The Story Time Trial: A Teacher Choices Trial

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What is the Teacher Choices project?
The Teacher Choices project is exploring the feasibility of running robust evaluations of teachers’ everyday choices in the classroom. In every lesson, teachers choose how to approach teaching and learning such as how to read aloud to their class, how to start a lesson or how to manage behaviour. The Teacher Choices project aims to find out how everyday choices are implemented and how they affect outcomes in the classroom, exploring if a randomised controlled trial (RCT) methodology and text-specific tests can be used to do this.

Who is conducting the study?
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has commissioned and funded this study. The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) is conducting the evaluation.

What is ‘The Story Time Trial’?
‘The Story Time Trial’ is the second trial in the Teacher Choices project. It will evaluate two different approaches to class teachers reading aloud to the whole class in Primary schools. The trial examines how teacher choices impact pupils’ learning in, and attitudes to, primary reading via an RCT – this means schools will be randomly allocated to one of two groups, each of which will be assigned a different way of reading to their classes. The random allocation ensures that, as far as possible, there are no systematic differences between the two groups of schools in factors that may affect outcomes in the classroom. It would enable us to determine cause and effect relationship between the choices and outcomes in the classroom.

The study will compare two popular ways that teachers read in their classroom: a sustained reading – GO! approach; and reading with pauses to ask questions – a STOP! approach. Reading the story without pausing is a popular way of reading aloud that builds on an established tradition of sharing stories, exposing children to a wide range of texts and seeking to instill in pupils’ an enjoyment of, and motivation to, read. In contrast, there is evidence to suggest that reading the text and pausing to ask questions may help to model to children the implicit processes that accomplished readers undertake when reading, helping them to develop these skills for themselves.

Year 4 and Year 5 teachers in primary schools in England can take part. The trial will recruit from January 2020, and the choices will be implemented in school during the first half of the Summer term (April - May 2020). Year 4 and Year 5 teachers from the participating schools will be given a short teacher guide to enable them to implement the reading approach that their school is randomised to- either a GO! approach or a STOP! approach. The teachers will experience only one of the reading approaches for approximately three weeks. The type of reading approach for each school will be randomly allocated to schools by researchers at the NFER.

NFER will provide the book that should be read as part of the intervention. A copy of the book The Iron Woman by Ted Hughes will be sent to each teacher along with the guidance documents. All schools will also have the opportunity to participate in a webinar about the approaches. For anyone who can’t participate in this while it is happening, there will be a recording made that can be watched later.

At the end of the trial, participating schools will receive a £100 gift token which can be used to expand the CPD library. This will be accompanied by a list of Education Endowment Foundation recommended titles that they think schools will find particularly useful, although the choice of texts will be up to the school and the school can of course choose titles not on the list. The incentive will be paid to schools once they have completed all of the data requirements of the evaluation

Which schools can take part?
‘The Story Time Trial’ is being run in Year 4 and Year 5 classes in state-funded primary schools in England. To join the trial, the headteacher will sign up after consultation with the relevant classroom teachers. We would request that one teacher from the school acts as the main contact with NFER throughout the trial. See ‘Joining the trial’ for further details.  

In most schools, we will need at least one Year 4 and one Year 5 class to participate. Beyond this, schools are welcome to nominate as many Year 4 and Year 5 classes as they wish to participate. If the schools do not nominate all Year 4 or all Year 5 classes, the nominated classes need to be mixed ability rather than streamed or set classes. Please note that if your school has a Year 4 or Year 5 class as a mixed year group with Year 3 or Year 6, it will not be eligible to participate. However, if Year 4 and Year 5 are taught together, this class can take part in the trial.

Schools will need to confirm that they have not already read the book The Iron Woman by Ted Hughes with participating classes.

Which teachers can take part?
The trial will involve Year 4 and Year 5 teachers with a classroom teaching responsibility for the nominated classes. Teaching assistants or school leaders are not eligible to take part.  

To participate in this trial, we are asking teachers to read aloud The Iron Woman by Ted Hughes (which will be provided to the school) over a period of approximately three weeks to their whole class. Schools will be randomised to either GO! or STOP! approach.

Schools that are randomised to STOP! can complete reading the book aloud in approximately two to three weeks in 15-minute daily sessions involving 10 minutes of reading interspersed with 5 minutes of questions. The questions for the STOP! condition will be provided.

Schools in the GO! condition can complete reading the book aloud in approximately two weeks in 15-minute daily reading sessions.

If the teachers complete reading The Iron Woman to their class, they can continue using the same approach they were randomly allocated to by selecting and reading a different age-appropriate book. More details will be provided in the guidance document.

What will the evaluation involve for teachers and schools?
Joining the trial: Each school headteacher will sign the online Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and nominate a participating teacher as the point of contact for the trial. Schools will identify which Year 4 and Year 5 teachers will be involved with the project and share their contact details with the NFER. In the MoU, the headteacher will also confirm that the teachers have not read The Iron Woman by Ted Hughes with the classes nominated to take part in the trial.

Baseline data: The NFER will provide a parent withdrawal letter and a template on the secure school portal for teachers to provide the baseline data required for the trial. This will include class lists for each teacher involved in the trial, along with the Key Stage 1 (KS1) reading score, name, date of birth, Free school meals eligibility (FSM), gender and English as an additional language (EAL) for each pupil in the teachers’ classes. Schools should not provide NFER with any data for pupils where their parents have opted out of the data sharing.

Random allocation: Schools will be randomly allocated by the NFER to the GO! or STOP! approach. This means, all nominated teachers within a school will implement one or the other approach to be used with their classes for a period of approximately three weeks during the first half of the Summer term. Further guidance on this will be given by NFER and EEF.

Follow-up Test and pupil survey: The NFER will send pre-populated follow-up test booklets and pre-populated survey for each pupil, which will be administered by the teachers and completed by the pupils. These booklets and surveys will then be returned to the NFER.

Daily recording sheet and materials: Teachers will be provided with a daily recording sheet and guidance to help them briefly log each activity in the trial such as the number and length of time they used the approach and whether they adapted it.

Other evaluation data: All teachers involved will be asked to complete a short survey to provide their views about the approaches and the trial. Some teachers will also be invited to take part in evaluation observations, short interviews and focus groups to give further views on the approaches being piloted and their experience of being part of the trial. The NFER researchers would also like to gather some pupils’ views about what they like or don’t like about reading in a small number of interviews/discussions when visiting schools.

When will my school need to get involved?



Further information

January – February 2020

Sign-up to the trial with the NFER via headteacher signing the MoU and identifying teachers to be involved

Schools provide:

  • Key contact name and contact details, name, job role and contact details of Year 4 and Year 5 teachers who are keen to participate and their class names
  • Pupil names, date of birth, gender, EAL, FSM, KS1 reading score for all participating pupils and their class name and year group

The NFER will provide an online MoU and data template for schools to complete the required data.

The NFER will also provide schools with a letter for parents that explains the research and gives them the opportunity to withdraw their child from the data collection for the study. This should be shared with all parents in the relevant class before supplying NFER with pupil data.

March 2019

Schools that provide the required school and pupil data will be randomly allocated to either the STOP! or GO! approach.

Schools will receive:

  • the results of the randomisation,
  • teacher guidance document,
  • a copy of The Iron Woman for each participating teacher and
  • details of the webinar. 

NFER will provide the teachers’ guide and webinar details that are prepared by the EEF.

End of April –
End of May 2020

Teachers start the intervention by delivering the GO! or STOP! approach, as per the randomised allocation.

Participating teachers will complete a daily recording sheet based on how the reading sessions were delivered.

Some lesson observations and short interview discussions with teachers and pupils.

The NFER will provide an online template for teachers/schools to provide this data.

End of May (before May half-term break)

Teachers administer a survey and an assessment for all participating pupils and return these to NFER.

Teachers to provide their views on taking part in this study in a short survey.

At the end of the trial, participating schools will receive a £100 gift token which can be used to expand the CPD library with titles that are recommended by the Education Endowment Foundation

The NFER will send pupil surveys, test booklets and an attendance register for teachers to administer.

All test materials will be sent to and from schools via secure courier

Spring 2021

Summary report sent to schools.


How will my school and teachers benefit from taking part
The trial aims to provide evidence that will be useful for teachers and schools when making decisions about teacher choices in their classrooms. Your school’s participation will help to strengthen the evidence on the impact teacher choices can have on pupils’ learning and how to robustly evaluate teacher choices.

By participating in the trial, we hope teachers will learn practical information that improves their teaching, benefit from the experiences and results of the trial and help generate new knowledge that can benefit all teachers’ everyday classroom decisions.

Schools that complete all the trial requirements will receive a £100 gift token which can be used to expand the CPD library with Education Endowment Foundation titles.

How will the findings be used?
All teachers involved will receive a summary of the trial findings and this will also be freely available on the NFER and the EEF websites. The findings will also be used to provide a report to the EEF on the feasibility of running Teacher Choices trials in future.

Who needs to give agreement for participation in the trial?
Schools will join the trial via their headteacher signing the MoU. We will provide you with an information sheet for your Year 4 and Year 5 teachers.

The NFER will provide schools with a letter for parents to inform them about the study and their child’s participation. Schools should share the letter with parents/carers of the pupils in the participating Year 4 and Year 5 classes before sharing their data with the NFER.

Note that in a randomised controlled trial all data is important. It would be really helpful if we could collect data about all participating classes/pupils taught by the teachers involved. This way, we can compare the effects of the two reading approaches on pupil outcomes on a complete dataset. The trial team really appreciates schools’ and participants’ support for the data collection.

What happens if a school, teacher or pupils want to withdraw from the trial?
A school, teacher or pupil can withdraw from the trial and/or from their data being used in the trial at any time. Schools must notify the NFER of any pupils or teachers who withdraw from the study.

Parents can choose to withdraw their child from the data collection of the trial at any time. They can do this by returning the form at the bottom of the parent letter to their school. Schools must not provide data about children whose parents withdraw them from the data collection. If the withdrawal takes place after the study commences, schools must notify NFER of such pupils to be removed from datasets and subsequent analysis immediately.

How will the NFER use and protect the data collected?
All data gathered during the trial will be held in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2016/679 and will be treated in the strictest confidence by the NFER. School contact details will be shared with Research School to enable them to support the schools during the trial period and help with recruitment. The pupil personal data collected by the NFER will not be shared with any other organisation.

All teacher and pupil-level data shared by schools with the NFER will be collected via a secure school portal. For the purposes of the trial, all pupils will have an ID number.
No school, teacher or pupil will be named in any report arising from this work.
A Privacy Notice for the study is available at the following link: add link when ready

Who can I contact for more information?
For further information, please contact Jishi Jose, the NFER Researcher on or on 01753 637205.

The Expression of Interest link for this project has now closed. This trial is very popular and the places are limited. If your school expressed interest in taking part, an invite has been sent to your school‘s headteacher explaining the next steps. Thank you for your interest.

This page was last updated on February 07, 2020.