The study of 1,200 pupils involved in the Further Literacy Support programme from the National Literacy Strategy found half of children taking part progressed one curriculum level during Year 5 - twice as fast as expected. Only 35 per cent of pupils not on the programme progressed this fast.
The support programme is aimed at 10-year-olds who are predicted to just miss the expected level 4 in the national tests.
In addition to the usual literacy hour pupils spend three 20-minute sessions a week working in groups of up to six pupils with a teaching assistant.
Dr Roger Beard, co-director of the research, said that as pupils on the programme were already lagging behind their classmates, the extra progress they made meant they were merely catching up rather than outperforming their peers.
But the study found that the extra ground that pupils made up on the 12-week course was still evident at the end of the year. Pupils did not slip back once the course ended.
Further work is being done this year to find out whether pupils who took the course do go on to achieve level 4 at the end of Year 6.
Primary Forum 24