This page covers the first (efficacy) trial of Switch-on Reading, which tested whether it could work in schools under best possible conditions. To read about the second (effectiveness) trial – which tested a scalable model under everyday conditions in a large number of schools – click here.
Switch-on Reading is an intensive 10-week literacy intervention. It is delivered on a one to one basis by staff, most commonly teaching assistants, who have been trained in the approach. The purpose of Switch-on is to achieve functional literacy for as many pupils as possible, and so to close the reading achievement gap for vulnerable children working below age-expected levels. It is inspired by the well-established intervention Reading Recovery, which is teacher led and delivered over a 12 – 20 week period.
The first EEF Switch-on Reading trial found that pupils receiving the intervention made around 3 months’ additional progress in reading outcomes in Year 7, compared to other pupils. EEF funded a second trial to test whether Switch-on Reading (and Switch on Reading and Writing) would have an impact using the type of delivery model needed to make it available to a large number of schools. In particular, the training for TAs was delivered by a team of trainers, rather than the original developers. In this ‘effectiveness’ trial, participating children in Switch-on schools made no additional progress in reading compared to similarly struggling children in ‘business as usual’ control schools.
The difference in the two results could be because the delivery approach was changed, or because the trials were done with pupils of different ages. Alternatively, the difference could be due to changes in the evaluation process. For example, the amount of other literacy provision available to pupils in the comparison group appears to have been higher in the second trial.
Because of the positive result from the first trial, EEF is discussing with the Switch-on team whether it is possible to develop and test a model that is deliverable in a large number of schools while retaining more of the key elements of the original intervention. Schools considering using Switch-on now should aim to make the conditions as similar as possible to those in that first trial. Involvement from the original developers could be beneficial.
- Switch-on Reading appears to be effective for weak and disadvantaged readers at the stage of transition to secondary school.
- It can be delivered by teaching assistants after two-days of training, and full training and support is required for all relevant staff.
- Challenges to successful implementation may include timetabling and the availability of age-appropriate texts.
- There is a tendency for some staff to stray away from the explicit schedule and this is likely to reduce the programme’s impact. Regular monitoring will increase fidelity but may also increase cost.
- Further research is required to understand: i) whether Switch-on can have an impact in all types of schools; ii) whether the impact lasts, iii) which are the essential components of the intervention, and iv) whether any harm is done to progress in other subject areas due to the time out of class required by the intervention.