Reviewing and Writing IEPs in an International Setting by @iSENCo1

The SMART way for managing Individual Education Plans

It’s really important to keep your school IEP (Individual Education Plan) system simple. With more freedom than UK state schools, IEP systems in international schools often seem to be over complicated or non-existent. The IEP reviewing and writing process shouldn’t be a huge paperwork exercise but neither should it be skipped over. IEPs are there to support and track the progress of children with additional needs and should help rather than hinder staff.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by @iSENCo1 and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

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The new SEND Code of Practise (2014) focuses heavily upon outcomes and IEPs are (in my opinion) the easiest way to ensure that children with SEN are catered for and making progress towards specific outcomes.

Current best practice is for teachers to write IEPs. Not the SEN Coordinator, teachers. This is because teachers know their children far better than any SENCo ever could. It also ensures ownership of the IEP which means the strategies are then much more likely to take place, and it helps to facilitate inclusion with their specific classroom.

I would suggest reviewing IEPs three times per year and linking the dates in with your school’s data collection deadlines. I currently ask teachers to write their official IEPs in November, February and June, after they have completed their class assessments. Any new IEP targets required before the review dates can be simply written onto the existing IEP; there is no need to write a new one.

Parents must be invited in and encouraged to share their opinions about their children’s needs as part of the IEP review process. Their views can then inform the IEP. An IEP should ideally not be written before you have had this meeting with parents (apart from unusual cases e.g. where parents have yet to accept their child’s needs). It is impossible to write a quality IEP in conjunction with parents during a regular, parent consultation time slot so additional time needs to be found for these parents. I find that the best meetings happen when I have discussed potential IEP targets with my LSA/ TA beforehand but am also prepared to take on parental views. Post-it notes work well and are much less intimidating than presenting parents with a completed IEP.

Discussing targets with the student is also part of best practice and many of the children I support are very aware of what they need to improve upon and are more than capable of commenting upon their IEP. Once targets have been agreed with parents, they can they be shared and discussed with the student.

Before IEPs are due to be reviewed I send out this reminder document to help jog staff memories:Reviewing IEPS 1 (doc)

In summary, IEPs should be:

  • Discussed with parents (before they are written)
  • Written by class teachers
  • Shared with pupils
  • Quick and simple to complete
  • Reviewed termly

The actual targets written for IEPs should also be simple to understand and implement whilst providing an appropriate amount of challenge for the child. Many schools use the ‘SMART’ approach to writing targets:

This can be a useful strategy and although I often refer to it during IEP training sessions, it can sometimes cause more complication and stress with staff spending a great deal of time wording a target to ensure all the above elements are present. It’s more important that the child receives the correct provision and is working towards an appropriate target than that the IEP target is word perfect.

When writing an IEP, I always begin a target with the student’s name and the word will e.g. ‘Adam will ……’ . I then write the target as simply as possible stating exactly what it is I expect them to achieve  ‘Adam will correctly order the numbers 0 – 5.’ I do not waste time adding statements such as ‘on 4 out of 5 occasions’ or ‘80% of the time’ as I don’t feel they add anything to the target or to the student’s learning. I want the student to achieve the target I am setting and am capable of deciding when they have successfully achieved it. The phrases above were very popular at one time in the UK and I remember being told I must use them in order to achieve the ‘time’ part of the SMART approach.

Targets should only contain wording that will support the student and certainly shouldn’t have phrases added in so that we can feel we have met items on a tick list. If IEPs are regularly reviewed then they will always be time-bound anyway; your next IEP date is always set and therefore this is the time you expect the target to be achieved by.

The ‘SMART’ approach shouldn’t be dismissed and is useful as a guide. However, I would be wary of following it to the letter!

A simple IEP format: IEP and example (doc)


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