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Last updated on 14 July 2017
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Are schools still using IEPs? The SEND Code of Practice does not mention individual education plans (IEPs), but schools can continue to use them. We relay advice on whether IEPs are still fit for purpose and look at what terminology schools and LAs are using for school-based SEN support plans.

DfE guidance

The Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Code of Practice does not refer to individual education plans (IEPs), although paragraph 5.40 recommends using school-based plans to support pupils with SEN.

The code does not prescribe a specific planning format and there is nothing to prevent schools from continuing to use IEPs or adopting a different approach.

Expert advice

We spoke to one of our associate education experts, Lorraine Petersen, about whether schools are replacing IEPs.

Lorraine said that in light of the most recent code of practice (which removed specific references to IEPs that had appeared in the 2001 code), schools are increasingly taking different approaches to school-based planning. IEPs were never statutory documents.

As there is no set format for school-based plans, schools should use a format that works best for them and their pupils, and continue to use IEPs if they find them effective.

Lorraine noted:

Schools that have robust target setting, monitoring and recording processes for all pupils should not need to do anything different.

She added that schools should contact their local authority (LA) to find out what documentation the LA expects to receive if a school or a parent seeks a statutory assessment. This may help schools to identify an appropriate replacement for IEPs, where necessary.

Another article from The Key sets out guidance on choosing a format for and writing school-based SEN support plans.

A further article features templates and examples of the different types of SEN support plans that schools and LAs are using

Expert comment icon

What makes a good SEN plan? 

One of our associate education experts, Anita Devi, said a plan should be:

  • Outcome-focused
  • Collaborative (involving parents, pupils and school staff)
  • Child-friendly and parent-friendly
  • Easy for staff to use
  • Clear about it its purpose

What should a plan include?

Anita said the contents of the plan will depend on the pupil's needs, but might include:

  • Entry data on the pupil (prior to receiving additional support)
  • Expected outcomes for the pupil
  • Actual outcomes for the pupil
  • The pupil’s participation in any interventions
  • Comments
  • Next steps

LAs' approaches

We looked at approaches to IEPs and school-based plans in a number of LAs.

Provision maps and one-page profiles

A member of the SEN team at Northamptonshire County Council said that its schools are advised to record and monitor provision for pupils with SEN using a provision map.

One-page profiles are also used as "an effective tool to ensure the voice of the child, their aspirations, strengths and difficulties are clearly understood in different contexts".

Schools can use IEPs alongside these documents, as long as they:

  • Feature SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) targets
  • Are reviewed regularly
  • Are tracked on the provision map

The representative added that many schools are now using online provision maps.

We relay advice on writing SEN provision maps in another article.

Profile and outcomes plan and individual provision tracker

Oxfordshire County Council explains in SEN record-keeping guidance for its schools that it has created templates of the following documents to help schools track provision for pupils receiving SEN support:

  • A profile and outcomes plan
  • An individual provision tracker

However, schools are free to develop their own versions or approaches.

You can download the guidance and templates from the following webpage, under the heading 'SEN Support':

IEP software

Some schools have automated the process of writing IEPs using dedicated software. Please note that the inclusion of the following commercial software products in this article does not constitute a recommendation by The Key.

SIMS IEP Writer can be used for creating IEPs for primary schools:

IEP Manager by Bluehills enables the creation of both individual and group educational plans.


Lorraine Petersen is an education consultant. She was previously chief executive officer of nasen, and a primary school headteacher. Lorraine is also a chair of governors.

Anita Devi is an education consultant and trainer who specialises in SEN and the use of technology to support learning. She is a member of nasen's national advisory board, and one of the founder members of the British Assistive Technology Association (BATA).

Another of our articles features a downloadable Parent Pamphlet for explaining the new single category of 'SEN support' to parents.

This article was updated in response to a question from the SENCO of a large urban primary school in the south east.

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