Funding proposals could threaten future of SEN units

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:

Schools could be forced to close special needs units if proposed funding reforms go ahead, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has warned.

The government recently consulted over changes to the funding formula for children with SEND and is currently considering the responses.

Among the proposals is a reduction in the per-place funding for mainstream schools with special units – from £10,000 to £6,000. The rest of the funding would then become dependent on the number of pupils in the unit in any one year.

The NAHT says that this could be “disastrous” for such units and could lead to “potential closures”. It is urging the Department for Education (DfE) to consult further before making its final decision.

The issue is among those tackled in the NAHT’s latest “Getting it Right” pamphlet – Funding Pupils With Complex Needs – which was published last week.

An article in the pamphlet by Chris Hill, a primary headteacher whose school has a unit providing support for up to 20 pupils, argues against the funding reduction. It states: “There would be no guarantee of funding to cover the core costs of keeping a unit open, regardless of the number of children attending.”

It warns that the plan would create “uncertainty and financial risk for schools with special units”

Mr Hill writes: “Running (our) centre relies on the ‘place’ funding that we receive to cover the fixed costs. Any threats to these could undermine the viability of the unit. The biggest challenge we would face, if the guaranteed place funding was reduced would be in maintaining the staffing to pupil ratios.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT, is urging the DfE to listen to views “from the frontline”.

He said: “As we await the publication of the Education For All Bill, we hope the government will listen to the concerns of school leaders in making changes to how high needs funding works. We are open to consulting further on changes, and hope the government will take the opportunity to have a broad and meaningful conversation with professionals by publishing the Bill in draft form.”

Elsewhere, concern has also been raised about the “enormous discrepancies” in how local authorities approach top-up SEND funding for students with very complex needs.

It says that the proposed funding changes fail to address this problem, which can mean a child with the same needs attracts £2,000 of education funding in one local authority but £20,000 is another.

The pamphlet calls for greater controls and guidance “to ensure that funding is fairly distributed within local authorities”.

To download the pamphlet, visit

This material is protected by MA Education Limited copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.


Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
About Us

Headteacher Update is the only magazine delivered directly to every primary school headteacher in the UK. It is published six times a year, at the beginning of each term and half-term, to keep headteachers up-to-date with everything going on in primary education.

Learn more about Headteacher update


Register to receive regular updates on primary education news delivered free to your inbox.