The Bridge to Fluency (Part 2)

Supporting reading fluency skills for students who struggle

Published interventions and curriculum based interventions (CBIs)

Effective interventions follow evidence-based principles, and these principles are rarely unique to one specific programme. One benefit of published interventions is that they have been organised and structured to make planning and implementation easier. This means the materials are conveniently pre-created, pre-planned, and are available for immediate use. Additionally, they typically have placement (baseline) tests to establish intervention starting points, and focus on one or more of the The Bridge to Fluency skills discussed in the last article.

Drawbacks of published programmes include:

  • They often need to be delivered outside of school hours

  • They cost more to maintain and upgrade due to publisher mandated training and re-certification

  • There is little time available for effective implementation

  • The strategies and skills learnt do not generalise into the daily curriculum (a drawback of many interventions and the most difficult skill to teach)

Easing the pressure With continued budget deficits and specialist teachers few and far between, we need to re-engage with the principles of interventions and develop our awareness of how these can be delivered as effectively as possible. Our over-dependence on published interventions rather than the principles that guide them is unsustainable in schools struggling to find the finances, expertise, personnel, and time to administer these to a growing number of students.

Possible solutions Curriculum- based interventions (CBIs) target multiple areas of reading fluency and rely on principles of interventions and cost little. Some degree of “training” is required, but this can be done through a variety of free online tutorials available with a simple search. The flexibility and use of a student’s existing curriculum and contexts make CBIs an attractive alternative, as does the fact they address fluency. Many interventions involved in CBIs are easy to use, cost nothing, and require only the creation of materials and photocopying. An online search of non-published evidence-based strategies such as repeated reading, incremental rehearsal, and supported cloze procedure will yield many results, including “how to” videos. Additionally, visit my Resource page and search through the Reading Fluency resources to learn how to deliver a few of these.

CBIs show us that students can improve their reading fluency and it does not have to cost a fortune. With an extensive evidence-base, CBIs have taken off in the USA where all schools have special education-trained teachers who collaborate with their mainstream colleagues to administer interventions and differentiate lessons. In the UK, schools have been caught on the back foot with few mainstream teachers saying they feel equipped to address a growing number of learning needs in their classroom.

A return to the professionalisation of special education as a teacher-training route (degree-level training) in the UK will empower special education coordinators and ensure schools are better prepared to build this bridge for a growing number of students requiring learning support. My own “blue-sky” thinking would see every school with an interventions teacher, trained in best-practice SEN across subjects and developmental ages.

It has to change

All English-speaking nations offer special education teacher degrees at the undergraduate degree-level except for the UK, highlighting the need for yet another bridge to be built between the growing need and our level of expertise.

Future generations will thank us.