Guidance for schools

Schools should have a clear and transparent process for delivering literacy interventions that includes the following information:

  • How pupils with literacy difficulties are identified and how intervention programmes are then made available to these pupils

  • How targeted and specialist interventions are chosen and evaluated (the Intervention for Literacy website)

  • How pupils receiving interventions are monitored.
How pupils with literacy difficulties are identified and how intervention programmes are then made available to these pupils

The most effective schools understand the importance of high expectations and the use of accurate data. Quality first teaching means the vast majority of pupils will make good progress. Practice in effective schools indicates that the progress of all pupils is tracked and pupil progress data is analysed on a regular basis. Good analysis of progress data should identify the pupils making less than expected progress given their age and individual circumstances. This can be characterised by progress which: 

• Is significantly slower than that of their peers starting from the same baseline.

• Fails to match or better the child’s previous rate of progress.

• Fails to close the attainment gap between the child and their peers.

• Widens the attainment gap.

Teaching staff need to make judgements on whether some focused support and adaptations to teaching at Wave 1 will be sufficient to enable pupils to get back on track.

“Teachers are responsible and accountable for the progress and development of the pupils in their class, including where pupils access support from teaching assistants or specialist staff.”

Code of Practice 6.36

It is important that hearing and eyesight are checked and excluded as the reason for lack of progress. Adaptations might mean additional time working with a teaching assistant on a literacy area using differentiated resources.

Early Years practitioners should be skilled at identifying gaps in learning and providing the additional experiences and practice these pupils need.

It is important that practitioners, particularly in the early years, become experienced at recognising those pupils who may need more than Wave 1 provision.
The early years foundation stage profile (EYFSP) can
be used to track development, monitor progress and support the early identification of difficulties. Part of this process is gathering information to understand the reasons why the pupil is having difficulty. The phonics screening check, “
Responding to Results”, published

by the Dyslexia-SpLD Trust provides advice for schools supporting a learner with an SpLD.

For example, early speech and language impairment (SLI) is associated with later reading difficulties.
Pupils with SLI are therefore part of the vulnerable
grouping whose progress needs close monitoring and who are likely to need more than Wave 1 provision (Bishop and Adams 1990, Hulme and Snowling 2009). The importance of early language development is recognised through the publication of Every Child a Talker material (ECAT). The material is available to all local authorities. “Communicating Phonics”, published by the Communication Trust, offers a table on page 9 which provides a useful first step for a teacher wishing to identify the type of difficulty a pupil may be having.

Information and guidance on identification and assessment of literacy and dyslexic difficulties that formed part of chapter 2 of the Rose Report (2009) is provided. 

Targeted Intervention

Where a pupil is still experiencing difficulties despite high quality first teaching, schools should consider a targeted intervention. These are usually small group literacy interventions delivered over a specified number of weeks.

Such interventions are designed for pupils with the potential to ‘catch up’ and reach age-related norms by the end of the programme delivery.

They are successful when used with the right group of pupils who are able to maintain the fast pace
of learning. Assessment materials within these programmes enable schools to select pupils who are suitable and will benefit from the intervention. Pupils who are assessed as unlikely to ‘catch up’ with age- related norms are unlikely to benefit from a targeted intervention and may be further disadvantaged. Targeted interventions should not be seen as a stepping stone to a more specialist intervention. 

“Where a pupil is identified as having SEN, schools should take action to remove barriers to learning
and put effective special educational provision in place. This SEN support should take the form of a
four-part cycle through which earlier decisions and actions are revisited, refined and revised with a growing understanding of the pupil’s needs and of what supports the pupil in making good progress
and securing good outcomes. This is known as the graduated approach. It draws on more detailed approaches, more frequent review and more specialist
expertise in successive cycles in order to match interventions to the SEN of children and young people”.

Code of Practice 6.44 

Specialist Intervention 

There is a small percentage of pupils who, even with high-quality teaching and support do not make progress and have significant needs.

If we accept that the average pupil makes two levels of progress over a key stage (and three between KS 2-4) then this information should enable schools to identify those who are ‘significantly below’ age-related norms (although this will change from September 2015). Targeted interventions are designed for those pupils who have the capacity to ‘catch up’ and reach age- related norms and therefore are not suitable for pupils with significant needs.

Pupils with significant needs require a more structured and intensive programme that is tailored to their specific difficulties. These will become evident through the graduated approach using the Assess, Plan Do and Review cycle. The particular intervention or approach will usually be delivered as a one to one programme by a teacher/ teaching assistant who has undertaken some additional training for that intervention and the delivery and outcomes will be overseen by a suitably qualified teacher.

Aspects of a more specialist intervention include regular input, often on a daily basis (little and often). The aim
of such an intervention is to reduce the gap between
the pupil and their peers and hopefully support them to reach the target level for their age. We know that there is an optimum time to intervene, and early intervention is recommended. 

Interventions for pupils with significant needs work best when delivered before the child reaches Year 3 in school. Primary schools are expected to have evidenced based SEN interventions in place at Key Stage 1 for those pupils who need them. It is important that a
pupil with identified literacy difficulties should receive intervention in Key Stage 1 rather than wait until Key Stage 2. Intervening early will prevent literacy failure becoming embedded. 


There are a number of transition points where pupils’ progress data may be re-examined and an intervention considered. As pupils move into the secondary phase, those who are below national curriculum level 4 in English would benefit from further in-depth assessment and some form of intervention.

The fourth edition of Greg Brooks’ research published in 2013 “What works for children and young people with literacy difficulties”, is in two parts;

Part 1 This part deals with schemes for children aged from ages 5-14 years who have not been identified as having a specific educational need but may be struggling to learn to read and write. It retains information from 23 schemes from the previous edition and 9 new ones.

Part 2 This part is almost entirely new and focuses on schemes designed: 

  • For children with specific special educational needs including dyslexia & specific learning difficulties (Chapter 4).

  • To boost literacy at primary/secondary transition (Chapter 5).

  • For young people aged 14-16 including those detached from education or training and those who have offended or may be at risk of doing so (Chapter 6). 

Parents and carers must be kept informed at all stages and feel that their concerns are taken seriously. Schools should make it clear to parents how they decide which pupils require a more intensive literacy intervention as part of their SEN provision and have clear entry and exit criteria. This may be part of the information in their SEND information report which all schools must publish on their websites. It is important to note here that additional SEN interventions should not be seen as a substitute for high-quality universal teaching. 


The Interventions for Literacy website

This website is intended to help you weigh up the choices between interventions. All the intervention programmes featured are directly targeted on literacy. Information is provided to enable schools to choose an appropriate intervention for a pupil with literacy difficulties.

There are features common to many of these programmes in that they take a structured and systematic approach to the teaching of phonics, are delivered on a regular basis, and provide opportunities for pupils to apply their new skills. This approach is considered effective for supporting pupils with literacy difficulties and those with dyslexic difficulties.

A number of local authorities have promoted particular intervention programmes and offer funded training courses. The E Reader initiative (ECAR) has supported schools and local authorities to adopt a range of approaches to literacy difficulties in Key Stage 1 and deployed Reading Recovery teachers to work with the lowest attaining pupils.

Effective schools have a strong system for personalising learning. There has to be a basis for the interventions used at targeted and specialist levels and this should be based on pupil needs. In some school contexts it may be desirable to have a number of targeted interventions in place. The school will have planned for this provision based on pupil needs and recorded it on a provision map. In other contexts there may be no pupils receiving targeted provision but a small number of pupils receiving specialist interventions.

As interventions are introduced, there are resource implications: 

Training of teacher/teaching assistant/adult to deliver the intervention.

• Support for newly trained staff.

• Resources to deliver the intervention (books, phonic materials, photocopying).

• Set-up costs.

• Timetabling of staff and possible supply cover. 

Though some interventions have a high initial cost they can still provide value for money. Schools need to consider the long-term impact and savings in future budgets for children with literacy difficulties. Schools should also consider the sustainability of the interventions they introduce. 


A school delivering an intervention programme
should evaluate its effectiveness regularly at meeting the needs of the pupils who receive it. Successful intervention programmes can double the standard rate of progress, so it is ‘reasonable’ to expect it. Boosting
a pupil’s rate of progress to the ‘normal’ rate (for example, one month’s gain in reading age per month),
though it will mean they are not falling any further behind, will still leave the pupil well below average, and not actually catching up. Ideally we should aim for pupils who have fallen behind to reach the target level for their age rather than just narrow the gap between them and their peers. This is a feasible expectation for some pupils.

Evaluation requires the school to collect data as the pupil enters the intervention (baseline) and at the end. Comparisons can then be made between the two sets of data to identify the level of progress. For those interventions that last longer than a term, the school should also consider collecting interim data to check whether the programme is effective and if any adjustments are needed.

Data, both quantitative and qualitative, should be gathered on the progress of the pupil and analysed. Recording of pupil progress in reading and writing using Assessment of Pupil Progress (APP) materials together with standardised test results will enable
the school to judge the impact of the intervention. Qualitative data can demonstrate positive changes in learning behaviour and confidence. Additionally, there should be checks to see that the gains made through an intervention are maintained. A number of the interventions cited here include follow-up studies that gathered data on this aspect.

When evaluating the impact of an intervention, staff should be aware that the impact may be wider than the original focus, for example, interventions that include an emphasis on developing phonological awareness and reading skills are likely to also have an effect on spelling and writing. Where an intervention is not proving to be effective, schools ought to check whether the programme is being delivered as intended. Over time, teaching staff may change how the materials are delivered or reduce the amount of time allocated to one element of the programme. Regular ongoing observation and support is essential in maintaining fidelity to the programme in order to maximise its effectiveness. Over time, it is likely that interventions that are more effective may become available and the website will reflect this. 

How pupils receiving intervention are monitored

The range of data used to monitor pupil progress should include both quantitative and qualitative measures. Quantitative data can be gathered through standardised tests of reading accuracy, phonological awareness, spelling and comprehension. The tests used should be linked to the focus of the intervention. Schools should ensure that they use reliable and up to date tests to gather evidence.

Further information from class teachers, the parent/ carer and the pupil themselves can provide useful qualitative data on confidence levels and the capacity of the pupil to make use of new learning in the classroom. Qualitative data should always include capturing the pupil’s and parents’ voices and may involve the use of

a questionnaire used both at the beginning and end of the intervention to identify changes.

Observation of the pupil during the intervention is
a key factor in determining a successful outcome. Monitoring the pupil’s response to the teaching during the intervention and adjusting the teaching approach to suit the pupil can lead to greater benefits. For example, some pupils may respond poorly to writing tasks but are positive when asked to use a word processor for the same task. Similarly, observing the pupil in the classroom to see 
if they are using new skills and learning, and providing feedback, will help to consolidate progress.

Pupils at Key Stage 3 and 4 who are not making good progress should be monitored to check how effectively they are accessing the curriculum and whether further adjustments are necessary at Wave 1. This information can then be fed back to teaching staff.

Many interventions are short-term and it is valuable
to monitor the pupil’s progress long-term to check if the gains made during the intervention period have been maintained. Long-term monitoring may include the use of standardised tests, but is more likely to rely on pupil tracking through the national curriculum, classroom-based observation and APP materials. Where
the school is concerned that progress has not been maintained, consideration should be given to revisiting the intervention programme a second time or using another approach.

Where a pupil appears to have persistent needs and continues to make less than expected progress, despite the use of well-founded interventions and approaches that are matched to the pupil’s areas of needs, the school should consider involving specialists, including those secured by the school itself or from those identified on the Local Offer. 

What article would you like to read?

1. Choosing an Intervention for pupils with Literacy Difficulties and/or Dyslexia

2. Guidance for schools

3. Children with Persistent Literacy Difficulties

4. Specialist Advice and Support

5. Use of the Term ‘Dyslexia’

6. Role of the Specialist Teacher

7. Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties (2009)

8. SEN Provision


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