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Online Reading Support Abracadabra (ABRA)

Abracadabra (ABRA) is a 20 week online literacy programme composed of phonic fluency and comprehension activities based around a series of age-appropriate texts. Four 15 minute sessions per week are delivered by a teaching assistant (TA) to groups of three to five pupils over the course of one school year. The intervention is non-targeted and takes place in Year 1 of primary school. A number of trials in Canada, where the intervention was first developed, have shown positive results of ABRA for child outcomes with these finding being replicated in an EEF funded efficacy trial of 48 schools.


A full-scale three-arm effectiveness cluster-randomised controlled trial of the ABRA intervention. Children in Year 1 will be randomised to one of three groups;

1) Online intervention
2) Paper based intervention
3) Business as usual (control)

Aims and Objectives

The primary aim of the evaluation is to investigate the effectiveness of the ABRA programme delivered to pupils in Year 1 on literacy development. Each of the two intervention arms will be compared to the control arm. The two interventions will also be compared. If no difference in effect size is observed the two intervention arms will be combined to increase power.

Outcome measures

The Progress in Reading Assessment (PIRA)

Key Stage 1 English
Letter Sound Test
Diagnostic Test of Word Reading Processes

Process evaluation

The primary aim of the process evaluation will be to monitor implementation fidelity, to describe in detail the processes involved for settings in implementing the ABRA intervention and to explain the impact of the ABRA intervention on pupil’s reading attainment at the end of the trial period. It will also explore the perceptions and experiences of all relevant stakeholders.

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Funder:  Education Endownment Foundation (EEF) 
Start Date:  April 2017
End Date: December 2019


Internal Staff

External Collaborators

Trials and Statistics Research in the Department of Health Sciences