Individual Education Plans (IEPs)

Article published 1st December 2008

Formalising classroom help and target setting

What is an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and what will it mean for a child and their parents if an IEP is suggested?

IEPs and target setting

An IEP pinpoints areas where a child with learning needs, behavioural problems or disabilities is experiencing difficulties. It contains targets designed to help children who require extra support. IEPs are only used where a child needs something extra or different from others in the class. Wherever possible, the child and parents or carers should be involved in the discussions and review of an IEP.

Not all schools use IEPs; some plan and record separately for each child as a matter of routine.

Regardless of the system used, a successful IEP (or equivalent) should be:

  • easy to understand
  • simple to use
  • a working document
  • carefully monitored
  • regularly reviewed

All staff who work with the child, including therapists and support staff, should be helping the child attain specified goals and raise overall achievement.

What does an IEP say?

An IEP will usually contain no more than three or four key, individual, short-term targets for the child to focus on (typically these only take up one side of A4). These may relate to aspects of the curriculum (literacy, numeracy etc), or focus on behaviour or social skills. The IEP should specify what should be taught, how it should be taught and how often, and will be based on individual need.

Often targets will be set to cover not only a variety of objectives but different situations too, including working with and without support, in and out of class.

Targets should be SMART, that is: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time related.

Usually an IEP will include the teaching objective (what the teacher hopes the child will learn) broken into small manageable chunks linked to a child’s abilities and difficulties, enabling teacher, parent and child to see improvement. For example, the class objective may be to learn the two times tables, but for the individual child this may be simplified to being able (and, crucially, understanding) to count on in twos, to ten.

Targets may be related to activities outside the lesson, perhaps to sit quietly at the dinner table or to play with friends, not to get angry when the lunchtime football team loses a match etc.

Targets should be clearly focused. ‘To improve handwriting’ is too general for most children, for example, so it may be better to break the task into more manageable chunks, perhaps first adapting to an adjusted pencil grip, or developing ‘good sitting’, then moving on from there.

Help to achieve targets

Individual education plan target board Any additional provision needed to meet targets, including the use of special activities or equipment, or parental involvement – perhaps how parents can help with homework or support any agreed reward structure – should be identified. The IEP should outline who will help, where and how – in the classroom, in a small group or in a one-to-one setting, for instance.

In some schools, where pupils have communication difficulties, schools use a target board so pupils can visualise where they are and see how near they are to achieving their goal.

A particularly nice idea is a target ‘dart board’, showing how the closer to the bull’s eye, the closer to the target being achieved.

The board can be coded to show different children’s progress towards their targets (or a child’s progress with their individual targets).

The pupil should understand what they have to do, to successfully meet targets. The IEP should contain information on activities that will help the pupil achieve their targets as well as intervention strategies and any rewards or incentives for meeting targets. IEPs should be parent friendly, carefully monitored and regularly reviewed.

Reviewing an IEP

The IEP should be reviewed at least twice a year, more often if needs be – it could take place every half-term or every three weeks if required. The school should involve you in the process, asking you and your child’s views on progress.

Meeting targets

When targets are met, new targets will be added. If targets are not met it will be necessary to examine why not, perhaps breaking the task down further or in some instances choosing alternative targets.

When reviewing IEPs consideration should be given to progress made, how effective the IEP has been, anything that has had a bearing on the child’s progress (perhaps the child has been ill or unsettled), up to date information relevant to the child, and the views of the parent and the child.

After considering progress, the targets to be achieved by the next review should be set by staff, with the involvement of the parents and child if possible. Of course, if targets have been achieved and help is no longer needed, a new IEP may be deemed unnecessary.

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