Switch-on Reading

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.





Key Stage 3

Key stage

EEF Summary

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.

Research Results


Months' Progress
Evidence Strength

Reading (FSM)

Months' Progress


Were the schools in the trial similar to my school?

There were 19 schools in the trial, all from Nottinghamshire. 32% of the pupils involved in the trial were eligible for free school meals, and 73% of the pupils in the trial had special educational needs. 

Could I implement this in my school?

Switch-on Reading is delivered by Switch-on, which currently sits within Nottinghamshire County Council. To deliver the intervention, teachers must attend a Switch-on training session. 



Delivered by



Participant group


10 Weeks

Intervention length

How much will it cost?

The cost of the approach is estimated at £127 per pupil. This estimate includes resources, initial training and on-going monitoring and support. Estimates are based on a school delivering the intervention to 24 pupils and training four teaching assistants. This does not include the salary costs of the teaching assistants. 



Cost per pupil



No. of Teachers/TAs


2 Days

Training time per staff member

Evaluation info





Key Stage

Key Stage 3

Start date

January 2011

End date

January 2013

Type of trial

Efficacy Trial

Evaluation Conclusions

  1. Switch-on Reading appears to be effective for weak and disadvantaged readers at the stage of transition to secondary school.

  2. It can be delivered by teaching assistants after two-days of training, and full training and support is required for all relevant staff.

  3. Challenges to successful implementation may include timetabling and the availability of age-appropriate texts.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  1. Updated: 8th October, 2020

    Printable project summary

    1 MB pdf - EEF-switch-on-reading.pdf

  2. Updated: 5th February, 2016

    Project Report

    745 KB pdf - EEF_Project_Report_SwitchOnReading.pdf

  3. Updated: 30th August, 2017


    347 KB pdf

Full project description