Intense support has helped children who struggle the most with reading to progress, on average, four times as fast as usual.
An evaluation of the third year of the Pounds 10 million Every Child a Reader pilot scheme found 3,259 six-year-olds completed the Reading Recovery course last year. Another 1,678 were still having lessons when the study was carried out.
As well as supporting those children experiencing the most difficulties, Every Child a Reader provides funding for teachers to work across the school.
The evaluation found that, on average, the children moved from a reading age of four years 10 months to six years seven months using such approaches. It also found that the scheme helped to close the attainment gap, as children on the course were more likely to be boys and more likely to be eligible for free school meals than average.
It also found that, on average, the proportion of pupils gaining level 2, the expected level in reading at age seven, rose by four percentage points and in writing by three percentage points. Nationally, reading and writing scores stayed static.
The programme was evaluated by the University of London's Institute of Education (which also trains Reading Recovery teachers) through information collected routinely from all schools with Reading Recovery teachers and through termly progress reports, collected by the participating schools.
The scheme has not been entirely without controversy. Some academics have questioned how long the effects last. They also describe it as an expensive method that would not be needed if the same effort was put into creating more effective phonics teachers.