Demonstrating the impact of SEN funding: overview template and guide

As well as calculating the cost of SEND provision, a SENCO should be able to assess its value for money. Natalie Packer offers advice for finding and evidencing impact

Author details

Natalie Packer is an independent education consultant, specialising in school improvement, SEN and outstanding teaching. She delivers a wide range of professional development packages for primary and secondary schools and supports initial teacher...

One of the strategic roles of the SENCO is to advise on the effective and efficient deployment of resources. This means ensuring that money spent on additional or different provision has a real impact on pupil outcomes.

In the current climate, where many schools are struggling financially (and SEND is often one of the first areas to be affected by cutbacks), it is more important than ever that the SENCO and other senior leaders can demonstrate that the provision for pupils with SEN is offering value for money.

Funding streams

Your school will have an amount identified within its overall budget, called the notional SEN budget. This is not a ring-fenced amount, and it is for the school to decide exactly how much to spend on SEND. Schools will also receive core funding for any pupil on roll, plus top-up funding for some pupils from the local authority’s high needs budget. This may run alongside an education, health and care plan (EHCP).

If, as SENCO, you are to confidently make decisions about whether or not the budget is being used efficiently for providing SEN support, you need to have a complete understanding of these SEND income streams.

Start by working with your school business manager or school business leader to build up a picture of core costs. Annual costs that are likely to be taken from the SEND budget include:

  • staffing for SEND provision (including additional costs, such as pension and National Insurance contributions)
  • commissioning of external services, such as educational psychologists, assessment services and speech and language therapists
  • specialist equipment and specialist aids (where not provided by the local authority)
  • curriculum materials and SEND resources, such as new intervention programmes, software and books
  • SEND administration costs
  • off-site provision costs (including transport), e.g. for pupils accessing alternative provision.

SEND-related staffing costs are likely to be the highest. This will include teaching assistants (TAs) delivering interventions and other staff providing additional support such as SEN teachers, family support workers or counsellors.

Where SEND provision is delivered by members of staff who have wider roles, for example TAs who may also support in class, you can work out what proportion of each week, on average, the staff member is spending on SEND provision and attribute the equivalent amount of their salary to SEND.

Other costs may come out of the SEND budget or elsewhere, for example SEND-related CPD might come from the SEND budget or from the whole school CPD budget (the SENCO’s salary, however, should come from the main salary budget, not SEN!).

Costing provision

Many SENCOs are now developing ways of managing the SEND budget and demonstrating value for money through the provision mapping (or management) process. You can use provision mapping strategically to develop additional provision to match the assessed needs of pupils across the school and to evaluate the impact on pupil progress.

Where costings are included as part of the overall provision map alongside outcomes, you can start to make judgements about their effectiveness and efficiency. In order to do this, for example for any additional intervention in place, the provision map will need to include:

  • staff involved in the delivery of the intervention
  • the hourly cost of the intervention, e.g. the cost of a TA to deliver it
  • the time taken for the intervention and how frequently it is run 
  • the staff to pupil ratio.

With this information, you can calculate an overall cost for the intervention or additional provision over a period of time (e.g. a term or annually). Additional one-off costs should also be taken into consideration when looking at the overall spend on SEN interventions, for example the initial cost of purchasing a commercially-produced intervention or time for training to support delivery.

Demonstrating outcomes

Once you have the costs, this information needs to sit alongside assessment data on the impact of the provision. Deciding whether or not a provision demonstrates good value for money can be challenging.

It is extremely difficult to show the exact impact of a specific intervention on pupil outcomes as there are so many variable factors, such as how well it was delivered, if the pupils attended all sessions, the added impact of day-to-day teaching.

However, where there is an appropriate baseline (or entry) and exit measure in place, this should provide a fairly good indication of how effective the intervention has been. Baseline measures might include:

  • teacher assessments against key curriculum steps/targets
  • standardised reading ages, spelling ages or numeracy ages
  • phonics knowledge checks
  • social or communication skills development
  • measures of social and emotional wellbeing.

Many evidence-based interventions will have their own built-in assessments that can be used for measuring progress. Where quantitative measures such as standardised scores are used for a group intervention, you can calculate an overall average of the group.

Gathering the views of the pupils, parents and staff involved in delivering the provision or intervention will also be valuable in order to get a holistic picture of its effectiveness.

Cost vs impact

Once costs have been calculated and impact measured, the next step is for SENCOs and senior leaders to decide whether or not a provision is demonstrating value for money.

While there is no exact formula for aligning the cost of an intervention with the level or quality of impact on pupil outcomes, a RAG rating approach is a good place to start. This way, you can use your professional judgement to assign red, yellow or green to each intervention based on what you believe is good progress for that particular intervention and that particular cohort of pupils.

The RAG rating will give a visual overview of the value for money judgement. The impact of SEN interventions summary sheet provides an example of how you can record this.

Where schools are using commercially developed software for provision mapping, some of these will have built in tools for providing an indication of intervention effectiveness. The Provision Map software by Edukey, for example, includes the option for schools to give an overall rating of the effectiveness of a provision and will calculate the average outcome for each provision.

Provision map also enables schools to easily record and track costings of provisions and will provide outcome reports for sharing with senior leaders and governors.

Using the information

To summarise, in order for the SENCO to fulfil their strategic role of advising on the effective and efficient deployment of resources, they need to:

  • have a clear understanding of income streams and spend on SEND
  • know what core costs are taken from the annual SEND budget
  • map additional provision and include costings
  • put measures in place to demonstrate impact of provisions on pupil outcomes
  • use the information on costings and impact, alongside their professional judgement, to decide how effective the provision is and if it demonstrates value for money.

The SEN funding and impact overview form provides a one-page template that you can use to summarise the information. This can be shared with other senior leaders and governors and used to make informed future planning and budgetary decisions that will lead to cost effective ways of meeting the needs of all pupils with SEND in the school.


Last Updated: 
12 Jun 2018