Initial Options for Future Top Up Funding for Children and Young People with an EHCP

1.    Recommendations

1.1 AGREE: to a detailed costing exercise for each resourced provision to be completed, with the results and recommendation brought back to Schools’ Forum in January 2021 for consideration

1.2 AGREE: which options to explore in partnership with schools to determine which is ‘fit for purpose’. A more detailed report containing an options appraisal alongside a suitable way forward to be brought back to Schools Forum in March 2021.

2.    Introduction

2.1 Reading’s SEND strategy was approved in 2017.  The strategy determines our approach to SEND across the authority and is the cornerstone of our support for children with Education, Care and Health Plans (ECHPS) as well as vulnerable children and young people.  The key guiding themes of the strategy are:

  • SEND is everybody’s business.
  • Right support / right time.
  • Local provision that meets local needs.
  • Making best practice common practice.
  • Co-production at the heart of what we do: changing the way in which we work together with families operationally and strategically; doing with families, not doing to.
  • Parents / carers and young people are confident in local provision.

2.2 The strategy is supported by a funding regime which aims to direct resources to support our approach. The strategy is due to be revised during 2021 and a new strategy put in place to cover 2022-2027.

2.3 The system of place funding and top up funding was introduced by the Government in 2013 and it therefore predates our strategy. The funding regime has not been reviewed since 2013 nor has there been a consideration of the impact on schools. It is felt that it is timely to review the funding regime to ensure it aligns with our strategic intent.

2.4 Under this funding system, place (or base) funding is as follows:

  • Mainstream – the first £6k of a pupil’s additional needs is met from the school’s delegated budget (notional SEN amount). Proxy factors in the school funding formula such as deprivation and low prior attainment will go towards this allocation within an individual school’s budget.
  • Resourced provision/SEN units in mainstream schools receive £6k place funding (in addition to formula funding) or £10k for places unoccupied/pupil’s not present in the previous October census and thus not included in the formula funding
  • Special schools receive £10k place funding.

These are national amounts which are determined by the Government and cannot be changed. Funding is fixed for the year and once determined cannot be clawed back for unfilled places. The local authority where the school is based is responsible for the funding, including agreeing any additional funding where a school goes over its funded places even if the placement is from another local authority.

2.5 In addition, Reading operate a formula for providing additional funding to mainstream schools with a disproportionate number of pupils with EHCPs. This is to supplement the first £6k which due to their high numbers cannot be met from their main formula funding.

2.6 Top Up Funding is the amount of additional funding required over and above the base funding to help them meet the needs of a pupil with SEND. The more severe and complex the needs, the higher the funding given. The funding requirement is determined from the EHCP process with reference to the current banding structure. Each local authority determines the top up funding/banding structure for their schools. The funding follows the pupil so is paid for the specific number of days the pupil is in receipt of the EHCP in the school. The local authority where the pupil lives (the commissioning local authority) is responsible for the top up payment to the school.

2.7 Further information on the funding system can be found in the High Needs Operational Guide.

2.8 The current funding model uses several bands to provide a range of top up funding. The funding is based on the provision attended rather than the individual needs of the child or young person. A different band range is used depending on whether a pupil attends a mainstream school, resourced provision, or special school. The current bands and values are shown in Appendix 1.

2.9 The reasons for seeking a change to the current model are as follows:

  • The banding system predates our SEND strategy and no longer reflects our strategic intent or direction.
  • The banding values have not been reviewed for several years (until September 2020) and are out of date.
  • Due to a shortage of specialist places, more pupils are having their needs met within mainstream settings, but the current banding system does not reflect this and there is a lack of consistency.
  • Several bespoke packages are having to be determined as the current banding system doesn’t reflect some pupil’s needs.
  • It can be difficult for parents and professionals to understand the current system.

2.10 A new model needs to meet the following criteria:

  • Align with the latest SEND Code of Practice (2015).
  • Support the aims of the SEND strategy.
  • Offer a banding framework across educational settings that is fair and provides transparency in how the LA assigns monetary values at each band.
  • Be easy to understand with a simple approach.
  • Reflect increasing complexity of need and associated support/provision required.
  • Be consistent in how funding of high needs pupils across settings is distributed by establishing the same level of entitlement.
  • Enable settings to provide equity of opportunity for children with SEND to achieve their best possible outcomes.
  • Helps shape how the LA and colleagues in schools understand SEND and specialist support and provision.
  • Assist the LA in its statutory duty to monitor and evaluate effectiveness of SEN provision.
  • Be affordable and ensure value for money.

3.    Background Data

3.1 The specialist provision available in Reading for pupil’s with SEND currently consists of:

Special Schools

Schools set up specifically to provide an education for children with a special educational need or disability whose needs cannot be met within a mainstream setting. There are currently three schools in Reading (plus Thames Valley Free School which set their own rates and are outside this review):

  • The Avenue (175 places)
  • Holy Brook (32 places)
  • Hamilton (64 places)

Resourced Provision / SEN Unit

Resourced provision is for pupils who spend most of their time in mainstream classes, only attending the facilities for individual support, to learn a specific skill, to receive medical or therapeutic support or to access specialist equipment. The facilities can be in a suite or dispersed throughout the school. Pupils in a SEN unit tend to spend most of their time there, only attending mainstream classes for a few lessons, such as PE, assembly or for lunch. In Reading there are currently six schools providing resourced provision:

  • Blessed Hugh (25 places)
  • EP Collier (12 places)
  • Christ The King (21 places)
  • Highdown (5 places)
  • Prospect (30 places)
  • Southcote (4 places, rising to 12 from September 2023)

3.2 The current number of places in specialist provision in Reading schools is 368. In addition, Thames Valley school has 54 places. Some of these places are occupied by pupils from other local authorities who are responsible for the top up payment. The current number of Reading pupils with an EHCP is 1,410, and 466 (33%) of these are in mainstream schools. 

3.3 The number of EHCPs continues to rise both in Reading and nationally. Table 1 shows data for Reading by type of provision against the national and local picture. The numbers are per 1000 of the 2 – 18 population in order to provide a meaningful comparison. Our numbers overall are greater than the average, but less in NMSS/Independent and Alternative, with more in mainstream and special schools reflecting our commitment to provide local provision for our pupils as far as possible.

Table 1: Numbers of EHCPs

Number aged up to 25 with SEN statement or EHCP

Per 1000 of 2-18 population
Reading 2017/18 England 2017/18South East 2017/18Reading 2018/19England 2018/19South East 2018/19Reading 2019/20England 2019/20South East 2019/20
Mainstream Schools 10.5 9.3 8.0 10.4 9.6 8.9 11.4 10.3 9.6
Resource Provision/Units 2.8 1.6 2.4 2.7 1.4 1.8 3.0 1.6 2.2
Special Schools 11.1 9.3 9.5 11.8 9.9 9.9 11.9 10.5 10.7
NMSS/Independent 1.8 1.6 2.0 1.8 1.7 2.0 1.7 1.9 2.5
Post 16 3.4 2.9 3.1 6.1 4.1 4.6 7.0 5.0 5.5
Alternative/Other 1.9 1.0 1.4 1.2 1.6 2.0 1.7 1.9 2.0
Total 31.4 25.7 26.5 34.0 28.4 29.4 36.7 31.2 32.5

Source: ESFA High Needs Benchmarking Tool Version 6a

3.4 Table 2 shows the cost of top ups per head of 2 – 18 population. Our mainstream top up costs are significantly lower than the average, suggesting that these top up values are out of date. However, we are above for special schools, PRUs and further education many of which are out of county placements.

Table 2: Top Up Costs

Top up funding

Per head of 2-18 population
Reading 2017/18England 2017/18South East 2017/18Reading 2018/19England 2018/19South East 2018/19Reading 2019/20England 2019/20South East 2019/20
Early Years £0 £2 £1 £4 £2 £1 £4 £1 £1
Primary mainstream £20 £49 £43 £16 £52 £45 £41 £54 £46
Secondary mainstream £22 £31 £23 £21 £30 £23 £22 £32 £23
Special schools £159 £105 £104 £211 £111 £112 £217 £120 £125
PRUs £19 £13 £10 £20 £15 £10 £19 £14 £9
Further Education £15 £15 £14 £17 £15 £14 £27 £18 £16
Total £235 £216 £196 £289 £224 £206 £329 £240 £220

Source: ESFA High Needs Benchmarking Tool Version 6a

3.5 The current number of Reading pupils receiving top up funding in Reading schools is shown in Table 3 by level of funding.

Table 3: Number of Reading pupils in Reading Schools by value of top up as at October 2020

Top Up Value Mainstream No. of Pupils Resource Unit No. of Pupils Special School No. of Pupils Total No. of Pupils
Up to £2,000   10   10
£2,000 to £7,500 317 47   364
£7,500 to £10,000 19   12 31
£10,000 to £20,000 4 4 128 136
£20,000 to £30,000     71 71
£30,000 to £40,000     7 7
Over £40,000       0
Total 340 61 218 619

3.6 The total number of Reading pupils split between Reading schools and out of county is shown in Table 4. This table excludes independent/NMSS, further education and PRU/Alternative placements. In order to keep more pupils local, as well as building more specialist provision the funding needs to be at appropriate levels.

Table 4: Number of pupils by location as at October 2020

Type Reading Schools Out of County Total No. of Pupils
Mainstream 346 101 447
Resource Units 72 21 93
Special Schools 218 212* 430
Total 636 334 970

* Includes 112 pupils at Brookfields School

4.    Options for Future Top Up Funding/Banding

4.1 The Director of Education has been in discussions with a number of headteachers regarding SEND funding.  It is clear that there is an urgent need to conduct a review of the whole system.  This will include children with plans in mainstream schools, maintained schools with resourced provision, special schools, academies and maintained schools. It will also build on the recent review of provision undertaken by Deborah Hunter. A series of options have been identified as the basis for an options appraisal exercise.

4.2 Option 1 – Uprate the current bandings

Under this option, all bandings would be uprated by a percentage (to be determined). No change would be made to the current banding structure, and the same percentage increases are added to each band annually. A large percentage increase initially could address current possible funding shortfalls, and thereafter increases would be at the rate of inflation. Although this is an easy option to implement, it does not address the inbuilt disparities in the current bandings particularly in resourced provision i.e. that children in the same provision can have different needs. It would not necessarily be allocating the additional funding to where it is needed most.

4.3 Option 2 – Re-cost current bandings

The original assumptions which determined the current bandings are recalculated at current costs i.e. by using the current average cost of a support assistant, teacher etc at the ratios used for the original bandings. This could be implemented very quickly. Although this would ensure the bands are set to the current cost, it would still not resolve any disparities or reflect current practice.

4.4 Option 3 – Re-cost each type of provision

A full costing exercise is undertaken for each provision to reflect current practice for meeting pupil’s needs. New bandings are set for each provision considering their actual current costs. Once the costing exercise has been carried out, verified and benchmarked and the new bandings agreed, it would be straightforward to implement. It could result in new/additional bandings, e.g. two tier bandings for each resourced provision and additional bandings for mainstream. It would still mean that funding is based on where the pupil is placed rather than each individual pupil’s needs, and there could be an increased number of bandings.

4.5 Option 4 – Design a single banding model with the following features:

  • A matrix of needs descriptors aligned to the Code of Practice to decide what kind of SEND a child or young person has and how severe or complex their needs are which supports the need identified in the EHCP.
  • Is a progression from the Graduated Response Guidance.
  • Is linked to suggestions of evidence professionals can use to help assess the pupil’s needs; and the kind of support and provision that is likely to be required to meet those needs.
  • the banding of mainstream, resource units and special schools is amalgamated, so that a pupil will be eligible for equivalent funding irrespective of where they are placed. The principle being that the level of funding to deliver EHCP outcomes should be the same regardless of the setting the pupil attends. This will support broader inclusion within our mainstream schools. Thus, the number of bands available for each type of provision will increase and offer maximum flexibility.

Slough, alongside a growing number of LAs are using a single banding model. Slough’s model consists of a Matrix of “needs descriptors” for each of the four main SEND categories as identified in the Code of Practice, across 6 levels of severity and complexity, that professionals can use to determine from the EHCP the funding level(s) required to meet the pupil’s needs. It is one set of funding bands that can be used for mainstream, resourced mainstream and special schools. The following tables are from Slough’s model and are provided as an example of what a single banding model looks like. Table 5 shows the matrix (which is accompanied by full descriptors applicable for each box) and the scores allocated for each identified need. Table 6 converts the score into a band and top up value. Table 7 provides an example of converting the scores into top up value.

Table 5: The 6 levels are weighted to ensure that scores reflect increasing complexity of need and associated support/provision required

LevelSensory/physicalCommunication and interactionSEMHCognition and learning
0 0 0 0 0
1 1 1 1 1
2 2 2 2 2
3 4 4 4 4
4 8 8 8 8
5 16 16 16 16
6 32 32 32 32

Table 6: The matrix scores map onto 11 progressive levels of funding

BandScore rangeTop up value £Notional placement
1 3-4 2,000 Mainstream
2 5-6 3,000 Mainstream
3 7-10 5,000 Mainstream
4 11-15 7,500 Mainstream
5 16-17 8,500 Mainstream/Resource Base
6 18-20 10,000 Resource Base
7 21-30 15,000 Resource Base
8 31-40 20,000 Resource Base/Special
9 41-50 25,000 Special
10 51-60 30,000 Special
11 61+ 40,000 Special

Table 7: Example

Level or scoreSensory/physical – PD, PNI, SP, IndSensory/physical – hearingSensory/physical – visionCommunication and interaction – S&LCommunication and interaction – Soc, Comm, ASDSEMHCognitive and learningTotal scoreBandValue
Level 3 0 0 1 4 53
Score 4 4 4 8 8 16432 8 £20,000

If this option is considered to be the best way forward, there would be a long lead in and implementation time, so it is not a short term solution. We would need to develop our own model based on this structure by determining our own descriptors, weightings and top up values. However, the Slough model does provide a starting point to this process.

4.6 Option 5 – Funding determined by the EHCP

This moves away from a structured banding system. Each individual pupil’s needs as set out in the EHCP is allocated funding. For example, if one to one support for 20 hours is identified in the EHCP as the level of support and provision required to meet the pupil’s needs, then this would be the allocated top up funding (after applicable place funding is deducted) based on a standard hourly rate. Specialist sessions such as therapy would be added again at a standard hourly rate. In effect each individual pupil’s funding would be a bespoke calculation but based on a table of standard rates calculated and set annually by the Local Authority. Although possibly the ideal, as each pupil has his/her own banding this would involve significant time to administer, moderate, and financially monitor and control. It is thought that no other LA operates such a system.    

5.    Next Steps

5.1 Schools Forum is asked if it wishes all the five options to be further explored, or if there are any it wishes to disregard at this stage. An options appraisal will be brought back to the Schools’ Forum in March 2021 for all options being considered.

5.2 An implementation date would depend on the final option chosen. Options 4 and 5 would probably not be able to be implemented until September 2022, but the other options could be much sooner, and could also be brought in as an interim solution. Any permanent changes to the banding system would require a consultation on the proposals.

5.3 It is proposed that because a review of resourced provision is overdue, that a full costing exercise as outlined in Option 3 is carried out now for these six schools. The results will be brought back to Schools’ Forum in January 2021 to consider amending their bandings in the interim until the full review has determined the way forward for all provisions. 

6.    Appendices

Appendix 1 – Current Top Up Bandings and Values

Type of schoolPrevious top up fee £New top up fee £
Special schools
HOLY BROOK – 32 PLACES17,00017,850
HAMILTON (SEMH) – 64 PLACES13,00013,650
EP COLLIER S&L – 12 PLACES1,7181,804
HIGHDOWN VI – 5 PLACES11,53412,111
SOUTHCOTE SCD – 4 PLACES (from 1/9/20) 7,063
BAND A (20 HRS)2,3002,740
BAND B (25 HRS)4,4004,925
BAND C (30 HRS)6,5007,110
Last updated on 14/04/2023