Dr Susan Bodman is National Lead for Reading Recovery. Here, she discusses how literacy interventions can help children with long-term difficulties…
Every SENDCo is familiar with the impact of long-term literacy difficulties, both on attainment and social and emotional wellbeing of individual pupils and on the school responsible for meeting those educational needs. Literacy difficulties tend to be resistant to remediation without specific targeted response. This presents schools with a dilemma.
Doing the right thing by these pupils doesn’t come cheap; providing a targeted intervention can be costly, particularly if the school is small or has limited funding for SEND. But if pupils continue to experience literacy difficulties as they progress through primary and into secondary school, costs increase, impacting the individual, the school and society as a whole. That may be even more expensive.
If schools are going to direct funds to targeted literacy interventions, they need to be assured that there will be a return for that investment. Some new research evidence on the impact of Reading Recovery may be useful here.
Investing in Reading Recovery
Reading Recovery tailors teaching procedures to individual needs using ongoing formative assessment techniques. This approach helps pupils learn faster than their classroom peers, catching up in less than twenty weeks of daily half-hour lessons.
The lowest attaining literacy learners at around the age of six are identified for the intervention. These are pupils who have made little or no progress after one full year of high-quality classroom teaching, who without effective help are likely to suffer from the impact of literacy difficulties throughout their school career and beyond. After the short intervention, just over eight out of ten pupils are successful and have their attainment lifted to age-expected levels.
Reading Recovery’s proven success shows that it can be effective in many different kinds of schools and for pupils with many different kinds of barriers to learning (D’Agostino & Harmey, 2016). But until now, evidence of the long-term benefits of investment have been missing.
Research evidence of long-term gains
A new study has now found that investing in Reading Recovery literacy interventions has the potential to produce long-term impacts on children’s lives (Hurry & Fridkin, 2018). Researchers tracked the progress of children age six who took part in the Reading Recovery until they were sixteen. Compared to a control group of similarly low-attaining children who did not receive Reading Recovery, targeted children were:
• More than twice as likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs including English and mathematics: 49% vs 23% in the comparison group
• Less likely to leave school with no qualifications: 2% vs 7% in the comparison group
• Performing only 5% below the national average at age 16 in GCSEs, despite having been in the bottom 10% of readers at age six
• Requiring no intensive special-needs support (a Statement or ECHP), while 10% of the comparison group had a Statement or EHCP at age 14, and 9% at age 16
Potential impact of literacy interventions on SEND
Long-term effects on SEND are important evidence when schools decide how best to support pupils. The follow-up study demonstrates that targeted intervention can drastically reduce the need for a later Statement/EHCP and overall SEND identification. At age 14 there were significantly fewer Reading Recovery pupils identified with any level of SEN (35%) than comparison group pupils (52%).
Doing the right thing can reduce numbers of pupils with the most serious kind of difficulties with literacy, those that impact on their whole lives. Having evidence of sustainability makes it easier to decide to make that long-term investment.
D'Agostino, J.V., & Harmey, S.J. (2016), An International Meta- Analysis of Reading Recovery, Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), Vol 21, NO.1, 29-46
Hurry, J. and Fridkin, L. (2018), The impact of Reading Recovery ten years after intervention’, UCL Institute of Education
For further information on Reading Recovery literacy interventions, visit the website here.
Follow them on Twitter: @ILC_IOE #ReadingRecovery