Education Endowment Foundation:EEF publishes independent evaluation of Read, Write, Inc. Phonics and Fresh Start

EEF publishes independent evaluation of Read, Write, Inc. Phonics and Fresh Start

The EEF has published an independent evaluation of Read Write Inc. Phonics and Fresh Start

Today, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has published an independent evaluation of Read Write Inc. Phonics and Fresh Start, two programmes designed to teach children to read and write through a systematic approach to literacy teaching.

Press Release •3 minutes •

Read Write Inc. Phonics is for children in Reception – Year 4 (ages four to nine) and begins with 20-minute daily lessons in the first term of Reception, building up to an hour a day for children in Year 1 and above.

Fresh Start is a catch-up programme for children in Years 5 – 8 (ages nine to 13) who have been identified as below their expected reading age. In this trial, it consisted of daily one-hour lessons for 33 weeks, in place of or in addition to regular English lessons. 

Both programmes start with the systematic teaching of phonics, before moving on to improving reading fluency and comprehension.

There is a large body of evidence, including in the Teaching and Learning Toolkit, that suggests that systematic synthetic phonics approaches have a positive impact on the development of early reading skills. Because of this, the EEF has funded several evaluations of different phonics programmes, including this randomised controlled trial of Read Write Inc. Phonics and Fresh Start.

131 primary schools were recruited to take part in the trial, which began in 2016 and was independently evaluated by the American Institutes for Research. The schools that were recruited were schools with high numbers of disadvantaged pupils and with low prior attainment. The programmes were developed by Ruth Miskin and delivered by Ruth Miskin Training (RMT). Queens University Belfast (QUB) managed the trial. Their role involved recruitment and support of schools, pre and post test data collecting and data cleansing.

66 schools were randomly assigned to the intervention group, meaning they were offered Read Write Inc. Phonics and Fresh Start. The remaining 65 schools continued with their business as usual” reading provision, which for most would have included other phonics programmes. This was an effectiveness trial, which means it was designed to test the programme under everyday conditions.

The independent evaluators found that children in schools who were offered Read Write Inc. Phonics made, on average, one month’s additional progress in reading compared with those in the control group.

However, this finding should be interpreted with caution: high numbers of pupils from the designated delivery schools were not included in the final analysis due to factors such as day to day absence, pupils moving schools, or teachers withdrawing pupils from testing due to concerns about the level of difficulty of the assessment used.

The evaluators found some evidence that pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) responded particularly well to Read Write Inc. Phonics and made, on average, three months more progress than pupils who were not offered the programme. This finding is less secure than the results for all pupils because it’s based on a smaller group of pupils.

The independent evaluators also looked at the impact of Fresh Start, the catch-up programme for older pupils. Pupils in schools who were offered the Fresh Start intervention were found to have made, on average, two months’ less progress than children in the control group.

This finding should also be interpreted with caution as the intervention was not implemented in schools as intended. Over a third of schools (35%) who were offered Fresh Start didn’t deliver the programme at all and a slightly smaller proportion (29%) delivered Fresh Start to some but not all their eligible pupils. A further 12% of schools didn’t provide enough data for the evaluators to know whether or not they were delivering Fresh Start.

Through interviews with two of the schools who were offered the intervention, the evaluators identified some potential barriers to implementation. This included teachers not having enough time or physical space to deliver the sessions, as well as the 2016 Fresh Start training material and handbook being less comprehensive than those provided for Read Write inc. Phonics. Additionally, recruitment of schools to the evaluation was led by a third party rather than by Ruth Miskin Training. Ruth Miskin Training staff interviewed as part of the evaluation felt that this change from their usual practice may have contributed to implementation issues. 

Professor Becky Francis, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: