With reference to recent research and relevant data, evaluate the ‘Catch Up Literacy’ intervention strategy as a support for pupils with general literacy difficulties.
The ESIS Additional Learning Needs Programme
General Literacy Level 6
Catch Up Literacy is a structured one-to-one literacy intervention for children who are struggling readers. It has been the intervention of choice for ‘Basic Skills’ learners in primary schools in X LA for the past nine years and has recently been introduced into Year 7. This paper looks at the need for literacy interventions to support struggling learners. It then reports analyses of individual data for 334 learners who received Catch Up support in 2009/10 which shows average reading age gains of more than twice that expected of a typically achieving child; data for 87 learners, including a control group, which reaffirms that its effectiveness is due to more than its individual approach; and longitudinal data for learners tracked to the end of Key Stages 2 and 3 which shows that gains to the end of KS2 are maintained for 75% of learners and maintained to the end of KS3 for approximately half the participants. It also reports pleasing non-measurable soft data outcomes related to the attitudes, confidence and enjoyment of learners and positive reports of the support, training and impact of the programme from deliverers and Head Teachers.
In 2001, as part of the Basic Skills Strategy for Wales, funding was made available to support projects designed to intervene strategically to reduce under-attainment in literacy. Recognising the importance of early intervention and taking into account the research of Thomas and Davis (1997) who found that 18% of children at the beginning of Key Stage 2 (KS2) had difficulties with reading, X Local Authority (LA) decided to target Year 2 and Year 3 pupils. These children did not have defined special needs and thus were not entitled to additional language support sessions. Nevertheless, their problems with reading were severe enough to limit their access to the curriculum and these children tended to fall further and further behind their peers in all subjects. The support was designed to boost the literacy skills of learners at an early stage in order to prevent difficulties being carried through into secondary education.
After a thorough investigation by the School Improvement Department of the LA in conjunction with the local advisory service, it was decided to use Catch Up as the literacy intervention of choice in the LA. A team of Learning Support Assistants was employed centrally to deliver the programme and a Literacy Project Coordinator employed to manage, monitor and evaluate the intervention.
Catch Up has now been used in the primary sector for nine years and is very well established as a key intervention to support struggling readers. Since 2001, the central team of LSAs has grown and now numbers 22 full time staff. In 2008, with additional funding from the European Social Fund (ESF) and consultation with the Senior Management Teams (SMT) in secondary schools, Catch Up was implemented as a pilot in 4 schools targeting Year 7 pupils. In 2009/10 the intervention was extended to involve Year 7 pupils in all secondary schools in the LA.
In January 2010 the author was seconded from a primary school to the post of Project Coordinator and tasked with the role of managing the Basic Skills provision throughout the LA at Key Stages 1, 2 and 3.
Despite the investment in Basic Skills in the LA through Basic Skills Cymru and ESF funding and the high profile that Catch Up has in the LA, standards in reading in the LA and across Wales have steadily declined and pupils at 14 years of age are now falling behind their peers in many other countries in basic literacy standards (PISA report 2011). It is with this in mind that an investigation into...