Education Endowment Foundation:Reciprocal Reading (Accelerator Fund delivery)

Reciprocal Reading (Accelerator Fund delivery)

FFT Literacy
Project info

Independent Evaluator


Reading comprehension programme delivered as a targeted intervention to support pupils struggling to understand texts, delivered by FFT Literacy.

This page covers the scale-up of Reciprocal Reading under the Accelerator Fund. To read about the first (efficacy) trial of Reciprocal Reading, which tested whether it could work in schools under best possible conditions, click here. To read about the second (effectiveness) trial – testing a scalable model under everyday conditions in a large number of schools – click here.

Reciprocal Reading is a structured, discussion-based approach to the teaching of reading comprehension. It aims to develop children’s understanding of a text and teach them important strategies for making sense of what they read. These strategies – predicting, clarifying, questioning and summarising – are used repeatedly on small sections of the text, to deal with any comprehension difficulties as they emerge. Through repeated use of the strategies, readers become more confident in dealing with misunderstandings and start to apply the strategies to their own independent reading. As a targeted intervention, reciprocal reading is often used to address the reading difficulties of children who can decode a text but struggle to understand it.

This project involves a trained teacher or teaching assistant (TA) teaching at least two 20 – 30 minute sessions a week for 12 – 16 weeks to a selected group of 4 – 8 children who have been identified to have reading comprehension difficulties (in addition to normal reading/​English lessons). The delivery of the programme is overseen by an experienced member of staff who can support the work of the staff and pupils.

The lead teacher for the project and identified teachers/​TAs attend 2 live online training days provided by FFT Literacy. The first training day introduces the reciprocal reading approach and the second, some weeks later after the programme has begun in school, focuses on developing challenge and extending children’s thinking.

There are also two 2‑hour visits’ from FFT Literacy staff to support development of practice. Each visit’ follows a training day and focuses on helping school staff implement the programme successfully. Both the training days and the visits will be completed online via a live webinar or video call.

A previous EEF independent evaluation found that children in Year 5 and Year 6 who had been identified as struggling with reading comprehension made an average of +2 months’ additional progress in reading comprehension and overall reading, compared to the control group. Further, results showed that the intervention had an even larger positive impact on children who were eligible for free school meals.

In line with these results the focus of this project is on Year 5 and Year 6 pupils who have difficulties with reading comprehension. In particular, schools might target children who decode accurately but find it difficult to understand a text or take only very literal meanings from text.

Our recommendation is that the programme is launched with Year 5 children in spring/​summer 2022 with intervention sessions continuing into Year 6 in autumn 2022 as necessary. Schools might also wish to extend the programme to other groups of children in the academic year 2022 – 23.

As part of the Department for Education’s Accelerator Fund, the EEF is supporting programmes that have positively impacted pupil outcomes in previous EEF trials to reach more pupils. We will support these programmes to be accessible at a larger scale with delivery focused on the Research School Commissioner regions of the North, East Midlands & Humber, West Midlands, whilst maintaining their high quality and impact.

Reciprocal Reading has already been rigorously evaluated in a previous EEF trial which produced positive findings, so this project is focused on scaling up the programme to support more schools and pupils.

However as part of the EEF’s overall Accelerator Fund work, an evaluation team will be commissioned to independently evaluate the extent to which the overall aims of the package of work has been met, whether each part of the work (for example, scale up programme delivery) has delivered its goals and implemented as planned, and identify specific factors that promote or hinder its success and in order to inform the EEF’s future processes and practice. This evaluation will be focusing on processes rather than impact.