Butterfly Phonics aims to improve the reading of struggling pupils through phonics instruction and a formal teaching style where pupils sit at desks in rows facing the teacher. The teacher directs questions to the pupils throughout the lesson in order to check their understanding. It is based on a course book created by Irina Tyk, and was delivered in this evaluation by Real Action, a charity based in London.
Real Action staff recruited and trained practitioners to deliver the intervention. These practitioners worked with trained teaching assistants to teach classes of six to eight pupils, although some groups were larger. Pupils were eligible for participation in the trial if they did not reach level 4 in their Key Stage 2 SATs or their reading skills were at least a year behind their chronological age. In most schools, lessons were taught over a period of ten to twelve weeks, typically with two one-hour lessons each week. One school delivered the intervention over just four weeks, and the implications of this variation are discussed in the main body of the report.
The evaluation was set up as a randomised controlled trial, which compared the progress of pupils who received Butterfly Phonics to a “business-as-usual” control group. It did not test the delivery model at scale, and should therefore be considered an efficacy trial. The study was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation as one of 23 projects focused on literacy catch-up at the primary-secondary transition. It is one of seven literacy catch-up projects with a focus on phonics.