Phonic skills mediate improved literacy outcomes in at-risk primary school children: results from the Ready-to-Learn Programme

Oliver Perra, Geraldine Macdonald, Mark McCann, Laura Neeson, Nina O'Neill

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Learning to read is a key goal during primary school: reading difficulties may curtail children’s learning trajectories. Controversy remains regarding what types of interventions are effective for children at risk for academic failure, such as children in disadvantaged areas. We present data from a complex intervention to test the hypothesis that phonic skills and word recognition abilities are a pivotal and specific causal mechanism for the development of reading skills in children at risk for poorer literacy outcomes.
Over 500 pupils across 16 primary schools took part in a Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial from school year 1 to year 3. Schools were randomly allocated to the intervention or the control arm. The intervention involved a literacy-rich after-school programme. Children attending schools in the control arm of the study received the curriculum normally provided. Children in both arms completed batteries of language, phonic skills, and reading tests every year. We used multilevel mediation models to investigate mediating processes between intervention and outcomes.
Children who took part in the intervention displayed improvements in reading skills compared to those in the control arm. Results indicated a significant indirect effect of the intervention via phonics encoding.
The results suggest that the intervention was effective in improving reading abilities of children at risk, and this effect was mediated by improving children’s phonic skills. This has relevance for designing interventions aimed at improving literacy skills of children exposed to socio-economic disadvantage. Results also highlight the importance of methods to investigate causal pathways from intervention to outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventBritish Psychological Society Developmental Section -
Duration: 14 Sep 2016 → …


ConferenceBritish Psychological Society Developmental Section
Period14/09/2016 → …

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