Abracadabra (ABRA) - re-grant

This page covers the second (effectiveness) trial of Abracadabra (ABRA), testing a scalable model under everyday conditions in a large number of schools. To read about the first (efficacy) trial - testing whether it could work in schools under best possible conditions - click here.

Abracadabra (ABRA) is an online toolkit composed of phonics, fluency and comprehension activities based around a series of age-appropriate texts. The trial assesses a 20 week programme of lesson plans using the ABRA activities and a paper alternative, delivered by teaching assistants. Sessions last 15 minutes and are delivered to small groups of pupils four times per week. The programme will be supplementary to core literacy lessons for all pupils in Year 1.

The trial will test two versions of the programme: an ICT version (ABRA) and a paper-based, Non-ICT version. Both versions of the programme contain the same content, but differ in how they are delivered. The ICT version is delivered through an online platform (ABRA), while the non-ICT version involves the use of paper based activities and the use of additional resources such as magnetic letters and cards. Both versions are designed around texts that are suitable for early readers and focus on developing phonics, reading fluency and reading comprehension.

The project is led by Coventry University and Nottingham Trent University.

Why are we funding it?

This trial follows on from several previous studies of the intervention. The ICT software was originally developed by Concordia University in Canada and several studies from around the world have found promising results. The EEF funded an efficacy study in 60 schools of the original ICT version of the programme as well as a new non-ICT version of the programme. After 1 year, the ICT (+2 additional months’ progress) and non-ICT (+3 additional months’ progress) programmes led to improved reading attainment measured by a standardised assessment.

This new effectiveness trial will test whether a scalable version of the training and resources can produce similar results. It will also further explore the relative impact of the two versions of the intervention.

How are we evaluating it?

A team from the York Trials Unit, led by Kerry Bell, will independently evaluate the programme. The evaluation is designed as a three-arm randomised controlled trial comprising a control group, an ICT arm and a non-ICT arm. It will be an effectiveness study. Effectiveness trials aim to test whether an intervention can work at scale in a large number of schools.

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Summer 2020.