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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Please be aware that this section contains information prepared in 2009 and may now be out of date.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


An individual education plan (IEP) is a working document for any child with special educational needs (SEN) aimed at raising their achievement of their long term goals. Those receiving help on School Action and School Action Plus (or their Early Years equivalents) will generally have an IEP. The majority of pupils with statements of SEN are also likely to have an IEP where strategies to meet their short-term targets will complement longer term objectives and provision in the statement.
Government guidance says that IEPs should include:

  • 3 or 4 short term targets
  • teaching strategies
  • extra help 
  • outcomes of action taken
  • criteria for judging if the help has been successful or not and whether further help is needed
    date of review.


Preparing an IEP


An IEP builds on the curriculum that a child with learning difficulties or disabilities is following and is designed to set out the strategies being used to meet each child's identified needs. The key targets will be chosen from those relating to communication, literacy, mathematics and behaviour and social skills that meet the child's needs. For example, for a child with autism, who has difficulties with understanding the link between the mathematical skills of doubling and halving, the teacher may devise activities that explicitly teach these skills together. 

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.

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.


The IEP in practice

All teachers are expected to organise their lessons to meet the needs of a range of children, including those with special educational needs. As such they are responsible for contributing to IEP feedback, target setting and delivering the support set out on IEPs. Regular periods of time when the pupil is working at specific IEP targets, should be recorded in the teacher’s daily or weekly teaching plans for the class.
The SENCO will often take the lead in ensuring all teachers know of a child’s IEP targets and teaching strategies, and may also provide 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



IEP reviews

The IEP should be reviewed at least twice a year and parents and pupils should be involved where possible. The SEN Code says termly reviews would be best, and for early years children IEPs should be kept continually under review. The review is often the prompt for increasing or decreasing the extra help a child receives. For example, a child on the autism spectrum who is on School Action for two terms or more and continues to have difficulty making friends and enjoying playtime may receive the extra support for social and imaginative skills set out in a play programme 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 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. Government has recently expressed the view that IEPs are over-bureaucratic so their use in schools is not universal despite conflicting statutory guidance in the SEN Code which strongly recommends them.

Guidance from the Department of Children, Schools and Families says that where schools have a whole-school policy of individual planning and recording which covers all pupils, 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, other guidance implies that children with SEN should have their extra help separately defined and monitored. It recommends that the IEP should record only that which is additional to or different from the differentiated curriculum plan, which is in place as part of provision for all children. 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, which is a method 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.

When provision mapping proceeds alongside IEPs the planning can be 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.

Developing individual education plan targets within whole-school assessment procedures by Janice Howkins
The target-setting processes for Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and its relationship with other assessment procedures is the focus of this study of IEP targets in three secondary schools. Special educational needs coordinators, teachers, support staff, parents and students are involved in the study. The author makes key recommendations that should help schools review their practice, and also draws out the importance of joined-up thinking to link school assessment procedures.
Practical Applications of Research in Education, Issue 26, NfER 2001

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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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