The Local Authority receives money from central government each year to fund schools.  This is called the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG).  The DSG is split into four blocks of ‘block’ funding:

  • Early years block
  • Schools block
  • High needs block
  • Central block

Local Authority Schools’ SEN High Needs Funding

A proportion of the High Needs Block is used to fund the element three funding in for schools. The rest of the high needs block is used by the Local Authority to fund other types of SEN support and provision including statutory functions of the LA.  This includes:

  • State funded special schools.
  • Resource Based provision in mainstream school
  • Places in alternative provision and independent schools
  • Pupil Referral Units (PRUs)
  • Post 16 places and top ups (elements 1,2,3)
  • All SEN packages (0-25years)
  • Central services (statutory) such as:
    • Advisory teacher support services
    • Educational Psychology
    • SEND Support in the early years
    • SEND Keyworkers
    • Medical provision

Schools Block

The schools block is the main budget for mainstream schools.  The schools block is made up of:

Element 1 – per pupil funding. This is used by individual schools to support all pupils.  It includes those who have special educational needs.

Element 2 – SEN funding. This is for schools to spend directly on making special educational provision. Element 2 funding is often referred to as the SEN Notional Budget.   This year 2020/21 total budget for SEN funding is £168.287m included within school funding allocations.

The SEN funding (element 2) for each school is calculated using a formula.  This formula uses the following SEN ‘proxy indicators’.

  • 5% Pupil numbers (AWPU)
  • 100% Low prior attainment
  • 50% Social deprivation (IDACI, FSM, FSM6)

Each year the school is informed through their School Budget Share how much Notional SEN money they will receive in support of low-cost high incident pupils.

Schools should use their Notional SEN funding to meet the needs of the cohort of children and young people with SEND in their setting.

Things that a school may want to consider when allocating funding on resources:

  • Expertise within the school to plan for any resources needed
  • Curriculum pathways
  • Specialist advice needed
  • Specific SEND resources
  • Provision specified in Education Health Care Plans
  • Evidence-based interventions

Element Three – High Needs Block – Top Up Funding

Schools and academies should have sufficient funding in their delegated SEN funding budget to enable them to support the majority of pupils’ SEND where required, up to the nationally agreed cost threshold of £6,000 per pupil.  Where individual pupils require additional support that costs more than £6,000, the extra costs can be met by requesting Element 3 funding for the individual pupil.

Top-Up funding is intended to provide additional, individually targeted support those typically met by resources that are already available to schools.  for named pupils who have a range of complex special educational needs whilst remaining in mainstream schools.  Top- up funding is provided where these needs, and the provision required to meet them, are more significant than

Pupils who access top-up funding will have exceptionally complex special educational needs.  

Pupils with these needs are likely to require:

  • significant levels of regular teaching and/or support of a teaching assistant to address individual targets;
  • daily highly structured learning opportunities;
  • frequent access to small groups or individualised teaching;
  • additional support required to ensure an integrated learning experience;
  • support to ensure equal access and social integration opportunities during the school day;
  • additional curriculum activities/arrangements that need to be in place within or outside of the usual learning environment for the child or young person to achieve.

Top-up funding can be used for a range of responses to SEND including:

  • providing support for pupils with complex needs in mainstream settings;
  • purchase one off resources or equipment for a specific child or young person;
  • SEN training and development for specific members of staff in order to deliver specific provision.

Birmingham Top-up Guidance for Schools – updated January 2022

Introducing the new Birmingham Top-up Funding briefing Power Point.

Support Units

All students aged 16 to 19 (and, where they will have an EHC plan, up to the age of 25) should follow a coherent study programme which provides stretch and progression and enables them to achieve the best possible outcomes in adult life.

Schools and colleges are expected to design study programmes which enable students to progress to a higher level of study than their prior attainment, take rigorous, substantial qualifications, study English and maths, participate in meaningful work experience and non-qualification activity. They should not be repeating learning they have already completed successfully.

For students who are not taking qualifications, their study programme should focus on high quality work experience, and on non-qualification activity which prepares them well for employment, independent living, being healthy adults and participating in society.

When a young person with SEND turns 16 they have a number of options including staying on at school, staying on at sixth form or going to college. Further information is available at:

Further Education colleges generally offer a wide range of vocational and academic courses. They provide support for students with additional needs including specialist teaching support, one to one support if required, lifts/ramps and specialist equipment.

Independent special schools and special post-16 institutions do not have a distinctive definition in law. Unlike maintained schools and academies, further education (FE) colleges and non-maintained special schools, such institutions cannot be subject to statutory duties as a distinct group.

One of the most effective ways to prepare young people with SEN for employment is to arrange work-based learning that enables them to have first-hand experience of work, such as:

  • Apprenticeships: These are paid jobs that incorporate training, leading to nationally recognised qualifications. Apprentices earn as they learn and gain practical skills in the workplace. Many lead to highly skilled careers. Young people with EHC plans can retain their plan when on an apprenticeship.
  • Supported Apprenticeships (SA): These have been designed for individuals who have a recognised learning difficulty and disability and have an EHCP.  Apprentices will be required to achieve from entry level 3 up to level 2 functional skills in math and English as part of the apprenticeship.

Almost all apprenticeships can be made accessible and having additional needs shouldn’t restrict peoples job choices.  Employers, along with colleges and training providers have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people and therefore should provide additional support during training.  

  • Supported internships: These are structured study programmes for young people with an EHC plan, based primarily at an employer. Internships normally last for a year and include extended unpaid work placements of at least six months. Wherever possible, they support the young person to move into paid employment at the end of the programme. Students complete a personalised study programme which includes the chance to study for relevant substantial qualifications, if suitable, and English and maths to an appropriate level. Young people with EHC plans will retain their plan when undertaking a supported internship.

Supported Apprenticeships and Supported Internships are both supported by Access to Work funding. Access to Work is a grant from the Department for Work and Pensions which can help pay for practical support to enable people with disabilities or long-term health condition to do their job. It can pay for support at job interviews,  job coaching an pay for equipment and travel costs.

  1. Mainstream FE College funding is comprised of 3 elements:


  1. Element 1 place-funding: this is the core funding that is provided to an institution for all learners.
  2. Element 2 place-funding: provides £6000 of funding for high-needs learners. This is not intended to support those with needs costing less than £6000. Place allocations for an academic year are agreed between the Local Authority and each individual college.
  3. Element 3 top-up funding: Where funding over £6,000 is required, the needs of the individual learner are taken into account and an amount determined between the college and the Local Authority.


  1. Specialist Independent College funding is comprised of 3 elements:


  1. Element 1 place-funding: this is the core funding that is provided to an institution for all learners.
  2. Element 2 place-funding: provides £6000 of funding. Place allocations for an academic year are based on previous years pupil numbers.
  3. Element 3 top-up funding: The needs of the individual learner are taken into account and an amount determined between the provider and the Local Authority.

A high needs student, for funding purposes, is defined as:

  • a young person aged 16 to 18 who requires additional support costing over £6,000
  • any young person aged 19 to 25 subjects to an education health and care (EHC) plan who requires additional support costing over £6,000


Resource Bases in Birmingham receive place funding for each commissioned space from the Local Authority.

In addition, from April 2022, when a pupil is placed within a Resource Base specialising in Autism, Cognition and Learning or Speech, Language and Communication Needs, the school will receive funding at the level of 5 Support Units.  If, at the point of consultation for the place, the setting feel that a higher level of funding is required, they will be able to request the higher rate of 6 Support Units.

Top up funding is reviewed as part of the Annual Review process and further changes can be requested as part of this.

Resource Bases specialising in Hearing and Vision Impairments will be funded via transitional arrangements for the 22/23 financial year whilst a working group look at a similar model of funding for these settings.

For children in Resource Bases with exceptional needs, the setting can apply for Exceptional Special Needs funding (ESN).  This will be considered by the Local Authority on a case by case basis, with the full funding envelope for the Resource Base being considered. 

More information about Support Units Funding can be found here: 

Birmingham Top-Up Funding Guidance


Birmingham Banded Funding

In April 2013 the National School Funding Reforms were introduced, that led to changes to the funding of special schools by local authorities.
Two major funding streams were introduced.

  • ‘Core’ funding entails £10, 000 per place to support the provision of pupils.
  • ‘Top Up’ funding is individual pupil led.

In 2013, working closely with special school head teachers, the Birmingham Banded Funding is the system that was developed by a working group for the allocation of the ‘Top Up’ element of the funding. Read more about the Birmingham Banded Funding ‘Top Up’ funding development.

The Banded Funding Model

The new Banded funding system is based on the classifications of SEN need as used in the Code of Practice school census data:

Classification of Need Code attached to classification
Speech, Language and Communication A
Cognition and Learning B
Social Emotional Mental Health C
Sensory D
Physical E

The detailed descriptors for each band are set out in the Birmingham Banded Funding descriptors document.

It is envisaged that the majority of pupils assessed at Band 1 will be having their needs met in mainstream primary provision through developed funding. No ‘top up’ funding is allocated to this Band. If a pupil is in specialist provision, the school will still secure the ‘core costs’ for the pupil.

Following appropriate assessment, all pupils will be placed on a Band according to their primary area of need. The banding decision is based on the actual needs of the student and the school provision in place to meet the needs. The assessment is based on a best fit model.

Once a pupil’s primary need has been identified then they will be assessed on the level of complexity; there are 4 levels.

For example a pupil whose primary need is Cognition and Learning could be assessed as B1, B2, B3, and B4. Read more about the descriptors used for each classification of need in the Birmingham Banded Funding descriptors document.