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In this section we will explain the financial support available for families to help with education and how schools get their funding.

Financial support and funding for childcare and early education (for children under 5) is in our Early Years section. Some grants and bursaries that aren’t specific to education can be used to help with education if you want them to.

Some pupils with Education Health Care Plans (EHCPs) receive personal budgets to pay for some aspects of their child’s education, information about this is available in the SEND Section.

Free School Meals

Information about who is eligible for free school meals, how to apply and what happens when the school is not in the borough you live in and appeals on decisions are on the Tower Hamlets Free School Meals Page.

All children of primary school age currently receive free school meals in Tower Hamlets regardless of their family income. Even if your child is receiving free schools automatically because of their age, it is helpful to still register for free school meals because this can make you entitled to various other benefits and discounts, for example, the Holiday Activity and Food Scheme.

If you have a question about free school meals, you can contact the team at [email protected] or call the benefits service on 020 7364 5000. Some questions about free school meals (that aren’t to do with eligibility and applying) are best answered by the school.

In our Money, Benefits and Food section, you can find information about other ways you can get help with food and paying for food.

Help with school uniform

A school clothing grant can help towards the cost of a school uniform for children aged 11 who are changing from primary to secondary school. Only one grant is payable during a child's school life.

Applications can only be made between 30 June and 30 September each year. Late applications and applications to people who don’t fit these criteria, will only be considered:

  • in exceptional circumstances (for example, being a recent asylum seeker)
  • if the benefits service has spare money to fund it
  • and with a letter of support from a child’s lead professional (usually a social worker) or someone from the Attendance and Welfare Service

For further information about the uniform grant, including how to apply please telephone the council's Benefits Contact Centre on 020 7364 5000 or visit the Tower Hamlets School Uniform Grant Webpage.

If you are having trouble paying for school uniform, you can also ask the school if they have any spare uniform or whether they know anywhere that donates second hand uniform to pupils.

Help with school trips

According to the government, your child’s school can ask you for a voluntary contribution to the cost of activities like school trips. They cannot stop your child from attending if you do not pay, but they will cancel the activity if there is not enough money to cover the cost of it.

You could use any money you receive from general education grants and bursaries to pay for trips if you want to.

Bursaries and grants for families and young people

The Tower Hamlets Education Maintenance Allowance will allow pupils in Sixth Form schools and colleges to apply for £400 to support them with their studies.

The University Bursary will support students with living costs at university. Students can apply for £1,500 to help with their undergraduate studies.

Both schemes have certain income and age criteria, and residence criteria (how long you have lived in Tower Hamlets). You can find out more about both schemes, including the eligibility criteria and how to apply on the Tower Hamlets EMA and University Bursary Webpage.

With the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund you can apply to receive up to £1,200 to cover learning costs (such as travel or equipment). You can apply if you are a care leaver, disabled student on Income Support, or you receive Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) / Personal Independence Payment (PIP). You can apply through your school, college, or training provider. The college or provider may also offer their own discretionary bursaries.

If you are aged 19 or over, you can apply for Discretionary Learner Support to receive support for learning costs such as travel, equipment, or childcare. You apply through your college or learning provider.

Job Centre Plus can advise students who are claiming benefits about what support they can get.

You can find out how to apply and look for other further education grants, bursaries and scholarships on the UCAS website.

There are various grants available for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) that are intended for use around education, health or care needs including Disabled Students Allowance.

Disability Rights UK has comprehensive and useful information with everything you need to know about applying for Disabled Students Allowance, including the processes and timescales for making an application.

How do schools get their funding?

Understanding how schools are funded can be complicated. Schools can get the money they need to run from lots of different places, but it is mostly decided by the National Funding Formula. Schools can get more money depending on various things, like how many pupils they have whose families have low incomes, and through SEN budgets.

More information about how schools are funded are available on the Government's Education Hub Blog. The Council also shares information school funding in Tower Hamlets.

If you want to know more about how a schools in Tower Hamlets are funded, you can make a Freedom of Information Request. If your child attends a school outside of Tower Hamlets, you may need to do it to a different borough. You can also make Freedom of Information Requests to schools directly.

Special Educational Need and Disability (SEND) funding in schools

All mainstream schools have money for special educational needs support and resources.  Schools can decide how to spend this money.  For example, children with SEN may need:

  • some changes to the curriculum
  • special equipment or teaching materials
  • the use of additional information technology
  • small group work
  • support in the classroom
  • a base to work quietly or have some down time

There are three elements of funding for schools which can be used to meet a child's SEN:

The first element is based upon the number of pupils on roll at a school.  Some of this money should be used for SEN provision.  This might, for example, include the cost of providing the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) and some other resources.  The council gives this funding to the schools that it is responsible for, using a formula agreed every year with the local Schools Forum.  The Education Funding Agency gives this funding for academies and free schools.

The second element of funding is to enable the school support vulnerable groups and individuals who may have SEN.  This also is a formula driven with schools having the highest needs having the greatest funding.  It goes to schools from either the council or the Education Funding Agency. A mainstream school has up to £6,000 from its SEN budget to spend on each child who needs additional help to make progress. In a Pupil Referral Unit (a specialist setting for children/young people without a school place) that figure is £8,000 and in a special school it is £10,000.

The third element of funding is for the very few children who have complex needs.  Schools may request some additional money to ‘top-up’ their own funding.  The council is responsible for managing the funding schools can use to make specific provision for an individual child or group of children. If a child has an EHCP, the council provides additional funding from what is called the 'High Needs Block'.

Funding for Post-16 Settings (including SEND)

Up to age 18, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) funds full time study for all students and, in maintained settings and non-maintained special schools, the ESFA funds additional SEN Support. From 19, the ESFA pays for course fees for regulated qualifications and additional learning support, but you need to check before enrolling. You may be required to contribute if you are repeating a course (although not for English and Maths). The ESFA will fund qualifications listed on the DfE Section 96 list of qualifications and Register of Regulated Qualifications. Additional funding above SEN Support is accessed via an EHCP.

For pupils over 18 who require learning support costing more than £19,000 per annum due to a disability (but do not also have a SEN and aren’t eligible for an EHCP), education providers may apply for Exceptional Learning Support from the Skills Funding Agency.

For students over 18 with an EHCP, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) continues to pay for your course fees and SEN Support up to and including the age of 25, although it is expected that most young people will choose to leave full time education or training before age 25 and move into adult life. Conditions of ESFA funding beyond 18 include:

  • English and Maths study alongside other learning if you have not already achieved Level 2 (GCSE grades A* - C or 4 to 9, or functional skills level 2)
  • Evidence of progress: this means moving up a level after each course and not repeating the same course twice at the same level. However, a different subject/pathway at the same level is sometimes acceptable if there is a clear need or benefit to be gained.

Traineeships and Apprenticeships are funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency  including additional learning support needs. Students with an EHCP on a traineeship or apprenticeship will retain their plan whilst on the placement. If you have an EHCP and on an apprenticeship, the ESFA will fund your training including additional learning support provision from age 16 to 25.

For Supported Internships, sometimes the learning part of the programme is delivered by an ESFA registered provider, so is funded by ESFA. If it is not, the Local Authority will fund it via an EHCP.

Job coaches and additional support in the workplace whilst on a traineeship, supported internship or apprenticeship can be funded by Access to Work if they aren’t already funded. Providers should be willing to make the application with you or on your behalf.

Who manages a settings SEND resources?

School governors are responsible for the school’s policy on SEND and how the school uses its resources.  The Headteacher and the SENCO ensure that the policy is put into practice.  The SENCO organises support for individual children.  Every teacher is responsible for making sure that your child’s special educational needs are met in the classroom.

The SEN Information Report on the school’s website will tell you more about the arrangements for SEN support and the contact details for the SENCO.

How do I find out what resources my child is getting?

The first step is to talk with your child’s teacher or the SENCO.  This may be at a parents’ evening, support plan meeting or review.  You can ask for a written copy of any support plan that is in place for your child.

If your child has an EHCP it should set out the support and resources that are provided.