Education Endowment Foundation:Units of Sound

Units of Sound

Dyslexia Action
Implementation costThe cost estimates in the Toolkits are based on the average cost of delivering the intervention.
Evidence strengthThis rating provides an overall estimate of the robustness of the evidence, to help support professional decision-making in schools.
Impact (months)The impact measure shows the number of additional months of progress made, on average, by children and young people who received the intervention, compared to similar children and young people who did not.
Project info

Independent Evaluator

The Institute for Effective Education logo
The Institute for Effective Education

A computer-based phonics programme for Year 7 pupils who are struggling with reading.

Schools: 45 Grant: £390,206
Key Stage: 3 Duration: 2 year(s) Type of Trial: Effectiveness Trial
Completed January 2014

Units of Sound (UofS) is a computer-based programme designed to help struggling readers with their reading and spelling skills. It is a structured, multisensory programme that covers reading and spelling from simple phonics skills through to adult reading levels. It involves a high level of independent work by the student, with small groups of students supervised by a teacher or teaching assistant. Each unit of sound’ (or phonic code) is introduced separately, then used in words, and then sentences.

This evaluation assessed the reading ability of 786 Year 7 students in 45 schools. Students were randomly assigned within the schools to receive the intervention if they had scored below Level 4 on their Key Stage 2 SATs.

The evaluation was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation as one of 23 projects focused on literacy catch-up at the primary-secondary transition for students who did not achieve Level 4 in English by the end of Key Stage 2.

Two staff members in each school were identified to implement the interventions with groups of approximately five Year 7 students at a time. The designated teachers/​teaching assistants in the participating schools undertook the 10-hour initial online training in UofS. Of the 45 schools that took part in the study, 31 had four sessions of additional face-to-face training and support from Dyslexia Action (DA) coaches and 14 had only online distance training and support instead of face-to-face support.

Students spent one 60-minute session with the teaching assistant present and a further 30-minute session on another day working independently on the material covered with the teaching assistant. Schools varied in how they allocated the time. The intervention lasted for 18 weeks.

Students were evaluated at baseline on the New Group Reading Test (NGRT) and then at follow-up on the NGRT and the Single Word Spelling Test (SWST). A light-touch process evaluation was conducted to determine teaching assistants’ and students’ perceptions of the programme. This included surveys of teaching staff and students and interviews with the DA coaches.

ImpactThe size of the difference between pupils in this trial and other pupils
SecurityHow confident are we in this result?
Intervention vs control (all pupils)
Months' progress
(Effect size -0.08)
Intervention vs control (FSM)
Months' progress
(Effect size -0.21)