Beginner’s guide to… IEPs

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By Robin Warren a primary teacher and freelance writer.

Dealing with Special Educational Needs can be a minefield. Robin Warren offers a compass, map and flask of calming tea…

Back when I was at college, around the time the wheel was invented, the topic of special educational needs was not an area that was fully explored and I certainly did not feel prepared for work in a London classroom. My own memories of school were of little help – any child who did not get it right, sat by themselves and anyone who found it difficult sat at the front; more able sat at the back and a classroom assistant checked our heads daily for nits. Ah, the good old days.

I am sure nowadays things have changed and prospective students are better prepared for addressing SEN. In schools, teachers seem to be much more up to date with current thinking, SEN procedures and strategies. When I left university, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing on my first day. Whilst I soon ascertained which children required extra support, I still had no idea about writing an IEP. What is an IEP? Incredible Extendable Pencil? Idiots Eat Peanuts? It could have been anything.

What is an IEP?

An IEP stands for Individual Education Plan. Even in the last few years, these have altered slightly with changes in policy, and each school has a different format. For suggestions, check out the DfES website ( or consult your LEA guidelines. It is not unheard of for formats to change daily. You usually find this out after you have written out the old one!

Who do I go to for help?

  • Speak to your Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO). If there is no official SENCO, speak to someone you trust who you know will give useful advice. It’s also worth asking your numeracy and/ or literacy co-ordinator (bribing with cakes is one fail-safe approach).
  • Before you meet the SENCO, take along your class list and your SEN file. Write a list of things you are concerned about, and some suggestions about how you can move your children on. Also try to evaluate the progress made since the last review.
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