To IEP or not to IEP. Why is that in question?


IEP stands for Individualised Education Plan.

  • Does your school use IEP’s? Is there a whole school understanding of their purpose and a rigour around setting and achieving targets?
  • How do teachers feel/think about them? That they are a paperwork exercise and take up too much time?
  • Can IEP’s be used as an effective tool in ensuring progress, particularly around dyslexia – a specific difficulty?
  • IEP’s can be very useful tools when tied into interventions, with SMART (Specific, Measurable, Realistic, Time-limit (Reid, 2005) targets set.

Gavin Reid (2016) is clear on the importance of IEP’s, based on a report, ‘Education for learners with Dyslexia’, (HMIE, 2008), published in Scotland:

‘pupils do best when parents and child are involved in setting and reviewing IEP targets in a collaborative process. There should be high expectations around student achievement’.

The review of literacy and What Works by Greg Brooks also states the importance of high expectations:

  • Good impact – sufficient to at least double the standard rate of progress – can be achieved, and it is reasonable to expect it.
  • Implication: If the scheme matches the child’s needs, teachers and children should expect to achieve rapid improvement. High expectations are realistic expectations in most cases.

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Pavey (2007), suggests that IEP’s could be used in an innovative way e.g. within a 12-week term; there is room for three sets of four-week strategies. She states that targets and methods should be clear; so that children make recognisable progress.

IEPs can be linked to an intervention and can help to integrate specific targets with class work, ensuring that skills and strategies become embedded across the curriculum. Pavey (2007) Tod and Fairman (2001) claim that IEPs promote:

  • The need for formative reflection and analysis rather than merely summative reporting;
  • The provision for diverse needs embedded in a whole school practice;
  • Student and parent involvement;
  • The use of a variety of instructions;
  • Rigorous evaluation of the effectiveness of additional or otherwise extra support;
  • The sharing of responsibility for SEN support with other adults;
  • Peer involvement;
  • Collaborative multi-agency planning.

Any intervention needs to be applied and embedded across classroom practice to ensure that the above factors are involved in the process. IEPs can also facilitate:

  • A development of pupil voice around dyslexia and what works for the individual; both as part of the IEP process and within class: leading to ‘metacognition’ (the student’s learning about learning).

The SEND Code of Conduct (2014) calls for pupils to be actively engaged in targets and for pupil voice. However, Lundy (2007) identified that teachers were sceptical about children’s ability to participate in the decision-making process. Creative methodologies have proven successful (wherein pupils draw pictures) and this is especially useful for children with speech and language barriers (Leitch, 2008).

The pupils I work with are often disenfranchised and lacking in self- esteem, for some of them, their unmet learning need becomes a PSHE issue, rather than a learning one and perhaps this is easier for schools to manage. However, I strongly feel that a dyslexic’s social and emotional needs are affected by learning experiences in class and it is in class where their needs should be met.

Tomlinson (1997) defines inclusion as matching resources to learning styles and educational needs of students. Reid (2016) suggests that dyslexic students would benefit from the following:

  • Opportunities to work in groups;
  • That the group dynamics are positive for students with dyslexia (eg mixed ability);
  • The tasks are appropriately differentiated (scaffolded);
  • The presentation of materials is varied and includes the visual and kinaesthetic;
  • Learning outcomes are achievable;
  • There is acknowledgement of the social and emotional needs of the child;
  • Parent’s views are considered and they are kept informed of progress;
  • Students are given responsibility for their own learning as much as possible.

Importantly, without specific intervention and support, children with dyslexia will not catch up, despite Quality First Teaching (See Greg Brooks, What Works, March 2016)

  • Ordinary teaching (‘no treatment’) does not enable children with literacy difficulties to catch up. For the evidence on this, see the third edition.


  • Implication: Although good classroom teaching is the bedrock of effective practice, most research suggests that children falling behind their peers need more help than the classroom normally provides. This help requires coordinated effort and training.


  • Differentiation (now scaffolding) within class; to ensure progress.

The act of embedding good practice and learning strategies from interventions naturally leads to differentiation within class and ways to harness a child’s individual strengths and learning preferences. This should be a natural organic process if there is cohesion across interventions and work within class. It calls for good communication between staff. Dyson (2002) argues that there needs to be a:

‘move away from the individualisation of current approaches towards the development of systematic interventions embedded in mainstream schools and classrooms’ (P.99)

To further support this process, staff would benefit from specific training in the nature of dyslexia, its causation and treatment. At least one staff member needs to be fully trained in this area; the knowledge can then be cascaded across the school.

This differentiation/scaffolding should be carried across into the setting and completion of homework.

Is it time to reconsider the role of IEPs in your school?

See here for a great alternative to an IEP, thanks to Sarah Gillie!

Alternative to IEP


HWTe (2008) Education for learners with dyslexia. Inspectorate Report. Scottish Executive, October 2008.

Leitch, R. (2008) Researching children’s narratives creatively through drawings, in P. Thomson (ed.) Doing Visual Research with Children and Young People, London: Routledge, pp.37-59.

Lundy, L. (2007) ‘Voice is not enough: Conceptualising Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’. British Educational Research Journal, 33(6): 927-42.

Pavey, B (2007) The Dyslexia-Friendly Primary School: A Practical Guide for Teachers, London: Sage.

Reid, G. (2005) Dyslexia, London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Tod, J. and Fairman, A. (2001) Individualised learning in a group setting. In: L. Peer and G. Reids (eds), Dyslexia: Successful Inclusion in the Secondary School. London: David Fulton.

Tomlinson, J. (1997) Inclusive Learning: The report of the committee of inquiry into the post-school education of those with learning difficulties and disabilities in England, 1996. European Journal of Special Need Education (pp, 145-59) Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.




1 thought on “To IEP or not to IEP. Why is that in question?”

  1. This article contributes a lot of useful background about IEP’s. Some suggestions of mine are: set or suggest two or three tasks from within your syllabus aims & motivate the learner by encouraging them to choose the order of work & contribute their own suggestions. Use your knowledge/intuition about the learner’s likely interest as you action research with them. Ask the learner to tell you/make a brief comment/sticker emoji about how they feel about some of the tasks. Acknowledge their feelings and share/write some of yours as appropriate using your professional experience/judgment.

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