We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Improving literacy in the transition period : a review of the existing evidence on what works.

See, B.H. and Gorard, S.A. (2014) 'Improving literacy in the transition period : a review of the existing evidence on what works.', British journal of education, society and behavioural science., 4 (6). pp. 739-754.


Background: The transition from primary to secondary schools in England is marked by a concern over potential learning loss, and the realisation that a small number of students have not reached an expected or threshold level of literacy. The latter can then impact on progress in all areas of the secondary curriculum, and is reflected in subsequent qualifications. Very similar issues arise worldwide. In England, money has been made available via the Pupil Premium and the Catch-up schemes to deal with this. Several ameliorative strategies have been suggested and implemented, and several of these have claimed success even though the evidence for many is unclear. This paper presents the results of a review of all the available international evaluation evidence, to distinguish between those approaches that work, or might work and those that clearly do not. Method: The review began with a search for all possible studies worldwide, focusing on those intervention programmes that have been rigorously evaluated. Results: Forty-three studies met the barest minimum of design and quality standards for programme evaluation. The most promising single intervention programme was ‘Response to Intervention’ but even here the evidence was unclear. Conclusion: Overall, these studies suggest that interventions to improve literacy for older children need to start earlier in the primary school years than current policy proposals in England intend. Successful interventions tended to be those that are clear and simple. They include teacher development at the outset, using new learning materials, and providing ongoing support focusing on those students clearly below the expected levels in literacy. However, there is still a range of interventions that could be effective but have not yet been tested. Large scale randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of these interventions could be conducted to establish their effects.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:School transition, Literacy, Literacy catch-up, Interventions, Secondary school.
Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution.
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:© 2014 See and Gorard; This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:07 February 2014
Date deposited:14 April 2014
Date of first online publication:June 2014
Date first made open access:No date available

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar