How to Write a Support Plan: Classroom, School or School Support+

I am a SET teacher and SENCO in a large urban primary school which has extremely high levels of children with EAL and SEN. I have taught in support for a number years, both before and after the new allocation model for SET was introduced. I have written hundreds of support plans for children with a wide variety of SEN and of various levels of severity. In this post, I will share guidance on how to prepare a classroom/ school/ school support+ plan.

Since the new model of SET allocation was introduced in September 2017 there has been a move towards the use of the NEPS “student support file” document (pictured) for planning for children who receive support, although it is up to the school to decide on the format that works best for them for their planning.

The Individual Education Plan (IEP) format is still being used in some schools wish to and I have a FREE sample and template available on here. However, in this post I will focus on completing support plans using the “student support file” file only. The exact same student support file document is used for children on all 3 levels of the continuum: Classroom, school support, and school support+.

A classroom support plan is prepared by the class teacher, with some assistance from the SET teacher (who for instance may carry out observations of the child and record data when the class teacher is teaching). The SET teacher prepares the plans at school support and school support+ level, with input from the class teacher (e.g. the targets will be agreed between the SET and class teacher).

While the same student support file is used for pupils at all 3 levels on the continuum, less detail is usually included in the plan at classroom support level and less in-depth assessments may be undertaken. Children at school support plus level will have more complex needs and therefore more diagnostic assessments and detail is usually required in their plan.

When completing a student support plan, the following should be undertaken:

Step 1: Getting to know the child

  • If the child has any of the following you should read them: professional reports (psychology, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech and language therapy), previous support plans (class support, school support or school support +), and their Personal Pupil Plan (if they have SNA access).
  • Complete the “My Thoughts About School” pupil interview (template on page 11 of the NEPS Special Educational Needs A Continuum of Support Resource pack for teachers or use the FREE fully editable Microsoft Word version from here). This pupil interview provides important information about the pupil’s level of self-esteem (for example, can they name things they are good at, do they have friends, how do they think others see them), as well as rewards that they like (which can be invaluable if a token board or behaviour plan is put in place).

Step 2: Assessments and observations (collecting baseline data)

  • Undertake assessments with the child to find out exactly where they are at in their learning and the exact nature of their difficulties. These can be teacher designed tests or diagnostic assessments. Only complete assessments with them that are relevant to their area of difficulty, for instance there is no need to do a diagnostic maths assessment on a child who has difficulty with social skills!
  • If the difficulty relates to social/ emotional/ behavioural issues, then spend a few sessions observing the child in class and on yard. Record your observations. For templates/ checklists for recording observations about behaviour/ social skills see the NEPS Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties A Continuum of Support Guidelines for Teachers book (pages 81-108). This will help you to identify the priority concerns (for instance you may observe that the child is frequently shouting out in class), and it will provide you with baseline data so that after you have put interventions in place, you can observe again to see whether or not they have been effective. It is important to observe the child over a number of days at different times of the day and during different activities so that you get a good picture of how they are in general, and to help you identify whether or not there are particular activities or times of day that may trigger the behaviour.

Step 3: Start your paperwork

  • Complete the following checklists from the NEPS Special Educational Needs A Continuum of Support Resource pack for teachers:
  • Basic Needs Checklist (see pages 2-5 for template, instructions, & example or download the FREE editable Microsoft Word version and a completed sample from here). If you don’t know the child well, you will need their previous teacher or a staff member who does know them to help you will these out. You can also use the information you gathered from the My Thoughts About School Checklist to help you answer the questions on self-esteem and belonging needs.
  • Learning Environment Checklist (see pages 6-10 for template, instructions, & example or download the FREE editable Microsoft Word version and a completed sample from here)

Step 4: Setting Targets

  • After completing the above, you will have a good idea of possible targets for the child to work on. There may be a myriad of areas that the child could work on, but you need to choose the most important 3-4 to prioritise for your targets. Some things to consider in helping you identify what targets to choose:
    • Safety should always come first – No matter how weak a child is academically, if they are engaging in unsafe behaviour in school e.g. physical violence, lashing out, a flight risk, then this has to be the number one target to work on.
    • Basic needs – Having completed the basic needs checklist, it may raise some issues for consideration. Page 2 of Special Educational Needs A continuum of Support Resource Pack for Teachers states that “ This model can provide a useful way thinking about where a child is coming from and can provide a useful insight into how to best help a child. For example, if a child is coming to school without breakfast, feels worthless and has few friends how can we expect them to concentrate on lessons? Addressing these basic needs often comes before as well as while implementing any individual interventions for a pupil.”. Therefore, as a prerequisite to beginning additional work with the SET teacher in an area such as literacy or numeracy, the child may need to work on developing their self-esteem, or to develop their friendship skills. A target can be set in this area and following a programme such as he excellent ones in the TALKABOUT series (pictured) may be appropriate.
    • Communication – If the child has severe speech and language difficulties or is unable to communicate effectively then this should be a priority target. A child being able to express themselves and understand what others are saying, takes precedent over literacy or numeracy difficulties. Good expressive and receptive language skills are a prerequisite to accessing the curriculum.
    • For a child who has wide ranging issues with literacy, consider what the absolute priority is. Initially you may need to choose a target on improving reading ability over spelling ability. While it can be tempting to included targets for all of the child’s areas of difficulty, you will not have time to address all of their needs in one year.
    • If you have a child who is in the senior classes and is extremely weak in maths or has severe dyscalculia, consider working on skills that they will need for life such as using money, using measures (for cooking, telling the time) etc. Is Consider if it is really appropriate spending huge amounts of time and stress teaching them long division or multiplication when they will be able to use a calculator for this in secondary school.
  • Meet the class teacher to discuss and agree on the targets for the child.
  • Meet the child’s parent(s)/ guardian(s) and make sure they are in agreement about the targets. Take their feedback into consideration and amend the targets if needed.
  • If appropriate to the child’s level of development, they may be involved in deciding upon their targets as well. Do not underestimate this step as it can be very empowering for a child to be able to identify and work towards a target that they have helped to set.
  • Make sure you write SMART targets:
    • Specific – “Joe will improve his reading” is not specific. “Joe will read books at an instructional level of 7 on the Oxford Reading Tree scheme as measured by a running record” is.
    • Measurable – “Joe will feel better about himself” cannot be objectively measured. “Joe will name 3 positive qualities about himself” can.
    • Achievable – “Joe will read at his expected class level by the end of First Class”. If Joe has severe dyslexia, this may not be possible to achieve. It is better to set a target that Joe will likely be able to achieve given what you know about them and their learning history.
    • Realistic – “Joe will write in a range of genres using appropriate structure and language”. Will you really have time to cover all of the writing genres with the child as their SET teacher? It might be best to choose one as a priority to work on and to give it adequate time.
    • Timebound – Specify when the target should be achieved e.g. “Joe will solve addition problems within 10 by the end of Senior Infants”.

Step 5: Creating your support plan

  • Create the student support plan. The blank School Support Plan template NEPS is available for free from the NCSE website. Just Google search for “Blank Student Support File” or you can find it on the Department of Education and Skills website, here. There is also a sample of one completed on
  • Once the plan is finalised, send home a copy to the child’s parent(s)/ guardian(s) and make sure the class teacher also has access to it (if your school uses Aladdin, it can be saved on this).
  • The plan is a working document and can be edited as the year progresses. You may notice that the child’s priority needs change and therefore their targets may need to change too.

Best of luck in your journey as a SET!

16 thoughts on “How to Write a Support Plan: Classroom, School or School Support+

  1. Sandra says:

    What do you do with the support plans come September? Do you review or write up a new support plan for the child each year?

    • Teaching Plans says:

      Hi Sandra, thanks for your interest in my blog. I hope you found it helpful. The log of actions part should be kept as one document for the duration of the child’s time in the school. As for the rest, it would depend what your school’s policy is. In my school we use Aladdin, and just update the Basic Needs/ Learning Environment/ My Thought About School Checklist each year, but create a new document for the support plan with new targets (if the previous ones have been achieved/ are no longer relevant). This is so we have a record of the previous targets and the review and so we can see the child’s progression over the years. Kind regards, Claire

  2. Maria says:

    Hi Claire,
    That was such a helpful article you wrote thank you!
    Can I ask you when going in to support children in class for maths, say if I have two target students in Maths that receive support. If their main maths targets in their support file have to be specific e.g. will know time to the hour and half half, what do I write in my weekly plan when the topic they are learning is totally different? E.g When I go in class they are learning a wide variety of maths topics obviously and the topic for the week is addition with regrouping in class. Do I include this in my weekly plan? Or should I be focusing solely on time until they reach that target? Should they stay in class for maths to learn all topics and I support them to reach the easiest of the outcomes and then withdraw them at a different stage in the day to learn time (which is their support file target) or learn addition with regrouping? or both?

    Thanks so much!

    • Teaching Plans says:

      Hi Maria,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m delighted you found this helpful.
      I have also been in this situation (having a number of children from a class on school support with specific targets on my caseload, but also being timetabled for team teaching with the same class). In this situation, you would have separate weekly plans for the child (or group of children) on school support, and for the team teaching/ in class support. The weekly plan for the child or group would be in a format like this, and the planning for in class support/ team teaching is best done collaboratively with the class teacher and could look something like this. Ideally you would be working in class for support with the whole class, and you would also withdraw the children a couple of times per week (or as needed) to work on their individual targets.
      Under the current system for SET provision in Ireland, the class teacher has ultimate responsibility for every child in their class’ learning in all areas, so children shouldn’t be withdrawn for all of their learning in a particular subject e.g. the class can’t be divided for maths with the SET giving one group all of their teaching in maths for the year.
      Also if you are withdrawing and the children’s area of need is maths, it is best practice not to withdraw them when the class teacher is teaching maths as you don’t want them missing out and falling further behind. Ideally you would withdraw them at another time of day (and for different subjects so they aren’t missing out on the same subject every time).
      Timetabling in SET can be very tricky and it usually requires a number of drafts and trails to get it right. It also requires flexibility from the class teacher who might need to change some things around to ensure that the children being withdrawn aren’t missing the same subjects every day.
      Best of luck with it!

      Kind regards,


  3. Nicola says:

    Hi Claire,
    If a child is receiving SET support from 3 different teachers (Social & emotional, Literacy, Maths) could there be three separate school support plan documents with targets/strategies/resources for each subject area? Or would the three teachers type into the one document? We use Aladdin for support files. Thanks

    • Teaching Plans says:

      Hi Nicola, There would only be one student support file, with one school support (or school support plus plan) in it. Each teacher would contribute to the plan and include the target for the area they are working on with the child. Doing the plan through Aladdin is ideal for this as each teacher can add their section without having to email around the file or try to pass it around in some other way.

      I hope this helps.

      Kind regards,


  4. Paula says:

    Hi, I have just started as EAL Support teacher. I have 15 children from a range of classes. It is a combination of supporting children in class and withdrawal. Nothing is in place and I am starting from scratch. I am wondering what planning and documentation needs to be done by EAL support teachers?

    • Teaching Plans says:

      Hi Paula,
      Thanks for your message. I actually have a separate blog post on EAL where I outline all of the planning requirements here. You’ll also see in the comments section for that post, I have explained how some form of withdrawal is usually needed in order to work on specific language targets. You can certainly do some in class support, but it would have to really target the children with EAL (rather than just giving support to the whole class) and it might not be sufficient on its own for working on specific language learning targets with the children.
      Best of luck in your new role!

  5. Sarah says:

    For Junior Infant children that require additional support with phonics (withdrawal support in addition to whole class differentiated teaching), is each child required to have a separate SSP with parental input/consent? Thanks

    • Teaching Plans says:

      Hi Sarah,
      Every child that is on the Continuum of Support requires a plan at the appropriate level (classroom support, school support, or school support plus). If a child is receiving support from the SET, they will be on School Support or School Support Plus level depending on their level of need, and will need a corresponding plan. The plan and targets will need to be discussed with the child’s parents and support consent should always be sought.
      That said, children in Junior Infants would normally only require withdrawal support in exceptional circumstances and withdrawal for phonics wouldn’t merit SET intervention at Junior Infant level. In almost all circumstances, support at junior infant level is most appropriately given as in-class support, as all children need to be given a chance to settle in and to experience whole class teaching and differentiation before needs can even be identified. Normally junior infants would need to work on phonological awareness until at least Christmas, and might not begin phonics until January, or even after Easter. Content such as phonics needs to be first taught at whole class level and classroom differentiation should also be in place. If both of these have taken place, and a child is still having difficulty, then the first step is the classroom teacher should put a classroom support plan in place. This would need to be in place for at least 6-8 weeks before SET support is even considered. Given the above timeframe, it wouldn’t make sense that a child would need additional support for phonics in Junior Infants, especially not before the final term, as sufficient time for differentiated whole class teaching and classroom support would not have taken place.

      Kind regards,


  6. Kate says:

    Hi teaching junior infants in a gaeltacht school – tumoideachas. I have a lot of Eals with no english or irish. Do these children need classroom support plan or is it given they are entitled to school support

    • Teaching Plans says:

      Hi Kate, every newcomer child with EAL is entitled to 2 years of EAL support and if they are Junior Infants, they will not have received this support in another school, so they should get it for the entirety of Junior and Senior Infants. This would normally be at School Support level (unless they have a lot of other complex needs, then they would be on School Support Plus). They don’t need a classroom support plan for not being able to speak Irish as many English speaking children wouldn’t speak any Irish either when starting in a Gaelscoil. The SET/ EAL teacher is responsible for planning for their EAL support. I find the best format for this is an EAL IEP which contains the targets from Up and Away (the EAL curriculum), as the format of the NEPS support file is more geared to needs that are a result of a learning difficulty. I hope that helps!
      All the best,

  7. Ann says:

    Hi I’m a post-primary teacher new to SEN. If a student has a SSP in first year and I want to continue this into second year, do I fill in a new Support Plan section or a Support Review Record section? I’m presuming that the student’s SSP is one document from 1st to 6th year (if necessary).

    • Teaching Plans says:

      Hi Anne, I am primary trained and based, so I will try my best to answer this, but bear in mind that things might be a bit different at PP level!
      The review section should be completed by the SET who worked with the child in First Year. If you are working with the child now (during First Year) and will have them again in second year, you will need to fill out the review section before the end of the current school year. At primary level, a review is usually done in conjunction with the parents and class teacher in January and June.
      For the rest of the plan, I can tell you what we do in our school, but it could vary from school to school so it might be best to see if the procedure is outlined in your school’s SEN policy. We keep all of the Student Support File documents on Aladdin. Certain documents for the SSF are just updated each year, and others are kept on record and a new one is created each year. For instance the “Log of Actions” is one document that the student has for the duration of the time in the school and it is just added to as actions take place. Each September the “Basic Needs” and “Learning Environment” and “Support checklist” documents are just reviewed and updated with any new/ different information. A new “My Thoughts About School Checklist” interview is completed with the child and uploaded (the previous one is retained on Aladdin). It is also important to have a record of the child’s previous support targets and strategies used, so we leave the part of the SSP plan that contains the targets from the previous year on Aladdin and create a new one for the new school year. Aladdin has templates of all of these documents.

      I hope that helps!

      Kind regards,


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