Catch Up Literacy (re-grant)

This page covers the second (effectiveness) trial of Catch Up Literacy, testing a scalable model under everyday conditions in a large number of schools. To read about the first (efficacy) trial - testing whether it could work in schools under best possible conditions - click here.

Catch Up® Literacy is a one-to-one intervention for struggling readers. It is delivered by Teaching Assistants and consists of two 15-minute sessions per week. 


Key Stage 2

Key stage




EEF Summary

There is evidence that Teaching Assistants are more likely to have a positive impact when delivering structured interventions than as general classroom support. The EEF funded Catch Up® Literacy because it is a structured intervention that is widely used in schools.

EEF tested whether the programme could have a positive impact on readers during the transition between primary and secondary school. The programme was delivered by its original developers and the pupils involved made two months additional progress in comparison to pupils receiving standard provision. There was also a positive impact on pupils’ enjoyment of writing and the job satisfaction of teaching assistants.

Based on this, the EEF then evaluated a revised model of the programme, which was designed to be delivered to a larger number of schools at the same time, and which was aimed at pupils in years 4 and 5, rather than pupils moving from primary to secondary school. This second study found no evidence that Catch Up® Literacy had an impact on pupils’ reading comprehension outcomes when compared to ‘business as usual’ teaching practice. The less promising result may be due to the changes introduced to programme after the first evaluation.

There is mixed evidence across the two trials of Catch Up Literacy. Due to the lack of impact in the second trial, the EEF will be removing Catch Up Literacy from the list of promising projects. There remains strong evidence that one-to-one tuition is an effective way of improving literacy attainment, and the EEF continues to be interested in TA-led structured interventions. 

Research Results

Reading comprehension

Months' Progress
Evidence Strength

Reading comprehension (everFSM)

Months' Progress


Were the schools in the trial similar to my school?

  • There were 156 schools in the trial, located in the North East, Brighton, Cumbria, Grimsby, Hull & Immingham, Bournemouth and Plymouth
  • 120 of the schools were rated 'Good' or 'Outstanding' by Ofsted
  • 50% of the pupils that received the intervention were eligible for free school meals

Could I implement this in my school?

  • The programme is available to buy from the charity Catch Up® and is available for a range of ages (6-14)
  • Participating schools appoint a member of staff as Catch Up® Literacy Coordinator to coordinate the intervention and to support the TAs. TAs and Coordinators each receive three half-days of training
  • Catch Up® Literacy requires schools to commit to off-site training of TAs and the delivery of TA support to individuals rather than groups


Delivered by



Participant group


1 Year

Intervention length

How much will it cost?

The average cost per pupil per year (averaged over three years) was £53.20.The main costs were the cost of the training and the programme materials.



Cost per pupil


2 TAs

No. of Teachers/TAs


1 Days

Training time per staff member

Evaluation info





Key Stage

Key Stage 2

Start date

September 2016

End date

July 2017

Type of trial

Effectiveness Trial

Evaluation Conclusions

  1. The project found no evidence that Catch Up® Literacy improves reading comprehension for children in Years 4 and 5 compared to usual teaching practice. 

  2. Pupils that have ever been eligible for free school meals made two months additional progress compared to similar pupils in control schools. This result is not statistically significant. This means that the statistical evidence does not meet the threshold set by the evaluator to conclude that the true impact was not zero. 

  3. The intervention was not always delivered as intended. Some schools struggled to resource two one-to-one sessions per week, while in other schools TAs adapted how they delivered individual sessions from what they were taught in the training.

  1. Updated: 3rd June, 2019

    Printable project summary

    1 MB pdf - EEF-catch-up-literacy-effectiveness-trial.pdf

  2. Updated: 14th February, 2019

    Evaluation report

    2 MB pdf - Catch_Up_Literacy.pdf

  3. Updated: 7th November, 2016

    Evaluation Protocol

    604 KB pdf - EEF_Project_Protocol_Catch_Up_Literacy_effectiveness_trial.pdf

  4. Updated: 4th January, 2018

    Statistical Analysis Plan

    370 KB pdf - Catch_Up_Literacy_SAP_2017.15.12__FINAL.pdf

Full project description

Catch Up® Literacy is a structured one-to-one intervention that aims to improve the reading ability of struggling readers. The intervention is book-based and comprises two 15-minute sessions each week on a one-to-one basis. Students receive Catch Up® for approximately 6 to 12 months depending on individual need: once the pupil’s reading age has caught up to their chronological reading age, they leave the programme. Schools receive three half-day training sessions for the Teaching Assistants (TAs) who deliver the intervention and their designated Catch Up® Literacy coordinator in their school, as well as materials to support the one-to-one sessions.

The project was a randomised controlled trial. One hundred and fifty six primary schools were randomised to receive Catch Up® Literacy or to continue with their existing practices and act as Business as Usual (BaU) control schools. All the schools nominated up to 12 pupils in Years 4 or 5 (aged eight to ten years old) who were underperforming or struggling with literacy. The purpose of this trial was to evaluate the effect of Catch Up® Literacy over existing practice - ‘Business as Usual’ - for these pupils. The evaluation sought to answer the primary research question: what is the impact of Catch Up® Literacy on Year 4 and Year 5 pupils’ reading comprehension skills as measured by the Hodder Group Reading Test (HGRT). The implementation and process evaluation drew on observations of training sessions, surveys of TAs and coordinators, and telephone interviews in Catch Up® schools and a termly activity log for the BaU control schools.

The project started in May 2016 and the testing took place in June-July 2017. The intervention delivery was led by Dr Graham Sigley, Deputy Director of Catch Up®.