EEF Project Recruiting: Abracadabra

13 April 2018

There is a great opportunity to be involved in a new trial of the Abracadabra Reading Programme targeting year 1 reading skills and strategies. After promising results of an efficacy study into the programme, it is now being scaled up to 200 schools with the support of Nottingham Trent University.

Abracadabra (ABRA) is a small group literacy intervention delivered by teaching assistants. Sessions last 15 minutes and are delivered to small groups of pupils four times per week. The programme will be supplementary to core literacy lessons for all pupils in Year 1.

What impact has it had?

The EEF funded an efficacy study in 51 schools of the original ICT version of the programme as well as a new non-ICT version of the programme. After one year, the ICT (+2 additional months’ progress) and non-ICT (+3 additional months’ progress) programmes led to improved reading attainment measured by a standardised assessment. It was identified as a Promising Project and has now been scaled up to this trial over 200 schools.

What is the intervention?

The interventions include the following key elements:

  • They are balanced reading programmes and contain activities in three basic area
  • 1. decoding (e.g. phonics, including blending, letter sounds, decoding, sight words
  • 2. fluency (e.g. reading prose, reading with proper intonation)
  • 3. comprehension (e.g. summarising, comprehension monitoring, prediction, etc)
  • They are delivered by school staff (e.g. TAs, teachers, SENCOs etc) who are fully trained and supported by local teams
  • They are delivered to small groups of 3-5 children at a time
  • They are delivered in 15 min sessions, 4 times a week to each group, for 20 weeks over one academic year

For further information about the EEF Trial, please click here.

Interested but have a question? Here are some frequently asked questions.


Can I ask to be allocated to a particular intervention group.

No – you will be randomly allocated to one of the groups by York Trials Unit.

We don’t have the computer resources to support the ICT arm of the trial.  Does this mean we cannot take part?

You can still take part, York will just randomly allocate you to either the control or the non-ICT arm of the trial.

Do all the children in Year 1 have to take part?

No.  If you cannot support running the groups with all the Year 1 children, it is OK for you to only run it with a single class or with a subset of pupils.  However, York Trials Unit will need to randomly select either the class or subset of pupils who will take part.  In any case only one class from each school will be asked to participate in the pre- and post test assessment.  Please note that it will not be possible for you to select only underachieving readers to take part.

We currently use a specific literacy programme.  Is this going to be a problem?

No. The intervention will be run as additional to normal literacy provision, rather than as an alternative to it.

Does the intervention work?

The intervention we will train you on has been evaluated in a previous EEF RCT and was found to be beneficial.  The purpose of this trial is to see if it is possible to successfully ‘scale up’ the training and support for schools and still find the same benefits.

Can we adapt the programme of activities?

We will train you on the version of the programme that was previously shown to be effective.  We would encourage you to adhere to the training model as far as possible, but we also accept that school may need to be flexible in their approach to delivery depending on context.  We would ask that you make us aware if you have to adapt the version of the intervention significantly to make it work in your school context


If you want to ask any further questions or find out more, please contact

Professor Clare Wood
Psychology Department, Nottingham Trent University
Tel: 0115 848 6423                                               

Posted on 13 April 2018
Posted in: News