Shropshire Council

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 funding to meet the needs of individual pupils with SEN. This is in addition to elements 1 and 2. The local authority is responsible for allocating this funding to schools. In Shropshire this may be allocated through the 'Graduated Pathway' or through an education, health and care plan (EHCP). This is to meet the needs of children with complex or significant SEN whose needs can't be met through elements 1 and 2 alone. 

*applies to maintained schools

**general annual grant, applies to academies

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)

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.

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 the local authority 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). The local authority will 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 the local authority 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 the local authority makes decisions about funding high cost independent special school places, it has 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. The local authority is not under a duty to name that school in the EHCP. However, it 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 the local authority has prepared an EHCP, and has 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, Shropshire local authority will not 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.