An IEP is an Individual Education Programme. The terms is often used, but not always understood by those who use it.

An IEP plan is a living document that provides guidance for a student’s programme for a defined period. It is usually reviewed every term, but this may vary depending on the needs of the student and changes in circumstances. Because the IEP is a ‘living’ document it is constantly reviewed and assessed to ensure it continues to meet the needs of the individual student as best it can.

If there is a student who is deemed to have special educational needs, an IEP is often implemented. The term IEP has a range of meanings and is used to represent:

  • A cycle of assessment, planning, provision and evaluation
  • The meeting at which a students needs are discussed
  • The plan for an individual student
  • A documented programme for an individual student

In short an IEP encompasses the following steps:

  1. Assessing the child’s achievements and educational needs
  2. Setting long term goals for the child to reach
  3. Identifying short term results that can be seen and measured
  4. Specifying ways to help the child achieve the objectives
  5. Stating who is responsible for each part of the programme
  6. Specifying the resources (teaching materials, etc) required
  7. Monitoring the impact of the programme on the child’s progress
  8. Evaluating the effectiveness of the programme at least every 6 months
  9. Continuing the programme, with modifications according to the child’s progress and future needs.

Who needs an IEP?

A student in NZ who has special educational needs is one who may need an IEP. There’s a huge range of things that constitute special educational needs and obviously different levels of needs students may have.

Students with special education needs are typically learners who have a learning difficulty, a disability or behaviour difficulties. Their special needs may mean the student needs extra assistance, adapted programmes or learning environments, specialised equipment or materials.

When is an IEP needed?

There are several reasons an IEP might be needed. For example, when –

  • barriers to learning have been identified but cannot be overcome by regular classroom strategies
  • regular classroom planning doesn’t provide enough support for an individual student
  • there are key transition points – eg, students are changing class, changing school or preparing to leave school
  • there is a change in the student’s personal circumstances such as deterioration in health, emotional trauma, or a substantial gain in skills.

Who contributes to an IEP?

Many support people are involved in an IEP and it is important to remember the broad nature of the term. Add to this the fact that a student with special educational needs may be the focus of many IEPs during their schooling and it is easy to see why many people may be involved. Each person involved in the supporting of the individual student will have a different role to play also.

IEPs involve a large grouping of people consisting of what is commonly referred to as the Core Team and the Wider IEP Team.

The Core IEP team

The Core IEP for the most part consists of the parents/care givers, teachers, specialists who know the student well, and the student where possible.

As a parent/caregiver you should absolutely been given the opportunity to take part in any IEP meetings and in the IEP process in general. For you this is an excellent way to keep in touch with the progress of your child and maintain a handle on what is being done for him or her to help with their special educational needs.

The Wider IEP team

The Wider IEP team members could be special needs co-ordinators (SENCO), principals or senior teachers, teachers’ aides, medical specialists, nurses, other government agency workers such as social workers, ACC case managers and so on.


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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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