Friday 28 October 2011

The Individual Education Plan (IEP): blueprint for success or obstacle to progress?

I have been observing the process that schools and local authorities use to assess whether pupils have special educational needs (SEN) for some time now.  The process has always driven me crazy – I have found myself regularly answering the same questions about how to get a statement of SEN for a child with autism on internet forums and facebook groups, as well as in person.  I have also found that parents are generally getting stuck at similar points in the process.
Quick tour of the process in schools in England for those of you not familiar with it:
·         Special educational needs (SEN) are suspected, so the school introduces measures that are ‘additional to’ and ‘different from’ those used to support the majority of the child’s peers to learn.

·         ‘Additional to’ and ‘different from’ measures don’t result in progress, so the child is placed at ‘School Action’ and more intensive measures are used.

·         Child fails to make progress at School Action so is moved to School Action Plus (SA+).  At SA+, advice is sought from external professionals (e.g. Speech and Language Therapist, Educational Psychologist) to influence the development of new targets and new strategies to meet need.

·         Child fails to make adequate progress at SA+, so the school makes a request for a statutory assessment.  If statutory assessment finds that the child’s needs cannot be met from within the resources available to the school, a statement of SEN is agreed.
Throughout this process, the mechanism for monitoring and reviewing progress is the Individual Education Plan (IEP).  The IEP should underpin the process of planning intervention for the individual pupil with SEN.  It should focus on up to three or four key individual targets and should include information about:
§         The short-term targets set for or by the pupil
§         The teaching strategies to be used
§         The provision to be put in place
§         When the plan is to be reviewed
§         Success and/or exit criteria
§         Outcomes (to be recorded when IEP is reviewed).

Recently Dixon and I found ourselves supporting a local Mum of 3 girls, two with Asperger’s Syndrome.  The elder of the two had been at School Action Plus for eight years.  Yep – eight years. 
I submit to you, m’lud, that eight years is not a reasonable time for a child to remain at School Action Plus.  Either the child makes progress (hmmmm….’progress’….we’ll come back to that one) and is downgraded from School Action Plus to School Action, or does not make progress and so a request is made for a statutory assessment.
The parent who we were supporting had made repeated representations to the school regarding statutory assessment but these had all been turned down.  The view of the school seemed to be that the child’s needs weren’t severe enough to warrant a statutory assessment (groan…..the old Asperger’s Syndrome myth again….) 
In fact, during this time, the child had been signed off school by her doctor for a year.  Whilst at school, she had been known to faint on several occasions, and Mum reported that at one time, her daughter was regularly vomiting in the morning before school.
After some discussion and consideration of options, Mum decided to make a parental request for statutory assessment.  Parents can do this at any time - our experience is that most parents don't know that this option is available to them.  A meeting of relevant professionals was convened by the local authority to collect the information required to make the case for statutory assessment.  Dixon accompanied Mum to the meeting and helped her to ensure that all the relevant paperwork was submitted in support of her case.
We won’t know the outcome until mid November….we are hoping that the child will be given a statement and that the local authority will agree with Mum’s view that the only local school that can meet her daughter’s needs is Bright Futures School.
What has stood out for me in this is what chimes with the experience of other families I have encountered who were in a similar position – that it is often the inadequacy of the IEP and the failure of the school to monitor progress that are the blocks to statutory assessment .
Parents are at the mercy of the school here.  If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard parents say the school told them that their child wouldn’t get a statement, I’d be on my way to bailing out the Eurozone.  And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a good IEP…….isn’t that just woeful?  No wonder so many of our kids aren’t getting their needs met appropriately.  Most parents don’t know the system, they don’t know their rights, and they don’t know how to hold the school to account. 

Generally you wouldn’t know how to do any of that unless you’d been through it… parents are in a cleft stick.
In order to help un-cleave us, Dixon and I (who have now been through several versions of it) are in the middle of writing a parent-friendly paper that discusses how to hold schools to account via the IEP, as well as how to make sure the IEP is meaningful and measurable.  I’ve just joined Google Plus and I think it has a document sharing facility, so will see if I can get it on there once it's finished (I guess that could be some time, knowing me and techno.......)
In my next post, I will share an example of a poor IEP and then share some thoughts on what a good IEP might look like.  
Meanwhile, here is the latest offering from the NNNJ kitchen – our ‘not Jamie’ chicken pie from Jamie’s ‘Meals in 30 Minutes’.

Thanks to this recipe, and to his participation in the cooking, Louis (above) is now eating mushrooms (which were in the sauce).........the NNNJ kitchen works its magic on typically developing kids as well J This one didn’t work for Philip, but hey, you can’t win ‘em all.


  1. This story happens every day and i do feel for you all.

    child stealing by the state google this also happens and social workers in the uk steal children from parents for financial gain just because undiagnosed things such as adhd and autism infact while visiting my children in care since 2007 the social worker said getting a statement for school or a diagnosisis just labels children and we need to stop labelling our kids.

    please comment on my site and look at this site it proves vaccine damage causes adhd and other disorders

  2. Hello Andrew
    Thanks for your comments. I've looked at both your sites and wish I'd known about them earlier. A couple of years back I supported a Mum who was accused by social services of exaggerating her child's illness. Your sites are good resources to have in case I come across this again - thank you. Do you know of a PIGS equivalent for England?