Meeting student needs through Individual Education Plans

How a new approach to the IEP process is improving student outcomes at Badger Creek Primary School

Teachers at Badger Creek Primary School saw improvements in student outcomes within weeks of implementing a new approach to their Individual Education Plans (IEPs) process.

The school initially looked to the IEPs process to improve Koorie students' attendance.

While school staff recognised which students required IEPs, they also found the process challenging, saying initially they weren't clear about how to set specific, measurable, agreed, relevant and  time-bound goals (SMART goals).

To help them deliver the process, staff undertook professional learning on setting SMART goals, and the school updated its IEP template using the department's IEP quality checklist rubric.

The school also worked through a Professional Learning Community cycle, which encourages teachers to work together to improve student outcomes. This shifted their focus from attendance issues to ways teachers could connect more deeply and collaboratively with families and support their students.

The new approach helped them to track student progress more easily and offer students tailored support to help them meet their goals.

The updated template also included a section for student voice and supported the teachers to get to know their students' needs, strengths, and challenges.

With the new approach to IEPs, teachers were seeing positive outcomes within 4 weeks.

Why the new approach worked

Teacher Rohan Anderson said the catalyst for changing the IEP format was authentic, which helped teachers take up the new IEP process. Collaboration was another essential part of the process, which helped to ensure teachers approach the IEPs consistently.

'Turning the focus into a problem of practice took away the feelings of judgement and framed it into something we could solve together,' Rohan said.

'The IEP process is a crucial bit of community engagement that has a genuine, positive impact on lifting student outcomes.'

After teachers wrote the IEPs, they shared them with families in either a Student Support Group or a teacher and parent and carer conference.

Teachers monitored SMART goals so they could easily see outcomes and adapt their approach when goals weren't met.

The role of teachers

Principal Nerae Preece said teachers were at the centre of changing the IEPs.

'Historically, at our school an IEP was a cumbersome task that didn't have clearly explained intentions or purpose. It was a box-ticking exercise,' Nerae said.

'But with the teachers involved in creating and reviewing their students' IEPs, they have made goal setting an integral part of learning.

'Since we've changed the IEP process, many of our Koorie families have offered to help with projects and share their problems or concerns about learning. Our school is becoming a culturally safe place.

'The process began to support a group of our community. But as a result, the changes have had a positive impact on everyone.' 

Find out more

For more information, refer to Individual Education Plans (IEPs) on the department website.