Individualised educational programmes (or IEPs) are used by many schools in Scotland as a planning and monitoring tool for children with additional support needs. Here is more information about IEPs. 

  • What IEPs are and who they are for.
  • How you can get an IEP for your child.
  • How IEPs are drawn up and reviewed.
  • Other education plans that children can have.

What is an IEP?

An IEP is an education plan, or programme, which is prepared for certain children and young people with additional support needs by their school.

IEPs are used as a planning, teaching and reviewing tool. They contain details of targets and actions for individual children and young people that are different from, or additional to, those in place for the rest of their class or group. IEPs allow schools and staff to:

  • plan a pupil's progression
  • monitor the effectiveness of teaching
  • on a wider scale, monitor the provision for children and young people with additional support needs in the school
  • collaborate with parents and other members of staff
  • help the child or young person become more involved in their own learning and to work towards targets
  • work together and share responsibility.

IEPs are not legal documents, which means that the local authority does not have to produce an IEP or make sure that a child or young person receives the support outlined in it. However, in practice many schools do follow IEPs.

The only education plan which is a legal document is a co-ordinated support plan (CSP).

Which children and young people will have an IEP?

Children and young people attending both mainstream and special schools or specialist units may have an IEP prepared for them if they need: 

  • a specific resource
  • a distinctive teaching approach
  • adaptation of the curriculum
  • input from a support for learning or auxiliary staff member
  • input from specialists, such as speech and language therapists or occupational therapists.

Whether a child or young person has an IEP will depend largely on their individual needs and circumstances and the school they attend.

With or without an IEP in place, your local authority must meet any additional support needs that your child may have.

If you feel that your child's needs are not being met you can take action. Discuss any concerns you have with your child's school or your local authority in the first instance.

Our Education Rights Service can also offer you advice on this matter.

Preparing an IEP

Members of staff and other professionals (for example speech and language therapists) who will be supporting your child should be involved in the preparation of an IEP. The school should also involve you, so that you know what is in the IEP and how you can continue to help your child at home. 

Your child should also be involved so that he or she is aware of and understands the targets that have been set.

The content of an IEP

The content of an IEP may vary slightly depending on the school that your child attends. Information that may be contained in an IEP includes:

  • your details
  • your child's details
  • any likes, dislikes or anxieties that your child has
  • details of your child's additional support needs and in particular, the areas for development that the IEP will focus on, such as social and emotional, medical, physical, or intellectual
  • assessment information
  • targets that your child is expected to achieve in a specified period of time
  • details of the additional support that your child needs to meet these targets and who will be providing the support. This may include teaching methods, resources, medication, equipment, specialist teachers or input from other services, such as social work
  • details of any other education plans your child has
  • home-based tasks with comments from you and your child
  • details of how the IEP will be co-ordinated
  • when the IEP will be reviewed
  • relevant documents and reports may be referenced or attached.

Setting targets

The IEP may contain long-term and short-term targets. Long-term targets generally cover a school year (although that period may be extended) and should be things that your child can realistically achieve in that time. Short-term targets may be set for a period of six to eight weeks, or termly.

Targets that are set for your child should be SMART:

  • specific so it is clear what your child should be working towards
  • measurable so that it is clear when the target has been achieved
  • achievable
  • relevant to your child's needs and circumstances
  • time-bound (to be achieved by a specified time).

Reviewing IEPs

An IEP should be a working document, reviewed regularly to make sure that it continues to address your child's needs. Practice varies across Scotland, but reviews can be termly, twice yearly or more often depending on your child's needs and the school he or she goes to. 

IEP reviews should not be confused with the annual review of a co-ordinated support plan (CSP). That is a different process from the ongoing review of an IEP. However if your child has both an IEP and a CSP, the current IEP should be discussed in the CSP annual review meeting.

When reviewing IEPs, staff members should consider:

  • the progress that your child has made
  • your views
  • your child's views
  • the effectiveness of the IEP
  • any specific issues that affect your child's progress
  • any updated information or advice
  • future action, including changes to targets or strategies that staff are using.

After considering your child's progress, new targets - to be achieved by the next review - should be set by relevant staff. You and your child should be involved in this.

Alternative IEPs

Some schools may have modified versions of the IEP. For example, an individualised learning plan (ILP) contains less detail than an IEP and may be prepared for children and young people who need a lower level of support and intervention. 

Some plans have a particular focus, such as an individualised behavioural programme (IBP) or an individualised educational and care programme (IECP). These may be prepared in conjunction with social work services. 

Some local authorities may have replaced IEPs with an alternative plan altogether, such as an additional support plan (ASP). 

Contact your child's school or your local authority to find out how and when IEPs are prepared, implemented and reviewed.

Other educational plans

Your child may have one or more educational plans. All plans should consider the support documented in others to encourage communication between the sources of provision and prevent duplication. For example, an education plan should take into account support already provided in a health and social work plan. If your child has one or more statutory plan, they may be contained in a single child’s plan.

When a local authority is preparing to review one of your child's plans, they should take any other plans and review schedules into consideration for the same reasons. 

If you would like to know more about the plans available to your child, get in touch with your local authority, as things can differ across Scotland. 

Read more about reviewing your child’s plan and progress

Further help from our charity

Our Education Rights Service can provide information, support and advice on educational provision and entitlements for autistic children and young people. 

Useful reading

Scottish Government (2010). Supporting children's learning: code of practice. ISBN: 978 0 7559 9470 0.

The Scottish Office (1999). A manual of good practice in special educational needs.

Scottish Executive Education Department (2000). Success for all. Target setting within individualised educational programmes. A handbook for schools and education authorities. ISBN: 1872054692.

The publications mentioned above are available from:

Scottish Government (Learning Directorate)
Tel: 08457 741 741
Website: www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Education

Last reviewed: 24 May 2016.