For Families and Carers : School Funding

Who pays for extra help in school?


Sometimes parents may find themselves caught up in arguments about whether a school can afford to support their child. This page gives a brief overview of the funding system for children with Special Educational Needs. This system has recently changed in order to try to ensure consistency throughout England.

Mainstream schools


The money that mainstream schools have to support children and young people with SEN comes from several different ‘pots’.

  1. All schools receive a set amount per pupil on the school roll. This varies according to age and is more for older pupils. This is up to about £4,000 for each pupil.
  2. All mainstream schools receive a delegated notional special educational needs budget. This is calculated according to a locally agreed formula. The formula is based on factors such as the proportion of low attaining children entering the school and the proportion from low income families. It does not include a headcount of children with SEN. From this budget, schools are expected to provide up to £6,000 worth of extra help for children who need it.
  3. Top up funding – Children and young people classed as ‘high needs’, including the majority of those with Down’s syndrome, will need more support than the school can provide from its own budget. The top up is paid from the local authority to the school based on the assessed needs of the child. The school will still be expected to pay the first £6,000 of any extra help.

Special schools, units and resource bases


The funding is slightly different from mainstream to allow for the fact that specialist settings will have overheads that need to be covered whether all the places are filled or not. There are two elements to the funding:

  1. £10,000 funding for each planned place even if not all places are filled. This is equivalent to elements 1 and 2 of mainstream funding
  2. top up funding for individual children on roll based on the assessed needs of each child.

The top up for both mainstream and special schools may be calculated according to cost of the specified support or alternatively LAs may use a banding framework to allocate the top-up both for mainstream and special schools.

Will this new system cause problems?


There may be problems particularly in local authorities that previously funded high needs statements in full for each individual child.

Schools that may lose out are:

  • schools in well-off areas that will not attract funding for deprivation and low prior attainment
  • schools that have a high proportion of high needs pupils relative to the economic profile of the school. These are likely to be schools that have developed a reputation for being particularly inclusive
  • small schools – the arrival of one more child with high needs will lead to the school having to find an extra £6,000 from an already small SEN budget

The local authority should have contingency arrangements for schools that will be disproportionately affected.

No change to the law


The funding reforms do not affect the law as it stands in terms of assessments and statements. For a statement of SEN, the child’s needs must be assessed and the provision determined, independently of any funding arrangements. It is really important to make sure that the help in your child’s statement is specific and quantified, not just based on a sum of money.

More information


This covers some of the main problems parents may encounter and ways you can take action.

You can also contact the DSA helpline on telephone number 0333 1212 300 and ask to speak to our education information officer.