Your Options / What to Avoid / Tutoring
| back to Should I have my child assessed?

In his 2006 report Sir Jim Rose said, ''The indications are that, when children do not get a really good start, they are likely to need interventions to enable them to 'catch up' and 'recover' ground that they should not have lost in the first place'' (Rose 2006.para 100) In the same report Sir Jim Rose recommended that additional support in ALL the waves/tiers of intervention should be fully compatible with mainstream practice (high quality, systematic synthetic phonics taught discretely) (Rose Review 2006 p70)) and he rightly rejected the NLS multi-cueing strategies. Ruth Kelly, Education Secretary at the time, accepted all the Rose report's recommendations and said she would ensure they were implemented (Kelly response to interim report 30/11/05) The DfES (now DfE) followed up Kelly's statement, saying, ''High-quality phonic work, as defined by the Rose review, should be a key feature of literacy provision in all the ‘waves’ of intervention'' (DfES 2007 PNS)

''I am often asked about the role of phonics in 'catch up'...Phonics is the basic mechanism of all reading...There are no reliable alternatives''

The new national curriculum, statutory in state maintained schools, states:

 "If they are still struggling to decode and spell, they need to be taught to do this urgently through a rigorous and systematic phonics programme so that they catch up rapidly."

Your Options -and what to avoid:

1. Rely on 'in school' support which presently, due to the wide-spread lack of knowledge of the most effective way to remediate most reading difficulties, usually amounts to little more than the student being expected to memorise lists of high frequency 'sight words' and work through the book levels of a non-systematic, multi-cueing intervention programme (see below) in small groups or 1-1 (time limited, often just 10 weeks) with a teaching assistant (TA).

Parents should be aware that, in most state schools, children struggling with reading are likely to be placed with a TA for literacy support. In fact, the more severe their difficulties the more likely that they will be taken out of class and taught by a TA whilst their classmates remain in the classroom and are taught by the teacher. ''There has been a drift towards TAs becoming, in effect, the primary educators of lower-attaining pupils and those with SEN'' (TeachPrimary.issue 6.3.p13).

A five year study (Diss: Deployment and impact of support staff) found that there was a consistent negative relationship between the amount of TA support a pupil received and the pupil's progress. This was found across primary and secondary years. A primary teacher comments, ''(T)he slower learners and those with often complicated special needs are "taught" maths and English in small groups or individually by untrained (but very well meaning) classroom assistants leaving the rest with the teacher. It has always struck me as a paradox that the most needy are taught by (with the greatest of respect) the least capable staff''. Note, this is not a clear cut issue as there are schools with (HL)TAs who are highly effective at teaching struggling readers because they are fully trained literacy specialists and very capable of delivering a high quality synthetic phonics intervention programme.

For information on teaching struggling readers at the secondary stage - see teenagers.

In a 2009 speech Sir Jim Rose confirmed what leading UK and International reading experts had said all along*, that Reading Recovery (RR) is ''a multi-cueing, non-systematic approach'' (Rose. Presentation to Speld). Despite RR being incompatible with the 2006 Rose report recommendations and despite their earlier promises (see above), inexplicably, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF 2009) continued to encourage and fund schools to use RR as a Wave 3 intervention for Y1 children AND recommended that they 'layer' RR with a range of other RR-clones, all found under the Every Child a Reader (ECaR) mantle. In this way the then DCSF continued to endorse mixed methods and effectively ensured that the multi-cueing decoding strategies became deeply embedded in most schools.

RRF's response to the HoC S&T select comm. Evidence check report on Literacy interventions.

Small Bangs for Big Bucks: The long term efficacy of Reading Recovery

Chris Singleton was a key contributor to the now archived, DCSF-commissioned, Rose report on Dyslexia (Rose. 2009). On the subject of Reading Recovery, he said, ''Only 12%–15% of Reading Recovery children completing their programmes between 2003 and 2007 achieved a Level 2a or above in Key Stage 1 Reading National Curriculum assessments, the level at which children can tackle unfamiliar words and have therefore developed a self-sustaining word recognition system'' (Singleton 2009 p11)

Singleton also pointed out that Reading Recovery measured children's progress using the BAS-II word reading test; 6yrs.7mths ''was the average reading age of only those children who responded well to Reading Recovery''. Singleton added that a child can achieve a RA of 6.7 on BAS-II ''with knowledge of only a few words'' as ''only 21 words on the test have to be read correctly, which can be easily achieved by a child who has memorised some very high frequency common words (e.g.the,up,you,at,said,out) and knows and can use single letter sounds, plus the simple digraphs 'sh' and 'th'' (Singleton p117)

Parliament's all-party Science and Technology committee also questioned the use of Reading Recovery (and other whole language intervention programmes -see below):
Dec 2009. Evidence Check on Early Literacy Interventions http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/44/4405.htm
Having checked all the evidence, the committee said: ''Teaching children to read is one of the most important things the State does. The Government has accepted Sir Jim Rose's recommendation that systematic phonics should be at the heart of the Government's strategy for teaching children to read. This is in conflict with the continuing practice of word memorisation and other teaching practices from the 'whole language theory of reading' used particularly in Wave 3 Reading Recovery. The Government should vigorously review these practices with the objective of ensuring that Reading Recovery complies with its policy''.

*''Several years ago, a letter was sent to members of the U.S. Congress with 31 signatures of the top researchers in the field of reading urging Congress to suspend support for RR because independent research showed the method had no effect. It is extremely costly to implement, re teacher training, tutoring time, and materials. Not only this, but RR "research" is notorious for misrepresenting the data. In a recent publication by the Institute of Education, the same problems appear. 1. Nearly half of the children from the 145 strong "RR-tutoring group" were dropped from the study at post-testing, while the control group remained intact. (Barely a mention of this, and no attempt to solve the problem this creates.) 2. The RR group received individual tutoring, the control group got none. One could go on. The published paper bears the hallmarks of a bona fide "scientific" journal, until a closer inspection reveals it is published by Reading Recovery. No chance for an impartial peer review process here'' (Memorandum submitted by D. McGuinness (LI 13) To HoC)

The formerly ring-fenced ECaR funding was incorporated into the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) in 2011. The pupil premium (PP) is additional funding given to state schools in England to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. Both the DSG and PP funds are being used by many schools to provide ineffective, non-systematic, multi-cueing intervention programmes for their struggling readers; either Reading Recovery or, more commonly, 'cheaper to implement' close copies of RR (see some examples below).

''Boosting Reading Potential (BRP) has been rebranded and updated. There are now two versions of the programme: boostingreading@primary (BR@P) and boostingreading@secondary (BR@S)'' BRP
is a Wave 2 non-systematic, multi-cueing intervention programme. BRP was ''developed by Bradford Local Education Authority (LEA) in 1996 and is based on the Reading Recovery Programme''...''The reading partner notes the child's use of the three BRP reading strategies: grapho-phonic (visual), syntactic (structure) and semantic (meaning). Weaknesses are addressed through prompts: "Does that look right?", "Does that sound right?", and "Does that make sense?" (Dunford.LiteracyTrust) ''BoostingReading@Primary is recognised as an effective intervention by the European Centre for Reading Recovery at the Institute of Education, University of London, and is included in Every Child a Reader''

Catch Up Literacy
is a Wave 3, non-systematic, multi-cueing intervention programme. www.catchup.org
Dee Reid, 'the lead literacy consultant to Catch Up', gives the following advice to the mum of a struggling reader age 10: ''If Jayden gets stuck on a word, tell him what the word is and then ask him to repeat it. Give him a clue to remind him how to remember the word next time, e.g. ‘It’s in the picture’ or ‘Look at the letters at the beginning’' (Catch Up Newsletter Sept 2011) A past issue of the Australian brochure made it clear that Catch Up Literacy is a Reading Recovery clone: ''Makes use of all ‘recommended’ teaching approaches. Whole language approach covering reading, writing, spelling and handwriting, Complements ‘Reading Recovery’ (enabling pupils to gain support in later years)''

A comparison of the recommendations of the Rose report and Catch Up programme training: http://www.rrf.org.uk/archive.php?n_ID=185&n_issueNumber=60

OUP's Project X CODE intervention programme (for Y2-4 Wave 2).
With its simplistic 'embedded' phonics content, miscue analysis assessment, inclusion of pseudo words (some with illegal spellings) and text-LITE readers, some cynics would say CODE seems to have been deliberately designed to appeal to SENCos and teachers who prefer mixed methods (and certainly don't understand synthetic phonics) but need an intervention with a superficial synthetic phonics 'gloss' in order to satisfy Ofsted when they next come visiting. CODE was never included in the DfE's synthetic phonics match-funding catalogue, perhaps because it didn't meet the independent assessors' criteria for a systematic synthetic phonics programme.
According to OUP, ''Project X CODE was trialled with 61 children in Years 1 to 4 in 11 schools in 8 local authorities in 2012. After only 2½ months of support, they had made an average of 8 months of progress on a standardised reading test''
This research was critiqued by Prof. McGuinness. She said, ''The so-called "research results" from this project are a sham'' http://www.rrf.org.uk/messageforum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5467
Caution -don't confuse CODE with OUP's Project X Phonics, which was in the synthetic phonics catalogue.

Pearson-Heinemann's 'Rapid Reading' is a KS2 Wave 3, non-systematic, multi-cueing intervention programme.
The series editors, Dee Reid and Diana Bentley, also devised the 'Catch Up Literacy' programme -see above.
Caution -do not confuse Rapid Reading with Pearson's Rapid Phonics intervention programme.

''The government has invested considerable funds via the EEF to run randomized controlled trials. One of the RCT evaluations recently released by the EEF was for a programme called Switch-On Reading. What is not apparent in the headline, but appears later in the report, is that the programme is in fact a repackaging of Reading Recovery, which is now being aimed at students at the transition between Key Stages 2 and 3''

Fischer Family Trust (FFT) Wave 3. http://www.literacy.fischertrust.org/index.php/wave3 is another non-systematic, multi-cueing intervention programme. ''It is based on the pedagogy and practice of Reading Recovery''.

Sound Linkage. Peter Hatcher. 'Phonological awareness training' where children are trained to manipulate sounds in words orally (see method 3 for discussion of phonological awareness training). Designed to be used alongside reading instruction based on the Reading Recovery approach. ''In Hatcher's own work, he has incorporated Sound Linkage into the Marie Clay Reading Recovery framework'' (The Study of Dyslexia. p120)

Should we teach phonemic awareness?

R + P interventions (interventions based on Reading Recovery methodology + Phonological Awareness training)

Cumbria Reading Intervention

This 1-1 intervention was mentioned approvingly by Prof.Joe Elliott in the Channel 4 documentary 'The Dyslexia Myth' (2005) This perhaps gave it some status that it doesn't deserve as it consists of a Reading Recovery clone along with Hatcher's Sound Linkage phonological awareness programme. The leveled reading books (repetitive/predictive text) used throughout the programme are from Hatcher's Graded Booklist http://www.cumbria.gov.uk/childrensservices/schoolsandlearning/reading/books/ViewList.asp
John Walker comments on the books in Hatcher's Booklist:

The Cumbria Reading Intervention (see above) was adopted by North Yorkshire and re-named:
The North Yorks Reading Intervention Project:

''In the R+P intervention study reported here, 28% of the 20-week and 21% of the 10-week Intervention group had standard scores below 80 at the end of the intervention.. Moreover, children varied in their responsiveness to the teaching they received and about a quarter could be defined as treatment 'non-responders''

Phonology with Reading programme (Nuffield Foundation.Language4Reading) was a research project using an R+P intervention with at-risk children. It combined Jolly Phonics materials (for teaching 36 GPCs over 20 weeks) with 'oral phonological awareness' exercises (Hatcher's Sound Linkage), plus ''direct teaching in [global] sight word recognition'' and immediate reading practice using real books, leveled using Hatcher's whole language banding system. ''The Teaching Assistant monitored the child’s reading ability by taking a running record of the child reading a book at the instructional level in each individual session. One new book was introduced per session, which the child attempted to read independently, before finishing off with guided reading of the new book''. The resulting research paper by Bowyer-Crane et al (2007) revealed that, ''At the end of the intervention, more than 50% of at-risk children remain in need of literacy support''
N.B. the actual Jolly Phonics programme teaches a Basic Code of 42 GPCs in as little as 7 weeks, with phonically decodable words and sentences provided for reading practice in order to avoid needing multiple decoding strategies and global sight word memorisation.

A version of the R+P Phonology with Reading programme -see above, was used in a study for children with Down Syndrome (Kelly Burgoyne et al) ‘'The Reading and Language Intervention for Children with Down Syndrome combines reading and language instruction in daily teaching sessions that are designed to meet the particular learning needs of children with Down syndrome. It incorporates work on letter knowledge, phonological awareness, whole word and book reading''.
''After 40 weeks of intervention, the intervention group remained numerically ahead of the control group on most key outcome measures; but these differences were not significant''
In contrast, as a result of her own extensive research, a highly experienced educational psychologist recommends using a systematic synthetic phonics programme with children with Down syndrome. This EP comments, ''Of course we would not deny oral language development work with any children with global learning difficulties, but where we differ would be that we would start with phonics and try to establish phonics as primary strategy for reading, whereas this new initiative seems to be just a re-hash of oral language with a searchlights type approach''.

Undeterred by the lack of good results when using an intervention in which the 'reading strand' consists of an R+P approach, researchers used this style of intervention again in a study with children 'at risk for dyslexia'. In the description of the intervention it says: ‘’In all reading activities, phonic decoding is encouraged as the primary strategy for reading unknown words; other strategies (e.g. use of context and pictures) are also taught’’
Study's conclusion ''This new intervention was theoretically motivated and based on previous successful interventions (sic), yet failed to show reliable effects on language and literacy measures following a rigorous evaluation''.

Synthetic phonics programmes suitable for intervention:
See (guidance only) Primary intervention X Older teenagers/adults intervention X

2. Only for the wealthy, or for the few who can obtain a grant - an independent school with specialist 'dyslexia' teaching. This often involves the child boarding, which can be an extra trauma for an already unhappy child, and there is NO guarantee that the school will use a high quality, synthetic phonic intervention programme to teach reading. Some of the methods used to teach reading in these schools are best described as 'quirky'. www.rrf.org.uk/messageforum/viewtopic.php?t=3432

Note that, ''Brooks (2007) has described ratio gains of between 1.4 and 2.0 as having ‘small impact’ and being ‘of modest educational significance’; ratio gains less than 1.4 he classes as being of ‘very small impact’ and ‘of doubtful educational significance’. On this basis all the results reported from studies in UK specialist [dyslexia] schools and teaching centres would be regarded as disappointing (or even disregarded altogether), since the largest ratio gain was only 2.0 (except at Moon Hall School [which uses a programme similar to the Sound Reading System]'' (italics added. Singleton p74)

3. Use an alternative therapy on the basis of personal anecdote/s. Note, 'Testimonials are the number one tool of choice for those who do not have evidence' (Guy Chapman.Guardian comment) Alternative therapies for reading difficulties / dyslexia, ''generally have a weak (or non-existent) evidence base and poor efficacy, and often rely on the superficial attractiveness of a promised instant (and comparatively effortless) ‘cure’' (Singleton p22) Even if the alternative intervention is non-harmful, there is an opportunity cost for students (and often a financial cost to parents), and a residue of negative emotion for both parents and child when the system has no discernible effect (Hempenstall) See Room 101: Fad, fraud and folly in 'dyslexia' and the teaching of reading.

4. Privately arranged specialist tuition. Carefully chosen tuition, where the tutor uses a high quality synthetic/linguistic phonics programme, can be the solution if it can be afforded and as long as the child is happy to attend. For school-attending children, specialist tuition can take place legally off the school premises during school hours, at the discretion of the school, as an 'Approved educational activity off-site'. For the youngest children, 6-7 yr.olds, this is really essential as they are far too tired after school. Parents should approach the school in a spirit of co-operation and negotiate a mutually agreeable time to withdraw their child for tuition. It is, after all, in the school's interest to have their pupils able to read and write effectively.

In law it is always the PARENTS' duty to provide a SUITABLE education for their children, including catering for any special needs (Education Act 1996 Section 7). Normally parents delegate this duty to a school. If parents believe that the school is failing to provide their child with a 'suitable' education then the parents are obliged to do something about it. By arranging specialist tuition during school hours, they are acting responsibly and are trying to fulfil their lawful duty by setting up what the school can't/won't provide. The school needs to have a very good reason to withhold consent - is the school able to provide equivalent tuition: regular one-to-one on the school premises, tutoring by someone with expertise in using synthetic phonics remedially, paid for by the school? Probably not! If the school refuses, then the parents should contact their LA's education department and explain the situation.

Important: If your child is receiving tuition using a synthetic/linguistic phonics intervention programme, in school or out, it is always beneficial, sometimes vital, in order for the programme to be fully effective, that your child is not confused by 'mixed messages' as a result of being expected to use a range of strategies (multi-cueing) to decode words at other times during the school day or during home reading practice.

Attention during learning: teaching children to use both phonics and multi-cueing for decoding confuses them

Choosing a specialist reading tutor:

If you plan to use an independent tutor to help your child, then check the content and the time frame of the programme that the tutor will provide, extremely carefully. A good intervention programme should take just a few months of one-to-one sessions to remediate effectively. A few children who have been left very confused and damaged by whole-language reading practices may take longer, as may those with additional learning difficulties. Caution: specialist programmes for 'dyslexia' (Orton-Gillingham based) often take several years to complete and are not always successful in producing competent readers.

Make sure that the tutor uses a highly structured, intensive synthetic / linguistic phonic programme as the basis for their teaching. Avoid any tutor who claims to 'tailor the lessons to a child's individual learning style' or uses a programme which includes whole word memorising, multi-cueing (guessing) decoding strategies or strange procedures such as spelling words backwards or drawing around words to create shapes - see What NOT to do. Don't use a tutor who suggests that, in addition to tutoring, your child's reading difficulties would benefit from glasses with tinted lenses, vision training, balancing exercises or any other unfounded 'dyslexia' therapy....see Room 101

The chosen programme must work rapidly with positive advances to the child's reading and writing skills being perceptible to all involved - parent, child and tutor - within a short time. Furthermore, the tutor should, 'Involve the parent... directly in homework so that she has a positive role and can maintain gains between sessions and after sessions have ended.' (D McGuinness WCCR p320)

http://www.rrf.org.uk/archive.php?n_ID=91&n_issueNumber=49 'Must read' article by an independent tutor N.B. This article is from 2002. Fiona Nevola went on to write her own linguistic phonics intervention programme, The Sound Reading System, based on the research of Prof. Diane McGuinness.