Condition category
Not Applicable
Date applied
Date assigned
Last edited
Retrospectively registered
Overall trial status
Recruitment status
No longer recruiting

Plain English Summary

Background and study aims
This study will test whether using a computer-based reading scheme – Accelerated Reader (AR) – leads to primary schools pupils improving their reading ability when compared to pupils who do not receive AR. We also wish to find out whether there are specific effects for pupils who are eligible for free school meals.

Who can participate?
The study will recruit around 200 primary schools in England and all Year 4 and Year 5 pupils in these schools will be eligible to take part in the study.

What does the study involve?
Participating schools are randomly allocated to either the intervention or the control group. Pupils at the intervention group schools take part in the Accelerated Reader reading scheme, which involves several elements but the essence is that pupils are assessed and set reading that matches but also extends their reading ability. At the same time, schools are required to change their timetable so that all pupils have protected reading time and pupils are supported in their reading by teachers. It is up to the schools how they implement the protected reading time. Pupils are also assessed on their understanding of the books they have read by short tests that form part of the AR program. Teachers are then able to see reports on their pupils and their pupils’ progress. At the control group schools Year 4 and Year 5 pupils receive ‘business as usual’ in terms of how their schools teach and work on pupil reading. In the second year of the study, Year 3 and Year 4 pupils at the control schools are able to access the Accelerated Reader programme. Control group pupils in Year 4 and Year 5 are tracked using data from the National Pupil Database.

What are the possible benefits and risks of participating?
By participating pupils may improve their reading ability. There are no anticipated risks for pupils participating in the study.

Where is the study run from?
The study is being run by RAND Europe and the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, both based in Cambridge (UK). RAND Europe is the lead centre. Accelerated Reader was developed by Renaissance Learning, who will be working with staff from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to implement the AR software.

When is study starting and how long is it expected to run for?
January 2016 to December 2018

Who is funding the study?
Education Endowment Foundation (UK)

Who is the main contact?
Dr Alex Sutherland

Trial website

Contact information



Primary contact

Dr Alex Sutherland


Contact details

c/o RAND Europe
Westbrook Centre
Milton Road
United Kingdom

Additional identifiers

EudraCT number number

Protocol/serial number


Study information

Scientific title

A cluster-randomised controlled trial of the Accelerated Reader literacy improvement intervention for Year 4 & Year 5 pupils in 200 English primary schools


Study hypothesis

Hypothesis 1: Accelerated Reader will have a positive effect on the reading comprehension of pupils that are randomly assigned to the intervention compared to pupils in control schools.

Hypothesis 2: Accelerated Reader will have a positive effect on the reading comprehension of pupils who are eligible for free school meals and who are randomly assigned to the intervention.

Ethics approval

The research was reviewed by RAND Europe’s Ethics Advisory Board in April 2016 and approved via the Faculty of Education (University of Cambridge) research ethics process on 04/05/2016.

Study design

Cluster-randomised controlled experiment

Primary study design


Secondary study design

Cluster randomised trial

Trial setting


Trial type


Patient information sheet

Not available in web format, please use the contact details below to request a patient information sheet


Reading comprehension in primary school pupils in Year 4 and Year 5 in England


The intervention logic for the Renaissance Learning: Accelerated Reader programme (AR) involves:
1. The tailoring of assigned reading to pupils
2. The importance of reading within a pupil’s zone of proximal development
3. A constant feedback loop between reading and assessment
These are all designed to increase the amount of time children spend reading at school and thus ingrain the habit of reading.

The use of a standardised online platform to assist with initial screening and ongoing testing means that there is a much lower risk of variation in how these work in practice (training or IT problems notwithstanding). But, evaluations of AR also hint at a more complex intervention. For example, AR also requires (iv) the initial selection of pupils and a range of book levels appropriate to them; (v) adequate resources in terms of books and IT infrastructure; (vi) protected and adequate amount of time for students to read on a daily basis (often on school premises); and (vii) teachers to guide readers – especially the youngest and weakest – on book selection within their zone of proximal development. There is an element of (viii) staff training required, meaning that there is a need to understand how well this has worked. Further, a previous EEF evaluation of AR (Gorard et al., 2015) illustrated a high degree of variability in how the additional reading was actually implemented – and this is effectively the largest part of the intervention. Taken together, these elements suggest that schools’ understanding of how to implement the programme, how effectively schools were able to schedule reading time, and how the intervention was ‘sold’ to pupils could all affect treatment outcomes.

Year 4 and Year 5 pupils in control schools will receive treatment as usual. In the second year of the trial the AR software will be made available to Year 3 and Year 4 pupils in control schools. Compliance with treatment allocation will be monitored using routine administrative data collected by the AR software.

Intervention type



Drug names

Primary outcome measures

1. For Year 4 pupils the primary outcome will be a stand-alone test of reading comprehension at the end of the summer term in 2017 (approximately June/July), one school year after the intervention begins
2. For Year 5 pupils the primary outcome will be Key Stage 2 national tests taken in Year 6, two years after the intervention begins

Secondary outcome measures

1. Cost-effectiveness of the intervention through collecting data on direct financial costs, time costs and any prerequisite costs (e.g. in terms of purchasing books)
2. The effect of fidelity with the intervention, using routine data collected by the AR system
3. Compliance with allocation, through monitoring of control pupils' access to AR in the second year of the study

Overall trial start date


Overall trial end date


Reason abandoned


Participant inclusion criteria

All Year 4 and Year 5 pupils in participating schools.

Participant type


Age group




Target number of participants

The target number of schools is 200 (100 in Treatment, 100 in Control). The expected number of pupils is around 13,000 depending on school size.

Participant exclusion criteria

1. Special educational facilities for pupils with physical and/or mental and/or behavioural disorders
2. Pupil Referral Units

Recruitment start date


Recruitment end date



Countries of recruitment

United Kingdom

Trial participating centre

RAND Europe
Westbrook Centre Milton Road
United Kingdom

Trial participating centre

University of Cambridge
Faculty of Education 184 Hills Road
United Kingdom

Sponsor information


RAND Europe (UK)

Sponsor details

Westbrook Centre
Milton Road
United Kingdom

Sponsor type

Research organisation



University of Cambridge (UK)

Sponsor details

Faculty of Education
184 Hills Road
United Kingdom

Sponsor type




Funder type


Funder name

Education Endowment Foundation (UK)

Alternative name(s)

Funding Body Type

Funding Body Subtype


Results and Publications

Publication and dissemination plan

Two reports for the Educational Endowment Foundation (EEF). The main report will be the results after Year 4 pupils have completed the first year of the project (December 2017). A secondary, shorter report will be published in December 2018 on the results for the Year 5 pupils. We will also publish one peer-reviewed paper.

Intention to publish date


Participant level data

Not expected to be available

Results - basic reporting

Publication summary

Publication citations

Additional files

Editorial Notes