Peer Tutoring in Secondary Schools

Paired Reading is a peer tutoring programme in secondary schools which trains teachers to support and encourage the regular tutoring of Year 7 pupils (aged 11-12 years) by Year 9 pupils (aged 13-14 years). The Paired Reading programme aims to improve pupils’ general literacy in addition to speaking and listening skills. This is achieved by pupils working together to follow the Paired Reading steps to choose the material to read, and discuss this, together with the older pupil (tutor) supporting the reading, correcting errors and praising the younger pupil (tutee) throughout.

The 16-week programme is intended to take place during normal school hours in timetabled sessions, for 20 minutes each week. Teachers in participating schools received training from the delivery team, a detailed programme manual and extensive digital resources.

The impact of Paired Reading on 2,736 pupils in 120 classes in ten participating schools (1,370 in Year 7 and 1,366 in Year 9) was tested using a cluster randomised controlled trial design with 58 classes randomly allocated to receive the programme and 62 classes allocated to the control condition. Schools from the North Tyneside local authority (LA) and in neighbouring LAs of South Tyneside and Sunderland took part in the trial over the 2013/14 academic year.

Key Conclusions

The following conclusions summarise the project outcome

  1. This evaluation does not provide any evidence that the Paired Reading programme had an impact on overall reading ability, sentence completion and passage comprehension of participating pupils.

  2. There was no evidence of the Paired Reading programme having an effect on overall reading ability, sentence completion and passage comprehension of FSM pupils.

  3. There was some variation in the intervention group schools in terms of the programme set-up and delivery. There was also a varying level of support provided to pupils within the intervention by the teachers involved, based mainly on the reading ability of the pupils. However, these appear to be natural variations between the settings of the schools involved and are unlikely to have affected the dosage of the intervention for the pupils involved.

What is the impact?

There is no evidence from this evaluation that the Paired Reading programme had any positive impact on overall reading ability of participating pupils, measured using the New Group Reading Test (NGRT) scores (see key findings for the primary outcome, reading ability, below).

The process evaluation suggested that there were some differences amongst participating schools with regards to the set-up, delivery and implementation of the programme. There was also a varying level of support provided to pupils within the intervention by the teachers involved, based mainly on the reading ability of the pupils.

GroupEffect sizeEstimated months’ progressSecurity ratingCost
Intervention vs. control (Year 7)-0.02-1
Intervention vs. control (Year 9)-0.06-1
Free school meal pupils (Year 7)-0.04-1N/AN/A
Free school meal pupils (Year 9)-0.06-1N/AN/A

How secure is the finding?

Findings from this evaluation have moderate to high security. The study was set up as a randomised controlled trial, which aimed to compare the progress of Year 7 and 9 pupils who received the programme to similar pupils who did not. The trial was classified as an effectiveness trial, meaning that it sought to test the intervention in realistic conditions in a large number of settings.

The study was a large and well-conducted study. All classes allocated to intervention or control arms completed the study. As the randomisation took place at class level this does introduce the possibility of an exchange of information between teachers and pupils in different trial groups. The process evaluation did not indicate information was exchanged.

At the end of the intervention period all pupils were asked to complete the New Group Reading Test, as a standardised measure of general reading ability. As the testing was administered by the schools the padlock rating is reduced to 4.

How much does it cost?

The cost of the Paired Reading programme is estimated to be £10.50 per pupil. This estimate includes training and support costs and materials required for schools to be able to deliver the programme. These estimates are based on a class of 25 pupils (and five classes per school).