Read Write Inc. Phonics and Fresh Start teach children to read and write through a systematic approach to literacy rooted in phonics. Read Write Inc. Phonics is for children in Reception – Year 4 (age 4 – 9) and begins with 20-minute daily lessons in term 1 of Reception, building up to an hour a day for children in Year 1 and above. Most children complete the programme by the first term of Year 2 while those in need of further support may continue until the end of Year 4. Fresh Start is a catch-up programme for children in Years 5 – 8 (age 9 – 13) who have been identified as below their expected reading age. Pupils in this trial were offered daily one-hour lessons for up to 33 weeks, in place of or in addition to regular English lessons.
Education Endowment Foundation:Read Write Inc. Phonics and Fresh Start
Read Write Inc. Phonics and Fresh Start
The EEF commissioned this effectiveness trial of Read Write Inc. Phonics and Fresh Start following positive results from a previous EEF-funded efficacy trial of Fresh Start. This previous trial involved 10 schools and found a positive impact on pupils equivalent to three additional months’ progress in reading, on average. Read Write Inc. Phonics uses similar approaches with younger pupils and is widely used by primary schools in England. The effectiveness trial began in 2016 and focused on pupils in Reception to Year 2 for Read Write Inc. Phonics and pupils in Years 5 and 6 for Fresh Start.
This evaluation found that children in the Read Write Inc. Phonics intervention group made the equivalent of 1 additional month’s progress in reading, on average, compared to children in control schools. This result has a low to moderate security rating. A relatively high proportion of pupils who started the Read Write Inc. Phonics evaluation were not included in the final analysis (31%), due to pupil absence from school, moving to a different school, or teachers withdrawing pupils from testing due to concerns about the difficulty of the assessment. The evaluators also found that 20% of schools in the control group had accessed Read Write Inc. training or resources, while 15% of schools in the intervention group did not deliver the programme. These factors lowered the security rating for this trial. There is some evidence that pupils eligible for free school meals may have particularly benefited from the programme, making an average of 3 months’ additional progress in reading, although this result is less secure than the result for all pupils and should be interpreted with greater caution. The evaluation also found a positive impact of Read Write Inc. Phonics on pupils’ phonics outcomes, equivalent to 1 month’s additional progress. This was the average impact for pupils who received the programme for one year and pupils who received the progamme for two years before taking the Phonics Screening Check.
The evaluation additionally assessed the impact of Fresh Start on pupil reading outcomes, finding that children allocated to the Fresh Start intervention group made the equivalent of 2 months’ less progress, on average, compared to children in the control group. This result has a moderate security rating. Fresh Start was not implemented as intended in a significant proportion of intervention schools, with 35% of schools not delivering Fresh Start at all, 29% delivering Fresh Start to some but not all eligible pupils and 12% not providing enough data for the evaluators to know whether or not they were delivering Fresh Start. This is likely to have affected the findings and has lowered the security rating assigned to these results. Two of the 66 intervention schools in this evaluation were selected to take part in interviews and focus groups. Barriers to the implementation of Fresh Start identified by these two schools included limited space or staff capacity for delivering the programme, the lack of Fresh Start specific training provided to teachers and the Fresh Start handbook being less comprehensive than the Read Write Inc. Phonics handbook. Additionally, recruitment of schools to the evaluation was led by a third party rather than by Ruth Miskin Training. Ruth Miskin Training staff interviewed as part of the evaluation felt that this change from their usual practice may have contributed to implementation issues. The evaluation found that children eligible for free school meals in the Fresh Start intervention group made the equivalent of three months less progress in reading, on average, compared to children eligible for free school meals in the control group. This result is less secure than the overall result for Fresh Start pupils and should be interpreted with greater caution.
There is extensive evidence in the wider literature on literacy that systematic synthetic phonics approaches can have substantial positive impacts on pupils’ reading outcomes. The results of this evaluation suggest that pupils allocated to the Read Write Inc. Phonics intervention group made more progress in reading than pupils in other schools while pupils allocated to the Fresh Start intervention group made less progress in reading than pupils in other schools (although a high proportion of the schools enrolled in the programme did not ultimately deliver Fresh Start). This result contrasts with the results of the EEF’s previous trial of Fresh Start, which identified a positive impact equivalent to three months additional progress in pupils’ reading, on average. Differences between this trial and the previous Fresh Start trial include the implementation challenges and limited school engagement with the programme observed in this evaluation, which were not observed in the previous trial, as well as differences in the evaluation design. The 10 schools in the previous trial ran their own evaluations of Fresh Start with support from a team of evaluators, who aggregated results across schools. The previous trial also used a different primary outcome measure for Fresh Start (the NGRT instead of KS2 Reading scores) and delivered to a different year group (Year 7 instead of Year 5).
- There were 131 schools involved in the trial.
- 22% of schools in the trial came from the North of England.
- Historic KS2 reading results for schools participating in this evaluation were lower than the national average. Given that the evaluation aimed to over-recruit schools with high numbers of disadvantaged pupils or low prior attainment and that schools signing up were interested in Fresh Start, which targets pupils struggling with reading, it was expected that this would be the case.
- Resource requirements for delivery of Read Write Inc Phonics and Fresh Start include financial resources to cover training and programme material costs, and staffing and space requirements associated with pupils being taught within groups based on reading level.
- For the two programme schools interviewed as part of this evaluation, barriers to the delivery of Read Write Inc. Phonics included space or staff capacity for delivery, teaching assistants needing more support to deliver the programme, challenges maintaining the pace of sessions, and challenges integrating the writing components of the programme.
- For Fresh Start, barriers to delivery identified by the two programme schools interviewed included space or staff capacity for delivering the programme, the lack of Fresh Start specific training provided to teachers and the Fresh Start handbook being less comprehensive than the Read Write Inc. Phonics handbook.
- Read Write Inc. Phonics and Fresh Start resources are available from Oxford University Press. Training is available from Ruth Miskin Training.
Based on this evaluation, the average costs of Read Write Inc. Phonics for one school over three years was around £18,960, or £186 per pupil per year. This included costs of training and support, programme materials and supply costs for attending training. Costs varied based on school Ofsted ratings, because schools with low Ofsted ratings received additional in-school development days compared to schools with high Ofsted ratings.
Costing of the programme has changed since this 2016 – 2018 evaluation. Read Write Inc. Phonics training and support for a one-form entry school for two years currently costs around £4,760 plus VAT while the programme resources cost around £5,790 plus VAT.