How to teach EAL and SEND pupils who are struggling with reading?

In most cases, children of every age who speak English as Another Language (EAL) and who have Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) will struggle with reading, literacy, and writing. That’s where ReadingWise can make a significant difference, especially if you can deliver targeted interventions when they’re younger⏤in primary schools or early into a secondary education.

ReadingWise is a complete, evidence-based online literacy intervention solution for SEND and EAL pupils and the teachers that support them.

Over 300,000 pupils across every age group have used ReadingWise to improve their reading abilities. It’s proven to increase reading ages by as much as 9.5 months after 20 intervention hours.

Help your EAL and SEND pupils with ReadingWise

What challenges do SEND and EAL pupils face with reading and literacy?

Both groups of students, whether they’re in year 1 or year 11 face distinct challenges. Evidence shows that the sooner (earlier in their education) schools can deploy targeted literacy intervention programmes for those who are clearly struggling with reading the more effective those interventions will be. 

In most cases, children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) struggle with reading, writing, and literacy more than their peers.

According to research from teachers and health visitors, “only 35% of children with SEN had the emergent reading skills expected for their age by the time they started primary school [reception class, KS1], compared with 82% of their peers without SEN.

“By the time [SEND] children left primary school, only 38% had the reading skills expected for an 11-year-old, compared with 83% of peers.”

That’s an enormous literacy gap that primary schools (KS1, KS2) and secondary schools (KS3, KS4) are struggling to fill, especially with more children than ever having SEND needs. 

Currently, 1.5 million children in the UK are identified as being SEND , whether or not they’re in mainstream schools.  

Pupils who speak English as another language (EAL) account for 22% of primary school children and 18% of secondary school students. According to The Bell Foundation: “There are more than 1.7 million pupils in state-funded primary and secondary schools in England who use EAL. In 2022/2023, 22% of primary pupils and 18.1% of secondary school pupils use EAL.”

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds and a huge number of children in poverty also struggle with reading. Or are more likely to struggle with reading and literacy. We will tackle this in a separate article.

Whether your school has SEND or EAL students, a literacy intervention programme is usually the only way to improve their educational outcomes. There are numerous ways to deliver a programme like this, and in most cases you can get this funded using the pupil premium budget: for primary schools or secondary schools.

Help your EAL and SEND pupils with ReadingWise

Improve Phonics, Decoding, Comprehension, and Vocabulary for SEND and EAL Pupils

Our programmes cover Phonics (Zip), Decoding, Comprehension, and Vocabulary. ReadingWise is a viable 'one stop shop' for literacy intervention for EAL and SEND pupils.

This streamlines delivery for your school's literacy leads. ReadingWise can deliver significant reading improvement for each pupil falling behind, whichever area of reading they are struggling with. ReadingWise often delivers disproportionate gains for SEND and EAL learners.

Results ReadingWise can achieve for SEND pupils

“Jake started working with the Pupil Support Teacher as part of a group of children receiving a literacy intervention. When tested at the end of the ReadingWise intervention Jake’s reading age was 12 years 9 months; he had achieved a significant increase in reading age of 3 years and 3 months.” The Alloway Primary School, South Ayrshire. Read more of our Case Studies.

ReadingWise results for pupils who speak English as another language (EAL)

As a school, we ended the year 22-23 with an outstanding 90%+ fluent readers across year groups 7-11. We made a remarkable 18% impact in reading following the launch of Star’s World Class Book Culture Programme.”

“Raising attainment and progress through reading is a priority at TIBHS, and our collaboration with ReadingWise has had a considerable impact on the progression of pupils’ reading ages. We have been offered invaluable support to deliver bespoke targeted interventions for pupils identified as reading below their chronological reading age.” Shahnaz Ilyas, English Teacher, Book Culture Lead, Tauheedul Islam Boys' High School (a Star Academy secondary free school in Blackburn, Lancashire). Read more of our Case Studies.

Evidence-based reading interventions

Our literacy intervention programmes have been evidenced by the Department for Education ('gold standard' RCT) and by Cambridge University. The impact we deliver has been consistent across over 300,000 pupils across the UK, including and especially those with SEND and EAL needs.

The government-funded study showed that ReadingWise accelerated pupils' reading ages by almost 10 months in under 1 term. The quantitative analysis was conducted by the widely respected Professor Becky Allen. The report can be read here.

Knowing Which Pupil Needs Which Intervention

With every school, ReadingWise supports teachers and SENDcos in conducting a pre-launch assessment programme. Depending on your focus - Decoding, Comprehension, Vocabulary ⏤ English Teachers, Literacy Leads, TAs, and SENDCos receive in-depth training on how to deliver the modules effectively. They can then target the appropriate cohort of pupils depending on their needs.

At the same time, EAL pupils can have a wide range of reading and literacy challenges. One reason schools with EAL pupils choose to work with ReadingWise over other literacy interventions is our deep experience across a vast range of schools in the UK.

2 hours of Online Training 

Staff at every level, including teachers, TAs, literacy leads, and SENDcos, are then trained in Zip, Vocab, Comprehension, and Decoding, the four modules available to raise reading levels for SEND and EAL pupils in both primary and secondary schools.

Our training is highly effective yet streamlined, recognising the value of your staff's time. ReadingWise pioneered online training in 2015 and can deliver to large groups of staff in 2-hour sessions remotely. Our training is extremely efficient and your staff will be ready to deliver the programmes and will make an impact quickly with minimal time lost.

We also provide ongoing support, so if your staff are struggling with anything we are only an email, message, or call away. 

Find out more about our:

ReadingWise Modules

ReadingWise Pricing

Case Studies and Testimonials

Boost your school's literacy results: Arrange your 20-minute demo at a time to suit you.

We highly recommend you spend 20-minutes running through the programme with our friendly and knowledgeable team by booking a demo to suit your diary

Arrange your 20-minute demo at a time to suit you.

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