Building for the future: Funding provisions for students with SEND

Serving the whole City of Salford, Springwood Primary School, Swinton, is a unique and successful school offering specialist education for pupils aged two to 11 years, all of whom have an education health care plan. MARIE CAHALANE speaks to CATHERINE KELSALL, SBM, about high needs funding and the school’s plans for expansion

There are 1.1 million students with special education needs or disabilities (SEND) in schools across England. More than eight in 10 (82%) schools across England have insufficient funding to adequately provide for SEND students and almost nine in 10 (89%) school leaders have seen the support they receive for SEND provision affected by cuts to local authority (LA) services. As budgets tighten, how do you ensure that you’re delivering the education that each student needs?

A high needs formula vs high needs provision

The high needs funding system supports SEND provision for pupils and students from early years to age 25. Under the Children and Families Act 2014 it’s the LAs statutory duty to provide – support and fund – arrangements for high needs students; it is the obligation of the LA to use its high needs budget to provide the most appropriate care/education for those with SEND.

However, every LAs funding framework – and, therefore, provision – differs. Catherine draws attention to Bolton, a LA that is next-door to Springwood’s, where SEND funding differs – theirs is a lot higher. “We’ve had discussions with our LA, telling them that some children require one-to-one tuition and the funding we receive – even with the top-up funding – doesn’t support this; it doesn’t pay for one-to-one tuition.”

Unravelling the funding matrix

High needs funding can be broken down into two main areas: core funding and top-up funding.

Core funding is paid either through a LA or the EFSA and is allocated to mainstream schools and academy budgets via the DSG schools block and the local funding formulae. There’s also place funding of £10,000 per place for special schools, academies and special units within mainstream schools and academies, which is drawn from the high needs block.

Top-up funding is allocated where a student’s needs can’t be met using core/place funding – they require a top-up to support that student’s learning. This funding comes from the LA and is paid to institutions from the high needs budget of the student’s LA.

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At Springwood discussion has been on-going with the LA to ensure that each student is receiving the top-up funding that they require. How the new high needs funding formula will effect Springwood – and other schools and their students who depend it – remains to be seen.

Building to accommodate the future

Springwood Primary School is the only special school in their LA and the school’s doors are open to every child who needs their support – in fact, Springwood is about to expand, opening a ‘satellite school’ to cater for growing demand and the changing needs of students. As Catherine points out, although the existing building is only 17 years old, they’ve out grown it. “I think it’s mainly because, in special needs, the children’s needs have changed. We have a lot more children who try to get in to mainstream schools to free-up the places for other children to come here.”

The new provision will be for nursery and reception children and is due to open in September. It’s intended to be an extension of Springwood; however, due to a lack of a suitable space on or near their primary location, it’s quite a distance away from the current site – at the other end of Salford.

The new school is funded by the LA; obliged to provide a place for every student, and with only one school in their jurisdiction, the odds are in Springwood’s favour. “They’ve got to provide the education for that child and if we don’t take them they would have to go outside of the authority,” Catherine says – a potentially very expensive alternative solution.

For Catherine it’s a matter of ensuring – and maintaining – a strong working relationship with the LA. The LA understands that, at Springwood students, are number one and that school staff will endeavour to do their best by each – they just need the funding to do so.

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