Evidence-based literacy support: the ‘Literacy Octopus’ trial: Evaluation report and executive summary

Pippa Lord, Adam Rabiasz, Palak Roy, Jennie Harland, Ben Styles, Katherine Fowler, Joana Andrade (addendum report), Megan Lucas (addendum report)

30 January 2019

The Literacy Octopus trials explored the impact of a variety of strategies to disseminate evidence-based materials to primary schools in England, all aimed at improving teaching and learning in Key Stage 2 literacy. The trials were funded by the Education Endowment Foundation, the Department for Education and the London Schools Excellence Fund, and conducted by NFER’s Education Trials Unit.

Earlier Literacy Octopus reports found no evidence that any of the interventions improved pupils’ literacy attainment one year after teachers had received materials and/or light touch support (2015/16). These Addendum reports explore impacts with a further cohort of pupils, two years after receiving materials, to see whether impacts took time to embed.

Key Findings

  • As in both earlier trials, there was no evidence that any of the interventions improved pupils’ literacy attainment two years on from receiving materials and support (2016/17).
  • Only a minority of schools had engaged fully with the materials and support two years previously; and only a small proportion had gone on to implement changes. It is therefore likely that changes to classroom practice were not sufficiently widespread or embedded to make a difference to pupils.
  • Communicating research evidence to schools, even with light touch support, for an unsustained period would seem insufficient to improve pupil attainment outcomes.
  • Further research should explore the level and nature of support that is needed from research organisations, and from within schools, to bring about evidence-based classroom changes that improve pupil outcomes.
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