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Reports Part of series: Education & Covid-19: BERA Small Grants Fund research reports

Adapting one-to-one reading support for children during Covid-19 school closures

Innovations and challenges among reading recovery teachers in Bristol

This small-scale study focuses on the role of Reading Recovery teachers who were tasked with maintaining support for vulnerable readers during the first set of Covid-19 school closures in England between March and July 2020. The study, which worked with schools in Bristol, included a project in which initial teacher education (ITE) students from the University of the West of England piloted the online delivery of the Boosting Reading @ Primary intervention, which is normally delivered face-to-face.

The report identifies some of the changed practices of schools and RR teachers during the school closure period, highlighting their approaches to working one-to-one and online with the most vulnerable readers. It considers:

  • how safeguarding issues were handled
  • the use of videoconferencing apps as tools for one-to-one support
  • the practical elements of on-screen book-sharing
  • approaches to widening the teaching pool for online support through the use of ITE students.

Report summary

Learning to read is considered a key priority in primary schools, but when Covid-19 forced school closures from March to July 2020 new approaches to teaching reading needed to be developed. This study considers three sets of data gathered from schools in Bristol during this period.

  1. Data gathered from schools about the approaches they took to maintaining the teaching of reading when most children were engaged in home learning.
  2. Data from schools that had specialist reading teachers – specifically Reading Recovery teachers – and the role they played in supporting the learning of the most vulnerable readers, adopting one-to-one online reading interventions with children. This includes their work with initial teacher education students from the University of the West of England implementing the Boosting Reading @ Primary (BRP) reading intervention online.
  3. Standardised reading age data gathered pre- and post-school-closures for children identified as reading below the expected level for their age. Some of these children accessed one-to-one online reading support during the school closure period.

This small-scale study describes the innovative approaches taken by schools and demonstrates that where one-to-one online support was provided, most of the lowest attaining readers in the study were able to maintain or accelerate their progress in reading.

The report concludes with recommendations for future practices, drawing on the learning and approaches of the teachers, Reading Recovery teachers, parents, children and students in the study.


Profile picture of Jane Carter
Jane Carter, Dr

Senior Lecturer in Primary Education at University of the West of England

Jane Carter recently completed her doctorate, an evaluation of the year 1 phonics screening check, at the University of the West of England (UWE). The study focussed on the perspectives of year 1 children who took the screening check, exploring...