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Headsprout Early Reading in Special Schools

(HERiSS)

The HERiSS project will evaluate the effects of a computer-based early reading programme on reading skills for children with special educational needs and disabilities in special schools. The project is funded by the Educational Endowment Foundation (EEF), in their first round of funding specific to children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. This is the first special school project funded by EEF, and quite possibly the first large-scale RCT conducted in special schools in the UK.

Many children with SEND struggle to learn to read, and the considerable attainment gap in reading for children with SEND increases across the key stages. Developing and robustly evaluating potentially beneficial interventions is a hugely important step in helping to address some of these challenges and build resources and capacity within schools to help improve reading outcomes.

What is Headsprout Early Reading?

Headsprout Early Reading is a computer-based programme that focuses on building fluency in essential early reading skills (such as decoding and blending) through providing explicit phonics instruction and giving children lots of opportunities to practice, until skills become fluent.

Has Headsprout Early Reading been used in special schools?

The delivery team at Bangor University have been leading pilot work exploring how the programme can be used in mainstream and special schools for a number of years. Through this work, they have developed additional training and implementation support models, and have conducted and published pilot work investigating the use of the programme in various settings. Two previous pilot RCTs of Headsprout in a small number of special schools have laid the foundations for this larger efficacy trial. These two pilot RCTs reported positive impacts on reading skills, but these studies are small and a larger trial is required. This trial will test whether Headsprout Early Reading leads to improved reading outcomes for children with SEND in special schools.