Skip to main content

Reading scheme at age 5 helps GCSE success

Reading Recovery participants more than twice as likely than similar children to achieve five or more good GCSEs 10 years later

Child reading

Reading Recovery participants more than twice as likely than similar children to achieve five or more good GCSEs 10 years later

A reading programme that helps the lowest-attaining children when they are aged 5 or 6 could boost their GCSEs scores 10 years later, new research has found.

Reading Recovery provides one-to-one reading sessions with trained specialist teachers, for the lowest attaining children at age five and six.

Now, new research – The impact of Reading Recovery ten years after intervention – shows that children who took part in the programme were more than twice as likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs including English and maths than similar children who did not do Reading Recovery.

For the Reading Recovery group, 49 per cent of pupils achieved this, compared to 23 per cent of the comparison group.

Reading Recovery was part of the Labour government’s Every Child a Reader (ECaR) strategy, which was aimed at the most disadvantaged children in England.

ECaR began as a pilot project in 2005 before it was rolled out nationally in 2008, and ended when the Coalition government came into power in 2010 and removed the ringfence on the money for the initiative, and instead put the cash into schools’ general budgets.

Today's research from Professor Jane Hurry and Dr Lisa Fridkin, of the UCL Institute of Education, is based on 222 children who were involved in the original 2006 evaluation of Reading Recovery, 84 who had been in a Reading Recovery group and 138 in the comparison group.

It shows that pupils who had taken part in Reading Recovery lessons were less likely to leave school with no qualifications (2 per cent did so) than the comparison group (7 per cent did so).

At the age of 6, there were no differences between the groups in children who had been identified as having SEND but by age 14, there were significantly fewer Reading Recovery children with SEND: 35 per cent, compared to 52 per cent in the comparison group.

None of the Reading Recovery group needed a statement of special needs or an education, health and care plan at age 14, compared to 10 per cent of the comparison group.

A separate report, Assessing the Impact of the Reading Recovery programme, by the charity Pro Bono Economics – which carried out a cost-benefit analysis of the programme – says that for every £1 spent on the programme, there was a societal benefit of £4.30 through increased income for individuals and less money spent on special educational needs support or costs associated with ill health or crime.

And it estimated that, in total, Reading Recovery has the potential to bring benefits of £1.2 billion across the lifetimes of the estimated 101,000 children who have been supported by Reading Recovery between 2005-06 and 2016-17, through higher earnings and reduced costs.

Professor Gemma Moss, director of the International Literacy Centre (ILC), which is based at the IoE and runs the Reading Recovery programme in Europe, said: “Tracking the impact of early interventions over the long-term is unusual in education, yet it is a key element in building an evidence-informed profession.

“Too many children across the UK experience great difficulty learning to read and will face diminished life chances because of it, without early intervention. Difficulties start early and tend to persist. They are particularly common in disadvantaged children.

“Children who come into the Reading Recovery programme are children exhibiting considerable difficulty in learning literacy skills, and who need individual tuition with a highly trained teacher to be able to progress.”

Both studies were funded by the KPMG Foundation. The KPMG Charitable trust, later the Every Child a Chance trust, oversaw the development of Every Child a Reader between 2005 and 2008, before the government committed to a national roll-out in 2008.

Reading Recovery has attracted controversy in the past, with phonics advocates saying that its use of a variety of approaches to improve reading is inconsistent with the drive to embed systematic synthetic phonics in every school.

And the right-leaning thinktank Policy Exchange also criticised the top-down approach of the Labour government backing Reading Recovery rather than leaving schools to make the decision on which reading scheme to use.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you