The Department for Education is proposing major changes to the way schools and local authorities are funded in relation to SEN.
Currently, the funding that local authorities receive from central Government to support children and young people with SEN goes into their ‘high needs block’. Local authorities currently use their high needs block to children and young people in a range of ways, including:
- funding for places in specialist and post-16 institutions (e.g. special schools, special post-16 institutions and pupil referral units);
- top-up funding for individual pupils and students with high needs, including those in mainstream schools and young children in their early years; and
- services that local authorities provide directly, for example, specialist support for pupils with sensory impairments, or tuition for pupils not able to attend school for medical or other reasons.
The amount of high needs funding that local authorities receive is largely based on what they spent historically, rather than the children and young people currently in their area. The Government is proposing to change this and redistribute funding for SEN across authorities base on a national forumla.
SEC agrees that historic spend is not necessarily a ‘fair’ way of distributing funding and that a national funding formula could be desirable if the right factors can be identified. However, SEC does not agree that undermining provision in one area to improve the funding levels in another is an acceptable approach to ‘fairer’ funding of SEN. Any national formula should be used to level up the funding of lower-funded local authorities, not to redistribute the existing spend.
As well as responding to the Government’s consultation SEC will be working with Parliament during the passage of the Education for All bill to ensure these concerns are addressed.