Evaluating the impact of Mastery English on reading ages in Year 7 and on teacher workload

Description of the innovation
Mastery English is a teaching strategy that has shown promise in primary schools. This evaluation investigated whether the principles could be transferred into the secondary phase.

Teachers in the intervention group delivered “Mastery English” lessons to pupils in Year 7. These lessons had a well-defined, disciplined six-part structure – engage, introduce, consider and practice, going deeper, independent task, reflect – and used high-quality texts to teach reading comprehension and grammatical skills. A key part of each lesson was an explicit checkpoint after each lesson part. The same texts (Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah and Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne) were used as the starting point for all other teaching activities during the period concerned. This Mastery English teaching structure was trailled over two periods of 18 lessons. Teachers in the “business as usual” control group followed the school’s normal scheme of learning.

Summary of the evaluation
Three schools participated in the evaluation. Each school selected four mixed or middle prior-attaining classes; two were allocated to the intervention group and the remaining two formed the control group. The STAR reading assessment was used to calculate a reading age for all participating pupils before the intervention started in autumn 2018. The test was repeated as a post-test in summer 2019. Complete data was collected and analysed for 257 pupils. Intervention group teachers completed questionnaires about their perception of Mastery English and the workload associated with the approach after delivering the innovation.

Summary of the findings
Over the course of the evaluation pupils in the intervention group made more progress in reading age than pupils in the control group (effect size = +0.29). Most teachers surveyed felt that their workload relating to marking and assessment had decreased, and that they spent the same or slightly less time planning when compared to their typical teaching style. The small sample size, difficulties recruiting schools and gathering complete data for all pupils, and questions around the appropriateness of text choice mean it would be unwise to draw firm conclusions about the effectiveness of the approach. However, the evaluation does suggest the approach has some merit and that further evaluation would be beneficial.

Lead school

  • Notre Dame High School, Sheffield

Main findings

  • Effect size for pupil progress in reading age = +0.29

Download the protocol document