Education Endowment Foundation:PALS-UK


Coventry University
Implementation costThe cost estimates in the Toolkits are based on the average cost of delivering the intervention.
Evidence strengthThis rating provides an overall estimate of the robustness of the evidence, to help support professional decision-making in schools.
Impact (months)The impact measure shows the number of additional months of progress made, on average, by children and young people who received the intervention, compared to similar children and young people who did not.
Project info

Independent Evaluator

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A 20-week structured paired reading intervention to improve reading fluency and reading comprehension
Pupils: 4050 Schools: 89 Grant: £236,265
Key Stage: 2 Duration: 1 year(s) 4 month(s) Type of Trial: Efficacy Trial
Completed June 2020

Peer Assisted Learning Strategies UK (PALS-UK) is a whole-class, structured peer tutoring intervention aiming to improve pupils’ reading comprehension, oral reading fluency and overall reading attainment. Pupils are paired and take part in four activities: partner reading, re-tell, paragraph shrinking and prediction relay. This project was delivered to Year 5 pupils (age 9 – 10) for 30 – 35 minutes three times a week for 20 weeks.

The evaluation report was updated in May 2024. The previous version reported that PALS-UK had no impact on pupils’ reading self-efficacy. However, the independent evaluators identified an error in their data and their revised analysis found a small positive impact. The revised report also includes updates to a staff survey; the key outcomes for reading attainment remain unchanged.

The EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit reports that peer tutoring approaches can have high and cost-effective impacts on pupil attainment. The PALS approach exemplifies a number of common features of effective peer tutoring interventions and has been extensively implemented in the United States, with a number of studies reporting positive effects on pupil outcomes. However, most of these studies have been small-scale and developer-led. This evaluation aimed to provide robust evidence on the impact of PALS in the UK context.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a high proportion of the pupils who started this trial were not included in the final analysis. Outcome testing was also delayed and took place in the context of significant disruption to children’s education brought about by the pandemic. Consequently, there is considerable uncertainty around the results of this trial and they should not be interpreted as robust evidence of the impact of PALS-UK on pupils’ reading. This trial reports that children in PALS-UK schools made the equivalent of one fewer months’ progress in reading, on average, compared to children in other schools. This result has a low EEF security rating, meaning that we have low confidence in this result.

This trial also reports that children in PALS-UK schools who were eligible for Free School Meals made the equivalent of one months’ additional progress in reading, on average. However, there is considerable statistical uncertainty around this result and it should not be interpreted as robust evidence. Data from surveys, interviews and observations of programme delivery suggest that teachers and headteachers perceived the programme positively and found the training, programme resources and ongoing support from the delivery team useful.

Although this was a well-designed randomised control trial, it has been unable to provide robust evidence of the impact of PALS-UK, due to disruption associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the EEF intends to conduct a second efficacy trial of PALS-UK. To read about the second trial click here.

ImpactThe size of the difference between pupils in this trial and other pupils
SecurityHow confident are we in this result?
Reading attainment (age standardised PiRA score)
Months' progress
(Effect size -0.07)
Reading attainment, FSM pupils (age standardised PiRA score)
Months' progress