Today, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has published the report from the independent evaluation of ABRACADABRA (ABRA) and Reading and Understanding in Key Stage 1 (RUKS), a small group intervention designed to improve reading outcomes in Key Stage 1.
Findings from the trial, evaluated by the York Trials Unit, University of York and Durham University, show that the ABRA-based RUKS programme can support children to make an additional two months’ progress over the course of an academic year.
Just over 4,000 Year 1 pupils (5−6 year olds) from 157 schools across the West Midlands, East Midlands, Newcastle, Teesside and Manchester took part in this EEF-funded trial.
Two versions of the ABRA-based RUKS programme were tested: an ICT-based model and a paper-based model. Participating schools were randomly allocated to deliver either the ICT-based or paper-based model, or they were assigned to the control group and carried on their usual approach to teaching literacy.
The content for both programmes comes from an open-access web-based interactive software, ABRACADABRA, developed by a team at Concordia and McGill University in Canada.
The paper-based version was adapted into physical resources by a team from Nottingham Trent University and Coventry University.
In both cases, the ABRA content was structured into a 20-week programme developed by the Nottingham Trent University and Coventry University team called Reading and Understanding in Key Stage 1 (RUKS).
Designated delivery schools implemented the ABRA-based RUKS intervention over a period of 20 weeks, from October 2018 until May 2019.
In both versions of the programme, teachers and teaching assistants delivered four reading-based sessions per week to small groups of four to five pupils. These fifteen-minute sessions consisted of decoding (including phonics), fluency and comprehension activities drawn from age-appropriate texts.
The independent evaluation found that children who received either version of the programme made some additional progress on measures of decoding and phonics compared with pupils in the control group.
However, of the two models of delivery, the paper-based approach proved to be the most effective – children who received this version made up to two months’ additional progress in reading.
The programme was well-received by delivery schools, with staff reporting that they felt well supported to implement the programme.
Both versions of the ABRA-based RUKS programme first showed promise when tested in a smaller scale EEF-funded trial completed in January 2015, involving 1884 pupils from 60 English schools.
Having demonstrated a positive impact on pupil progress through this larger scale trial, ABRA-based RUKS becomes the latest education programme to have successfully transitioned through the EEF’s project pipeline.
The EEF has also published independent evaluations of other education programmes today:
- Realistic Maths Education – A problem-solving approach to teaching mathematics which seeks to develop pupils’ intuitive understanding within contexts that make sense to them, evaluated by Sheffield Hallam University.
- ParentChild+ – An intensive home visiting programme, evaluated by the University of York and Durham University.
- STARS Incredible Years – A programme designed to support teachers in developing their classroom management techniques, evaluated by the National Foundation for Education Research.
- Helping Handwriting Shine (HHS) – A programme that adopts approaches used by occupational therapists to improve handwriting for use in the classroom by school staff, evaluated by the National Foundation for Education Research.
- Maths in Context – A programme that involves training maths teachers to use financial contexts when teaching maths, evaluated by the University of Nottingham.
Professor Becky Francis, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:
Janet Vousden, principal investigator on the project and senior lecturer in Psychology at NTU’s School of Social Sciences, said: