After such a difficult year, schools are now faced with the challenge of closing the gap in educational achievement in English.

While we may not yet know the full impact of school closures, it is becoming apparent that the already prevalent gap in achievement of pupils living in poverty has widened following the pandemic.

Many pupils will have experienced ‘learning loss’ over the last eight months but for disadvantaged pupils the effect is particularly pronounced. It is evident that catch up will be a key focus for many teachers and school leaders.

Here are our 10 key recommendations for schools when planning effective catch-up.

1 | Prioritise!

Focus on reading. A high-quality, reading-rich curriculum can offer pupils the opportunity to thrive once back in school (EEF 2020). It is the best starting point when choosing intervention to close the learning gap.

Research tells us that children who read for pleasure perform better across the curriculum, which is one of the reasons why fostering a love of reading is key to closing the learning gap. We are so passionate about this that we are offering all teachers a free 45 minute online training session.

Book our Free Training: Developing Reading for Pleasure online training now!

2 | Organisation of intervention

When planning provision, ensure intervention is in addition to the whole-class English curriculum. Pupils need to be exposed to the wealth of language from rich age-related texts during whole class reading time.

We need to ‘lift up’ struggling readers to close the achievement gap. If our aim is to accelerate progress, an ‘alternative’ curriculum often means that pupils catch up in one aspect, only to fall behind in another.

Additional, targeted support in phonics/reading is most effective when organised as one-to-one or small group tuition. Research shows that sessions led by teachers or highly trained Teaching Assistants have the biggest impact. Ensure your TAs are equipped to maximise pupil progress in intervention sessions.

Book our Terrific Teaching Assistants online training now!

3 | Great teaching

Great teaching makes the biggest difference to learning outcomes. It is essential that those involved in running intervention for our most vulnerable pupils have the subject and the pedagogical knowledge to make a real difference.

Whether it is grammatical or phonic subject knowledge or an understanding of how to move children’s thinking forward through judicious questioning, quality, inspirational CPD is key.

Book our Free Online Training ‘Using Questioning to Develop’ Comprehension now.

We are also offering Phonics First, Teaching Grammar and Active Strategies for Developing Reading Comprehension. Check out our full training offer here.

4 | Engage ‘hard-to-reach’ parents

We know that parental engagement can make the world of difference when it comes to achievement. Find out how successful schools have made real steps forward with this challenging yet fundamental issue.

For tried and tested practical tips, book Engaging ‘Hard to Reach’ Parents online training now!

5 | Focus on developing growth mindset

Raising pupil aspirations and their emotional competencies can make a huge difference to outcomes. Research tells us that making metacognition and ‘learning to learn’ an explicit component of any intervention programme will pay dividends.

Book Developing Growth Mindset online training now!

6 | Target intervention precisely

For phonics, a rigorous, structured scheme with screening included to identify gaps in children’s current knowledge is most effective.

For some children, the missing piece of the jigsaw may be specific items of knowledge that require only a few weeks of short, focused sessions. However, other children may not have crucial concepts such as blending and segmenting in place.

‘Blanket’ intervention schemes are often not the most effective use of time and money.

Book Catch up Phonics for KS2 online training now!

7 | Pre-teach

Use ‘pre-teach’ as a strategy to boost children’s confidence and ensure they have an opportunity to encounter learning prior to whole class teaching. This technique can be used for both the teaching of reading and writing.

Boost self-esteem by enabling pupils to access whole class learning confidently following a group guided session. Focusing on previewing learning prior to whole class teaching can lead to huge gains. After all ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!’

Book Empowering Struggling Readers online training and Raising Standards on Writing online training now.

8 | Teach oracy

Oracy impacts at every level. The CEO of EEF says, “Whether or not a child learns to communicate effectively at a young age directly impacts on their life chances.”

We need to ensure that all children are able to communicate effectively in every year group to allow them to access the curriculum successfully.

Book our Teaching Oracy in the Primary Classroom online training and Teaching Vocabulary online training now!

9 | Support children’s wellbeing

Research has shown that the pandemic has had a profound negative effect on the mental health of many of our pupils (Young Minds 2020). It is essential that we reflect on how our English curriculum can support children’s wellbeing.

Using story and picture books can provide and ideal platform for exploring these issues.

Book our Supporting Children’s Wellbeing through Story online training now!

10 | Keep it fun!

There is overwhelming evidence of the importance of learning through play and game-based activities. According to research by Dr Karyn Purvis, it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain.

In play, however, it only takes 10 to 20 repetitions. Our online grammar and spelling training sessions include a wealth of fun, game based activities which are proven to work! Book Teaching Grammar online training and Spelling Games that Work online training now!


Dandelion Learning offers a range of other English courses as well as bespoke online English training for schools. Contact us to chat through your training needs!