Interim Impact Study shows that Reading Planet Rocket Phonics is making a real difference to children

Improving educational outcomes is important to us, and we understand that choosing the most impactful resources is challenging. So, everything we do at Hodder Education is created to ensure it will help engage learners and have a positive impact on teaching and learning. As part of this commitment, in 2021 we launched a two-year Impact Trial working with two independent evaluators (Professor Clare Wood, Nottingham Trent University and Dr Helen Breadmore, Associate Professor Psychology in Education, University of Birmingham) to measure the impact of Reading Planet Rocket Phonics on pupils' reading attainment. 

The impact trial set out to understand what makes the Reading Planet Rocket Phonics programme work well. Schools self-selected to use Reading Planet Rocket Phonics or to act as business as-usual controls. Although the sample would need to be scaled up to provide statistical significance, this pilot trial set out not only to measure the size of the effect on reading attainment and phonics knowledge, but also to provide preliminary evidence of whether schools were able to implement the programme as intended, and to understand which features of implementation make the programme effective.

The interim report 

The interim evaluation report focuses on measuring the impact of the programme during the first year of implementation of Rocket Phonics across Reception and Year One using attainment data (New PiRA scores), teacher interviews, surveys and observations. The case studies and testimonials from schools and MATs during 2021–2022 can be accessed here.

Highlights at this point include:

  • Reception children showing promising signs of additional progress in both reading attainment and phonics knowledge
  • Reception children using Reading Planet Rocket Phonics achieving around 5 or 6 standardised scores more than children in the control schools in their New PiRA reading tests and, on average, reading ages were comparatively higher by a few months’ in spring and indicating a 10-month difference by the summer
  • All participating teachers agreed that they would recommend Rocket Phonics to other schools

It was noted that at the outset, the schools embarking on the Reading Planet Rocket Phonics programme were ‘broadly comparable’ with the controls schools in teacher confidence and processes in teaching phonics and reading, with the exception of the control schools being more likely to use guided reading sessions and slightly shorter phonics sessions. The main difference at outset was that teachers in the control schools had double the median years of teaching experience both overall and within their specific year groups.

The summary of findings uses information from these various sources to provide an account of how well the Reading Planet Rocket Phonics approach was received and implemented.

All Reading Planet Rocket Phonics staff who completed the survey:

  • rated the success of the resources for their children highly: 100% of responses indicating that they were either very successful (22/26) or reasonably successful (4/26).
  • agreed that they would recommend the programme to other schools.

About the programme and assessment

Reading Planet Rocket Phonics is a DfE approved SSP programme by Abigail Steel. The programme focuses on mastery, and has a ‘keep up, not catch up’ philosophy. It progresses through phoneme-grapheme correspondences with steady pace and progression. Time is spent securing and applying knowledge as it is learned, through the provision of carefully aligned practice in multiple domains of literacy (oral, spelling and reading).

New PiRA termly tests enable schools to reliably benchmark performance and track progress against national averages in reading; standardised on over 10,000 pupils in 2019-2021.

We look forward to sharing the findings with you next year when the full study ends, in the meantime please get in touch if you’d like to find out more.  


phonics, Reading, Reading and Ebooks, reading scheme, Rising Stars Reading Planet

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