Getting meta on early reading skills: reflections on the HfL Early Reading Project Pilot (ERPP)

    Published: 21 June 2018
    Print concept cure card: word


    Following the hugely successful pilot of the joint Early Reading Project across EY and Primary English teams, we are thrilled to be able to share with you some of its outcomes. As this was an exploratory project, we are so excited to hear about so much impact that our nine wonderful schools are seeing. We plan to continue to share more information and teaching ideas as more findings roll in and as further schools participate and help to develop the project.


    The aim was to look into what could be done to close gaps in children’s early reading skills and knowledge, very soon after entering Reception. The teachers received a half-day initial training around the project design, assessment tools to use and the kinds of reading activities that might be appropriate for this age. They were also guided in how to select the children for whom this project was suitable. An in-school, tailored, half-day visit also followed, as did a mid-point practice-sharing twilight and finally a half-day end-point training and celebration.

    As a result of the schools’ wonderful commitment, deepened subject knowledge and heightened awareness of issues facing those at risk of underachievement in reading, the following exciting findings were shared.

    Impact seen

    Children are...

    Cue cards sample image


    • showing better self-image as readers, because they have the print concepts (download our free  example cue card resource  - samples pictured above) and 1:1 correspondence
    • choosing to read more in the reading area and in Child Initiated Learning
    • showing improved understanding of meta-language (eg word, letter)
    • talking more about their reading, including independently volunteering their views
    • reading independently more widely and often
    • showing more signs of early reading fluency as the children are freed up to decode, due to having more secure print concept knowledge
    • making good gains: one disadvantaged girl increased from:


    Chart showing progress in early print concepts
    Chart showing progress in early print concepts

    Adults are…

    • filtering early reading behaviours up and down the school (SEN upwards and prevention downwards)
    • more aware of how to identify needs early on, eg if a ‘booster group’ approach hasn’t worked they now implement a 1:1 intervention more speedily
    • adopting ‘double-dosing’ of stage-appropriate, teacher-led, guided learning as a key accelerant and part of their differentiation ‘toolbox’ going forwards
    • modelling reading behaviours more explicitly, such as use of letter knowledge and blending skills
    • planning for more varied and purposeful reading activities in the reading carousel, aiding independent phonic application
    • targeting additional adults towards specific skills-gaps through planned pre- and post-reading activities, eg through extended book introductions and strategy checks, and use of echo reading when re-reading for fluency
    • feeling “more certainty around judgements”, eg that a child is securely reading x finely-graded book because of y skills and z behaviours that they have observed
    • being more targeted with which books they choose for children to read according to skill/knowledge needed next, and matching with a specific book choice (rather than maybe the next book in the series)
    • finding that the double-dosing strategy helps if the child has poorer attendance; they are at least receiving one session of adult-led reading per week now, whereas they may have kept missing sessions before.

    Parents and carers are…

    • thanking schools for the ideas and resources shared, such as the Print Concepts cue card
    • feeling more involved and up-to-date with how reading is taught nowadays
    • feeling more informed about how to help children to effectively apply their phonics at home

    With huge gratitude to the following schools:

    Hobletts Manor Infants and Nursery, Hemel Hempstead

    Icknield Infant and Nursery, Letchworth

    Kenilworth Primary, Borehamwood

    North Mymms St Mary’s CE VA, Hatfield

    Oak View Primary and Nursery, Hatfield

    Oxhey Wood Academy, Watford

    St Mary’s Infants, Baldock

    Warren Dell Primary, Watford

    Yewtree Primary, Hemel Hempstead

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    Visit our projects page to see some of the exciting developments underway in our shared work with schools across the country:  Teaching and Learning Research Projects