in the last six years) or IDACI (income deprivation affecting children index) or a combination of both. Some identify a proportion or all of deprivation funding as included in notional SEN funding. 

Some LAs have used a variety of other bits and pieces from other formula factors. If you look at your funding notifi cation, you will see how your LA has calculated the notional SEN. If you are an academy, look at table A of your general annual grant statement.

In drawing up their notional SEN, LAs have to do their best to allocate you enough to meet the fi rst £6,000 of additional need above the AWPU for the SEN pupils you have. This has meant moving money from the high needs block into notional SEN. So there has been a shift of funding in most authorities into the schools block from high needs.

Although most of this is done through the formula factors mentioned above, they also have to have mechanisms in place to meet the needs of those schools that attract a disproportionate number of SEN students. This may include, for example, those schools who have a reputation for being particularly successful with autistic spectrum conditions.

Assessing new needs

The high needs block is primarily there to fund places in special schools, further education (FE), school units and alternative provision, but it also has to provide additional funding to mainstream schools who have students with demonstrable needs that can’t be met with the fi rst £6,000. Local authorities have to have published the process and criteria by which they will do this, but it is up to each LA to design their own.

This is mainly about assessing new needs. If you are still carrying the same number of high needs students (statements) as before, then you should check that the LA is still funding these while they transfer the students on to education, health and care plans (EHCPs).

Confusingly, some LAs have borrowed the FE terminology in describing their SEN funding arrangements. In the case of a school who has a high level of need that you can show costs £15,000 a year to support, then the fi rst part of the funding (element 1) is the AWPU for that pupil. The second part of the funding is the £6,000 from notional SEN (element 2) and the final £5,000 is high needs top-up from the LA (element 3).

In summary, what you get to fund special needs provision in your school depends primarily on how your local authority’s funding formula works. As a guide, the overall percentage of formula allocation that is designated as the notional SEN budget across all local authorities is currently 10 per cent. So your funding notification should identify about 10 per cent of the total funding allocation as notional SEN.

The new SEN Code of Practice 2014 makes it clear, however, that it is the school’s responsibility to find whatever resources are necessary to meet the needs of pupils with SEN and that you shouldn’t regard the identified budget as ring-fenced.

It is important to note that one of the key changes in the new arrangements is that students and their parents should be involved in designing the provision that is made for them. So however you decide to use your budget to support students with SEND you will need to bear that in mind.

ASCL is involved in the groups working on changes and developments of the new arrangements. Our approach is that schools welcome the greater clarity of the new system but they don’t want to see one bureaucratic system for accessing the high needs top-up funding replaced with even more demanding ones. We also want to see the DfE ensuring that LAs are allocating appropriate amounts through their formulae to enable schools to meet their SEND responsibilities.

If you have any feedback about what is happening in your area, please contact

Changes to Send - Background

The changes to SEND came into force in September under the Children and Families Act 2014 and new SEN Code of Practice. Under the new system:

  • The definition of special educational needs remains the same and the age limit is extended to 25.
  • Education, health and care plans ((EHCP) replace statements and learning diffi culty assessments.
  • Parents and young people have more say in the planning and decision-making role.
  • Personal budgets will enable parents to buy in support specifi ed in an EHCP.
  • The single category of ‘additional SEN’ rreplaces school action and school action plus.
  • There is a strong focus on progress and teachers being accountable for outcomes of pupils with SEN.
  • High-quality, tailored teaching is the first response to SEN.

They are expected to mean far fewer children needing EHCPs than had statements.ASCL has produced a summary of the new SEN changes. See the document online at

ASCL position statement on SEN funding

ASCL welcomes the greater clarity of the new SEND system and its potential to improve the life chances of those children with special needs and disabilities. In order to fulfil their new responsibilities, schools will need:

  • clear and widely agreed methods for assessing the needs of SEND students and allocating resources
  • simple and timely access to top-up funding to meet the additional needs of high-need students
  • notional SEN amounts in school budgets that are sufficient to provide for non-high-need SEND students

Richard Newton Chance is ASCL’s Funding Specialist