As with its interim report, most attention and controversy has focused on the Rose review’s support for synthetic as opposed to analytic phonics. However, for SENCOs, the review’s findings on the provision that best supports children with significant literacy difficulties are particularly relevant.

The final report of the Rose review of the teaching of early reading acknowledges the importance of targeted interventions for pupils with significant literacy difficulties. SENCOs and literacy coordinators are identified as being more often than not the ‘driving and coordinating force’ for the most successful intervention arrangements.

One of the five aspects of the teaching of reading within the review’s remit required it to examine ‘the range of provision which best supports children with significant literacy difficulties and enables them to catch up with their peers, and the relationship of such targeted intervention programmes with synthetic phonics teaching’.

The report considers this aspect in relation to the three ‘waves’ of intervention identified within the Primary National Strategy. It emphasises the point that these waves refer to types of provision and not categories of children.

Two main groups

In discussing intervention, Rose distinguishes between two main groups of children:

  • those who fall behind either because of issues relating to their personal, social and economic circumstances or weaknesses in the teaching or teaching programmes they have received, for whom Wave 2 provision is likely to be appropriate
  • those who have, for example, specific problems (eg neuro-developmental), for whom Wave 3 provision is likely to be most appropriate, some of whom may make progress but are unable to ‘catch up’ with their peers.

SENCOs may observe some similarities to the levels of intervention in the SEN strategy for Removing Barriers to Learning.

Wave 1 – the effective inclusion of all children in daily ‘quality first teaching’.

The review argues that intervention programmes for children who have fallen behind in reading may be much reduced where high-quality teaching, within mainstream classes, comes to terms with ‘long-standing issues about how best to match work to children’s different but developing abilities.’

Intervention should not be intended to ‘shore up weak teaching’ and Rose cites the SEN Code of Practice on the importance of investigating whether difficulties in learning may be caused or exacerbated by the school’s learning environment. Schools are advised to examine issues, where SENCOs are already involved in promoting an inclusive curriculum, such as classroom organisation, teaching materials, teaching style and differentiation.

Wave 2 – additional interventions to enable children to work at age-related expectations or above.

Where ‘quality first teaching’ is not sufficient to meet needs, early failure in literacy can be overcome to a large extent by timely intervention. The report stresses the importance of responding early because ‘once entrenched reading failure is not only much harder to reverse but also detrimental to other areas of learning and self-esteem’.

Effective interventions typically involve:

  • accurate assessment of phonic knowledge and skills
  • regular updating and tracking of progress
  • assessment used to shape appropriate support
  • time limited with clear entry and exit criteria.

Teaching arrangements observed included 20-minute group sessions, with a SENCO focusing on phonic knowledge and skills and on applying these to reading and writing. However, ‘much successful intervention was often ably undertaken by teaching assistants who had almost always benefited from thorough training.’ Key features of such training were:

  • how to use data to track progress and match teaching resources to it
  • techniques for teaching individuals and groups
  • fortnightly tutorials following up training
  • enlisting parental support.

The review strongly recommends that schools should make sure that additional support is compatible with mainstream practice, irrespective of whether it is taught in regular class settings or elsewhere. Where intervention work is successfully taught separately as a ‘catch-up’ or ‘recovery’ programme, every effort must be made to make sure the gains made by the children are sustained once they return to mainstream work.

Wave 3 – additional highly personalised interventions, for example, specifically targeted approaches for children identified as requiring SEN support.

The review notes the ‘porous’ boundaries between Wave 2 and 3 provision. Aspects of effective intervention for Wave 2 identified above apply with equal force to Wave 3. However, this provision will ‘usually involve additional, highly personalised interventions for those children whose main areas of need fall within the SEN Code of Practice.’

Some programmes for children whose needs are not met by Wave 1 or Wave 2 provision, provide a teacher who is well trained to deal with intervention work and provide advice and support to other adults in their school with a responsibility for the teaching of reading. Reading Recovery with its essentially daily one-to-one work and the Dyslexia Institute’s tiered programme for a spectrum of specific learning difficulties are given as examples.

The review concludes that leading edge interventions should continue to be exemplified in guidance showing how the best provision and practice are matched to the different types of special educational needs.

The review also examines best practice in the teaching of reading and early phonics; how this relates to the Early Years Foundation Stage and the National Literacy Strategy’s Framework for Teaching; support from leadership and management in schools; value for money and cost effectiveness of the range of approaches covered by the review.

l Independent review of the teaching of early reading: Final Report. Available online at: