SEN unit funding under threat, say associations

Head teachers and school business managers have warned that funding cuts could cause special educational needs (SEN) units at mainstream schools to close.

Two associations, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the National Association for School Business Managers (NASBM), have raised concerns over plans to reduce ‘per place funding’ for mainstream schools with special units from £10,000 to £6,000.

While both associations support the commitment to a national system to close funding discrepancies, the fear remains that large variations in special educational needs (SEN) funding could still exist.

In their response to the government consultation on high SEN the associations said: “Our key concern is that the proposals only deal with how local authorities are funded at a national level. They fail to address the key issue of inconsistent approaches to top up funding, which mean that a child with the same needs can attract £2,000 of education funding in one local authority but £20,000 in another.”

Commenting on the consultation response, Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The high needs funding formula has not gone far enough. Proposals fail to tackle the discrepancy in how different local authorities allocate top up funding to meet the needs of children with SEND needs. This creates some of the greatest inequities in school funding.”

Stephen Morales, chief executive of NASBM, echoed those thoughts: “We would like to see further detail on the relationship between high needs funding and the schools block, ensuring that funding adequately meets the needs of both mainstream and high needs pupils - we want to avoid robbing Peter to pay Paul. If pupil mobility is removed as a factor, we would seek assurances that this crucial aspect of funding is reflected elsewhere within the funding mechanism.”

Read more