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The effectiveness of additional interventions for children with literacy difficulties in Years 3 & 4

By Timothy Kenneth Bunn


This study compared the progress in reading and spelling of 256 children\ud in 11 classes in 9 English primary schools in Years 3 and 4, and a partially\ud overlapping sample of 126 children who received additional help with\ud literacy during one year. Teachers and teaching assistants used either\ud Additional Literacy Support (ALS), a highly structured set of small group\ud teaching materials devised by the English National Literacy Strategy, or a\ud wide variety of other materials including other published intervention\ud programmes, reading scheme based, computer based and individually\ud designed interventions, or a combination of ALS and other interventions.\ud The influence of a broad range of contextual factors were investigated,\ud especially whether children's qualities, school factors such as SocioEconomic\ud Status and class size, and delivery differences made significant\ud differences to the outcomes of the different interventions. The study used\ud a naturalistic quasi-experimental design, in which teachers were asked to\ud record details of their children and interventions without altering their\ud professional decisions, which has not been used before in investigating\ud literacy difficulties in context.\ud ALS was marginally more effective than other interventions in the majority\ud of classes, but was clearly superior in value for money terms. Children's\ud qualities did not appear to affect outcomes. Although children receiving\ud additional help made better than average progress, below average\ud children receiving only class teaching made more progress. Overall catchup\ud was limited, especially in spelling. There appeared to be a larger\ud influence of class teaching than expected. A tentative theory of how class\ud teaching and additional interventions combine is suggested. The study\ud considers how research of this type could be advanced, the need for\ud further development of both class literacy teaching and additional\ud interventions, and raises some questions about national policy towards\ud literacy interventions

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