SEND top-up


  1. Project outputs
  2. Timeline

Led by Bristol City Council, this project set out to develop a digitalised Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) top-up portal to make it easier and more consistent for schools to apply for extra funding for pupils with SEND.

Our funding supported the project team to expand on what they had built during their Alpha and Beta Phase 1 to create a fully working Beta tool. The code and guidance for the tool is hosted on Github for other councils to access and use.

After completing the Beta phase, the team are busy testing the tool with a selection of schools in Bristol and are also going through a public consultation within Bristol City Council so it can be fully implemented.

The tool that the team created could also be used for applying for Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) funding. The team are aware that this would benefit more than just Bristol City Council and are preparing an application for continuous funding in the new financial year to expand the tool further.

Project outputs

The code and guidance for the SEND tool is hosted on Github for other councils to access and use: View the code on Github.

This project has also produced the following outputs that are available to download:


Contact if you are having problems accessing any of the outputs.

Project timeline

November 2021

The project is awarded £312,400 of funding through Round 5 of the Local Digital Fund to conduct a beta phase.

December 2021

The project team held an ‘End of Sprint 9 demo session’ to showcase the work they have done so far on the tool.

  • reviewed and fed back on the need statement data that is now live
  • refined the two remaining needs categories: Hearing & Sensory processing and integration
  • updated the summary page to include provisions
  • deepened their understanding of the provisions data set, and agreed an approach for structuring the raw data
  • finishing the testing on all completed need statement tickets

January 2022

February 2022

  • completed 3 user demos for SEND coordinators (SENDCos) and planning for one-to-one user testing sessions
  • made the provision pages live and updated the summary page with the ability to remove a selected provision
  • included mapping provisions data
  • included removing the assessment ID
  • began the automation test builds
  • started refinement for costs within the application

March 2022

The team are almost at the end of the first phase of their project and are nearly ready to launch their beta MVP with the SEND Co-ordinators (SENDCos). They have already held some one-to-one user research sessions with the SENDCos.

The team took the first step in making the code shareable – creating the Github page ready to build on

They kicked off conversations with the comms team at the council about how we can better communicate the tool out to a wider audience

The team also had a planning session to plan their priorities for Phase 2 sprints, and met to discuss their comms plan going forward.

April-May 2022

In March the team held a half-day planning session to start prototyping Phase Two designs, so that they’re ready to test with users. It was good to get everyone together to look at options for taking the minimum viable product (MVP) to a more mature product that covers the application process.

The project took an important first step towards making the code shareable — creating a Github page.

They have also made some small changes to the tool, including:

  • the ability to delete an assessment
  • linking the user directly into the assessment
  • removal of need levels from statements

In April, the MVP beta tool went live and the team is planning to hold a live demo of the tool with the SEND finance team during the next sprint.

The team is also looking to start recording some baseline metrics on timings — the time taken to complete a SEND application without the new tool, and with the new tool — in May or June.

On Wednesday 27 April, Amy and Alison from the project team met with three colleagues from the SEND reform division team at the UK Department for Education (DfE). This meeting was arranged by LDCU following DfE’s Green Paper on the SEND process and their plans to streamline it, and the subsequent BBC news article about this. Both teams were keen to meet to discuss the project and to share learnings that will help them shape the work.

Following the meeting, during which the project team gave a demo of the tool and shared what they had achieved so far, the two teams will keep in touch and Bristol have shared their user guide and funding spreadsheet with the DfE.

Meanwhile, Alison has recruited nine SENDCo’s to engage with the use of the tool and to feedback as part of the team’s user research.

The team has been busy working on the prototype development for Phase 2 and has started to build the ‘overview’ page.

They are continuing to investigate access via Azure for all schools and have resolved access for those schools in the Azure IT eco-system.

Amy from the team also presented about the project at the Local Digital South West Roadshow on Tuesday 24 May.

June 2022

The team have now made their SEND repository code public in GitHub, which is an exciting milestone for the project.

The team continues to work through their sprint card tickets, including bread-crumbing and testing.

August 2022

The team continues to test the tool for feedback with SENDCOs (Special Educational Needs and Disability Coordinators), gathering information on how long the current SEND application process takes so they can compare the time savings when the new tool is used. The process of including the provision costs in the tool is almost complete, and the team hopes to have this deployed this week.

The team have also focussed on understanding and building the process for what happens when a SENDCO (special educational needs and disabilities coordinator) submits additional information to their application.

The project is on track to finish this phase at the end of September, when the beta version of the tool will be tested by a group of SENDCOs. They are keen to maintain momentum during this period and will look to apply for CFM in February for their next phase.

October 2022

At the end of September, the project team held a successful refinement session.

This phase of work will finish on Thursday 10 November so the team are anticipating an intense couple of weeks as they wrap things up.

November 2022

The team held their final Show and Tell and demonstration of their Beta tool on Tuesday 22 November.

The tool is now going through a public consultation so it can be fully implemented. In the meantime, the tool is being trialled by a selection of SENDCo’s for upcoming rounds of SEND top up funding.

Now this phase of the project is complete, the project team are working on producing their output documents for Local Digital to publish on our website and comms channels.

January 2023

Following the end of Phase 2 of the SEND top-up project, the team now has a fully working Beta product. The team are busy testing the tool within schools and are still waiting on a public consultation within Bristol which will mean that it can be rolled out locally. 

The current phase funding from the Local Digital team has now come to an end, and the team are starting to plan for possible continuous funding in the new financial year which may include exploring if the tool can also be used for EHCP assessments.

The team have produced the following end-of phase-project outputs: