REACH is a targeted reading support programme designed to improve reading accuracy and comprehension in pupils with reading difficulties in Years 7 and 8. It is based on research by the Centre for Reading and Language at York and is delivered by specially trained teaching assistants (TAs). This evaluation tested two REACH interventions, one based directly on the original 'Reading Intervention' developed by York, and one adapted from it with supplementary material on language comprehension. In both versions, pupils received three one to one 35 minute sessions each week for 20 weeks. Pupils were taken out of other lessons (typically not English lessons) for the sessions and so this evaluation assesses the effect of the interventions combined with more time focused on literacy, compared with standard provision. The impact of the interventions on the reading skills of 287 pupils in 27 schools was tested using a randomised controlled trial. Schools in areas close to Leeds were recruited to the trial in 2013. Pupils identified as having relatively poor reading skills were randomly allocated to the original REACH reading intervention, the language comprehension version, or standard provision. In response to slow initial recruitment, the trial was implemented in two phases. A process evaluation was carried out involving a survey of teaching assistants and interviews with staff from participating schools. Key conclusions include: (1) Both REACH interventions had a positive effect on the reading skills of the pupils in the trial. These effects are unlikely to have occurred by chance; (2) Pupils receiving the reading intervention with language comprehension experienced the equivalent of about six months of additional progress on average. For pupils receiving the standard reading intervention the figure was about four months; (3) The evaluation did not provide any evidence that the interventions improved reading comprehension in particular, as opposed to other skills such as word recognition; (4) Staff reported that the interventions improved literacy, reading ability, and confidence. Staff views were more positive in schools where the interventions were delivered by experienced teaching assistants, supported by senior staff, and allocated a dedicated space for delivery; (5) TAs sometimes found the interventions challenging to deliver. In particular, many said they were not confident delivering the one to one sessions even after training, and some found that the reading comprehension elements sometimes failed to hold pupils' attention. Findings from this study have moderate to low security. The study was designed as a single randomised controlled trial which aimed to compare the progress of pupils who received the interventions with that of similar pupils who did not. However, the original design had to be changed because of delays in recruiting schools, meaning that the trial was run in two separate phases. Both REACH interventions had a positive effect on the reading skills and reading accuracy of the pupils in the trial. Pupils receiving the reading intervention with language comprehension experienced the equivalent of about six months of additional progress. For pupils receiving the standard reading intervention the figure was four months. These effects are unlikely to have occurred by chance.
London: Education Endowment Foundation
Year of Study
Sibieta, L. (2016). REACH: Evaluation report and executive summary. London, UK: Education Endowment Foundation.