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Individual Education Plans (IEPs)

Please be aware that this section contains information prepared in 2009 and may now be out of date. Some links may no longer work. We are reviewing this section.


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Case studies


If your child has learning difficulties or special educational needs the school should record the help they plan to give your child.  They will often do this in a document called an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

An IEP is a working document for any child with special educational needs (SEN).  It is a working document for all teaching staff. It should set out for each individual child what should be taught, how it should be taught and how often. Some local authorities (LAs) use a different name for an IEP, such as provision mapping, and we cover this at the end of this section.  Other local authorities will use different methods to set short term targets for children and monitor their progress and this is covered below in the section called ‘alternatives to IEPs’.

The aim of the IEP is to raise the achievement of your child.  If your child is receiving additional help at school through either School Action or School Action Plus (or their Early Years equivalents) they will generally have an IEP (see the separate section on School Action and School Action Plus). If your child has a statement then they will still need an IEP or an alternative since the focus of the IEP is shorter term and can complement the longer term objectives and provision in the statement.

What should be in an IEP?
The IEP should set out:
•    What the agreed targets for your child are
•    What help should be given
•    How the help is to be given
•    Who will give the help
•    How often the help will be given
•    When that help is to be reviewed
•    How it will be decided if the help has been successful
•    How it will be decided if the help is no longer needed
•    What has actually happened.

What sort of targets?

IEPs should focus on up to three or four key individual short-term targets. The targets should relate to the following key areas:
•    communication
•    literacy
•    mathematics
•    behaviour
•    social skills.

It is really important that just a few key priorities are set which are focused on current priorities – particular areas in which your child is struggling.  The targets in an IEP will be set by or for your child and should be in small steps. Targets should be simply set out so that both you and your child can understand the goals that are being worked towards.  It should be clear what is being worked towards and by when it is hoped that the goal will have been achieved.  A target might be written like this, “by the end of the term John will be able to...”.

In this way your child should get a clear sense of their own progression and success.  This kind of short term feedback can be very encouraging and rewarding for pupils and parents.

IEP Targets should be SMART, that is
Specific – clearly focused on particular areas and be easy to understand by all staff and parents
Measurable – teachers need to consider how they will know if a child has succeeded in meeting the target and how they can help pupils monitor their own progress
Achievable – small steps of progress that can be made quickly are better than long term goals
Relevant – the targets should match the long term objectives for the child and promote effective planning
Time-bound – a realistic period of time should be set for achieving the target.

Outside specialists, such as educational psychologists or a speech and language therapists may provide advice and assessments to help prepare the IEP, especially where a child has a statement or is receiving help at Action Plus.

The IEP in practice

Your child’s class teacher or teachers are a critical part of the IEP process.  Teachers are expected to organise their lessons to meet the needs of a range of children, including those with special educational needs. They are responsible for contributing to IEP feedback, target setting and for delivering the support set out on IEPs.
If your child has a number of teachers then the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) will usually take the lead in ensuring all teachers know about your child’s IEP targets and any teaching strategies, and may also providing training, advice and support to teachers and teaching assistants. The SENCO may also liaise with professionals from outside the school who might make specialist assessments, provide training for teachers, or teach individual or groups of pupils directly.

The National Autistic Society recommends that schools and settings should have clear guidelines that set out:

•    who will prepare IEPs
•    how the IEP targets will be taught
•    who will teach the IEP targets
•    how IEPs will be recorded
•    how all staff who teach the child will know about their IEP
•    how new staff will be told about a child's IEP, including when the child moves school

This is good practice, and you may find that your school is not as clear as this, however, hopefully the list will give you a sense of the kind of questions it may be helpful to ask the school.

IEP reviews

The IEP should be reviewed at least twice a year and both you and your child should be involved where possible. The SEN Code of Practice says termly reviews would be best, and for early years children IEPs should be kept continually under review.  If there is a problem the school should not wait until the review before making changes. 

The review is often the prompt for increasing or decreasing the extra help a child receives.  For example if your child was on the autism spectrum and had been on School Action for two terms or more but was still having problems making friends and enjoying playtime a review might trigger a new strategy or even signal that your child’s needs were such that they should be receiving help at School Action Plus.  If so extra support for social and imaginative skills set out in a play programme might be delivered by a teaching assistant at School Action Plus.

When a child moves from Action to Action Plus or to a statement of SEN, they should have a new IEP. It is likely that a new IEP will be drawn up after each review too, as the targets are short-term. 

The school should consult you as part of the review process. Where possible, your child should also take part and be involved in setting new targets. If your child is not involved in the review, their views should be considered. A review can take place at a parents’ evening but the school should bear in mind your feelings if you ask for a more private meeting.

The National Autistic Society recommends that when reviewing IEPs teachers should consider:

–    the child's progress
–    the parents' views
–    the child's views
–    how effective the IEP has been
–    anything that is affecting the child’s progress
–    any updated information and advice
–    future action, including changes to targets or strategies


Alternatives to IEPs   

An IEP is not a legal requirement but schools that choose not to use them have to show that they are offering an alternative that is at least as effective.

Where schools have a whole-school policy of individual planning and recording which covers all pupils, DCSF guidance says that a child with SEN may not need a separate IEP since in those schools the interventions for children at School Action, School Action Plus and with statements will be recorded as part of the class lesson plans along with a record of the child's progress and the outcomes of those interventions – in the same way as for other children.

However, the SEN Code of Practice implies that children with SEN should have their extra help separately defined and monitored. IEPs are among the crucial pieces of evidence required by local authorities and tribunals to judge whether a child with SEN requires a statutory assessment or a change in provision. 

Provision mapping, is a way of planning and recording work with different groups of pupils, is often used as an alternative to IEPs although it is really about planning at an organisational level. Provision maps may enable a school to manage different funding streams (special educational needs, ethnic minority achievement grant, funding for gifted and talented children, catch-up and booster provision and so on); to target particular patterns of need in different year groups and to identify training priorities. In an ideal situation when provision mapping sits alongside IEPs it can mean that the school is able to plan additional provision around the child’s needs rather than the child fitting the provision. Both parents and staff can be clearer about the individual support a child is receiving and their progress in the context of the individual school.

The DCSF emphasises that whatever recording system is used, it is vital that there is a record of the strategies and interventions employed and the outcomes and that this is available and understandable to parents and flexible enough to meet the needs of individual children.

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Get help from...   

TeacherNet provides an overview and key links to key documents such as the SEN Code and SEN Toolkit.

The National Strategies website provides information on tracking children’s progress; planning for children with SEN, maximising their progress and removing barriers to achievement.

The National Autistic Society website has an excellent information sheet on IEPs

The Advisory Centre for Education also talks about IEPs in their education advice booklet for parents on ‘Getting Extra Help’.

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Chapter 5 of the SEN Code of Practice which covers IEPs.

SEN Toolkit with a section on IEPs

Provision mapping

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Case studies


IEPs as evidence

The IEPs of a 12-year-old boy on the autism spectrum who was excluded from school were important evidence that helped his parents to get him a statement of special educational needs and a new school for their son. The IEPs showed that the boy had failed to meet the targets set to improve his behaviour and social skills since he started at the large comprehensive. The First Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) agreed with the boy’s parents that the school was unable to provide enough support and ordered a statement.

Pupil participation and planning at West Gate School

All young people at West Gate School in Leicester with communication needs have a communication passport, and one-page profiles are now being developed to replace Individual Education Plans.  These profiles are person-centred, and include targets selected on the basis of what is important to the young person, both academically and personally as well as an action plan.  The class teacher then regularly reviews the targets and the profile with the student during class time.  The action plan will have three key points – What would I like to do?  Who is going to help?  Have I done it?  How will I know?

The actions identified in the one page profile will also be reflected in the annual review.  Each young person will also have a pupil profile containing essential information about the young person.  Kept in the booklet is a memory stick containing evidence of a young person’s achievements and work.  Copies of the young person’s communication passport, where appropriate, one page profile and action plan are also kept on the memory stick, as are videos of the young person engaging in activities, and information about what people like and admire about the young person.  The memory stick will replace the record of achievement, and the school is considering ways in which families can contribute, and how it can move on with the young person.

Planning provision at Balshaw Primary School

A systematic audit of need each year based on the projected pupil profile enabled the leadership team of this primary school to plan for overall staff development needs, for example continuing professional development for staff on providing effective support for children learning English as an additional language and for children with autism, as these needs were represented in every year group. The team decided also to investigate the use of a whole-curriculum approach to developing children’s social, emotional and behavioural skills in the light of the rising numbers of children needing help in this area.

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