Simon Rutt, Connie Rennie, Caroline Sharp, Kathryn Hurd and Alison Hale
11 October 2022
Read Write Inc. Phonics is a literacy programme for children in Reception to Year 4 (age 4-9) that teaches reading and writing through a systematic approach rooted in phonics. Delivery of Read Write Inc. Phonics, funded as part of the Department for Education’s Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund (TLIF), began in 2018. This evaluation was set up to evaluate the impact of Read Write Inc. Phonics in TLIF schools. It was designed as a quasi-experimental study, where a matched comparison group of schools similar to those that were offered Read Write Inc. Phonics through the TLIF initiative were to be recruited.
The evaluation was paused from March 2020 to September 2021 due to disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, after which the EEF funded an additional year of project delivery starting in September 2021, with the aim of completing the intended evaluation. However, despite the efforts of the independent evaluators, it was not possible to recruit a large enough group of schools that had similar characteristics to the schools receiving the programme. Without a well-matched comparison group, the evaluation would have been unable to make a meaningful assessment of the impact of the programme, the evaluation was cancelled in April 2022.
This report summarises the work conducted before its cancellation and lessons learned. A key lesson learned is the potential value of building review points into evaluation timelines and engaging advisory groups to support the challenging process of determining when to cancel an evaluation. The report also reflects on the challenges of recruiting schools to act as a matched comparison group in quasi-experimental studies and pros and cons of using secondary datasets instead of recruiting schools.