Read Write Inc. Phonics is a literacy programme for children in Reception to Year 4 (age 4 – 9) that teaches reading and writing through a systematic approach rooted in phonics. The programme begins with 20-minute daily lessons in term 1 of Reception, building up to an hour a day by Year 1. In this study, schools were to receive two initial training days and two follow up training days for the staff member appointed to lead on the programme (the Reading Leader), two training days for whole-school staff, and 16 in-school development days, where a trainer from Ruth Miskin Training (RMT) would visit the school to provide support.
Education Endowment Foundation:Read Write Inc. Phonics
Read Write Inc. Phonics
Testing the impact of a systematic synthetic phonics programme for early readers.
Delivery of Read Write Inc. Phonics, funded as part of the Department for Education’s Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund (TLIF), began in 2018. The project included more in-school support than is usually recommended for the Read Write Inc. Phonics programme, as it was designed for schools in challenging circumstances, including schools in Opportunity Areas and priority areas, schools with Ofsted ratings of ‘Requires Improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’, and schools with reading data that is causing concern. This evaluation was set up to evaluate the impact of Read Write Inc. Phonics in TLIF schools. It was designed as a quasi-experimental study, where a matched comparison group of schools similar to those that were offered Read Write Inc. Phonics through the TLIF initiative were to be recruited.
The evaluation was paused from March 2020 to September 2021 due to disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, after which the EEF funded an additional year of project delivery starting in September 2021, with the aim of completing the intended evaluation. However, despite the efforts of the independent evaluators from the National Foundation for Educational Research, it was not possible to recruit a large enough group of schools that had similar characteristics to the schools receiving the programme. Without a well-matched comparison group, the evaluators would have been unable to make a meaningful assessment of the impact of the programme, so the evaluation was cancelled in April 2022.
A report has been published summarising work conducted on this evaluation before its cancellation and lessons learned. A key lesson learned is the potential value of building review points into evaluation timelines and engaging advisory groups to support the challenging process of determining when to cancel an evaluation. The report also reflects on the challenges of recruiting schools to act as a matched comparison group in quasi-experimental studies and pros and cons of using secondary datasets instead of recruiting schools.