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The Most Effective Intervention Strategies For Primary And Secondary Schools And How To Make Them Work In Your School

Intervention strategies for primary and secondary schools may appear to be a straightforward task – identify a problem, devise a solution and implement it. However, a truly effective intervention strategy must not only be thoughtfully crafted to tackle various educational challenges, but also constantly evaluated and adapted to ensure continued success.

In this article, we’ll explore the most effective intervention strategies that have been proven to make a significant difference in students’ learning outcomes. We also give you the steps you’ll need to start up and run an effective intervention in your school. So, whether you’re a teacher or a school leader, let’s dive into the best strategies that can positively impact your pupils’ academic progress.

What are intervention strategies?

Intervention strategies are the strategies employed for a type of targeted teaching programme typically conducted in small groups or one-to-one settings. They are designed to address gaps in students’ learning by focusing on specific areas of need. 

When executed well, interventions can have a tremendously positive impact on a child’s learning process and quickly close the attainment gap. However, when poorly implemented without strategy, interventions can prove to be costly and have a limited impact on student progress.

Here at Third Space Learning, we’ve worked with 3,800+ primary and secondary schools since 2013 to provide online one to one maths tutoring interventions for their target pupils. Over the years, we’ve spoken with tens of thousands of teachers and senior leaders looking for advice about their interventions strategies. In this blog, we’ve included everything we’ve learned along the way.

In order to deliver a high-quality school intervention, you need to carefully consider which intervention strategies to employ.

Ask yourself: 

  • Which procedures and methods will you use at each stage of an intervention programme? 
  • How will pupils’ specific needs be assessed? 
  • What type of intervention will be most effective? 
  • How will the success of the intervention be monitored? 
Third Space Learning Guide to Effective One to One Interventions

Third Space Learning Guide to Effective One to One Interventions

Find out how to plan, manage, and teach one to one (and small group) maths interventions in Key Stage 2

Why are intervention strategies in schools so important?

School interventions are crucial for promoting success, well-being, and unlocking the full potential of all students. Through tutoring, mentoring, counselling, or specialised programmes, interventions aim to boost academic performance and enhance valuable social and emotional skills.

Learning loss due to school closures

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on young people’s progress across the country. The effects of the disruption are still being seen now, particularly in primary students. 

Figures from the Department for Education (DfE) show that in 2022, the percentage of pupils meeting expected standard in maths at Key Stage 2 was 71%, down from 79% in 2019. The drop in attainment was less severe at GCSE level, with the percentage of pupils achieving a grade 4 or above down just 1.1% from 2019.

intervention strategies in schools graph data
Fewer pupils are meeting the expected standard in maths by the end of KS2 [data from gov.uk].

A widening disadvantage gap

The effects of the pandemic have been far more stark for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. For years, schools have been attempting to close the gap in attainment between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. 

Whilst some progress had been made in certain areas, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a significant set-back. Figures from the DfE showed that in 2022, the disadvantage attainment gap in both Key Stage 2 SATs and GCSEs was the largest it had been in a decade. 

Only 56% of disadvantaged pupils met the expected standard for maths at Key Stage 2, in contrast to 78% of other pupils. GCSE maths results showed an average grade difference of 1.5 between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. 

The role interventions play in schools

With remaining gaps in pupil knowledge, and a widening disparity in students’ progress, the need for rapid, effective intervention is clear. Large class sizes, limited resources and lack of parental engagement means it’s impossible for many pupils to catch up without additional support. 

Maths interventions are a very effective use of school time and budget.

This is because in maths, unaddressed gaps are especially problematic. The nature of the subject means children’s learning needs to build on a solid understanding of essential foundation concepts. A pupil who has, for example, not grasped the values of numbers at foundation stages will struggle much more with understanding the concepts of addition and subtraction. As these gaps escalate, they cause pupils to fall further behind as they struggle to keep up with their peers. It’s for this reason the link between KS2 performance and eventual KS4 performance is stronger in maths than any other subject. 

Without an effective maths intervention strategy, pupils who are struggling will continue to struggle. A targeted and effective maths intervention will ensure that all pupils are able to progress.

Read more: GCSE intervention strategies and KS2 tutoring

The most effective intervention strategies for primary and secondary schools

Schools utilise a diverse array of interventions to bolster academic and behavioural outcomes. Here are 6 of the most common school interventions:

1. One to one tutoring

One to one tutoring is the most effective form of intervention. Research from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) found that on average, a one-to-one intervention programme provides an additional five months’ progress per pupil

This is higher for primary schools (six months) and lower for secondary (four months). The EEF recommends that short term, regular sessions (about 30 minutes, three to five times a week) over a set period of time up to ten weeks results in optimum impact. 
However, one to one tuition can be costly. According to the EEF, tuition is most effective when delivered by trained and experienced teachers. However, this is of course a significant expense. Delivering tuition through teaching assistants or volunteers offers a more cost effective option, although the impact on learning may be lower.

Online tuition can offer a cost effective alternative to in-person one to one tuition. Alongside cost benefits, it is easier for schools to manage as online tutoring allows for an entire class to benefit from personalised support in the same room at the same time.

By taking tuition online, schools choosing Third Space Learning benefit from personalised, one to one tuition with maths experts for roughly one third of the cost of traditional one to one. All of our lessons are designed by UK curriculum experts and align with the national curriculum.

intervention strategies in schools when comparing numbers in School
Our classroom has been designed with maths in mind. Tutors and pupils have quick access to mathematical symbols, shapes and supporting resources designed by former UK maths teachers.

2. Small group tutoring

Group tutoring involves a group of pupils, usually between 2 and 5, receiving tuition at the same time. This is commonly used for interventions in schools, as it offers a more cost effective option. 

As a rule of thumb, the EEF found the smaller the group the greater the impact. Evidence suggests that the impact of tutoring one to many is significantly weakened beyond 1 to 3 delivery. 

According to the EEF, small group tuition provides an average of four months’ additional progress.

However, small group tuition is significantly less impactful in secondary schools than in primary schools. This means that secondary schools should strongly consider one to one tutoring.

Another key thing to remember is that it’s really important that you match students based on their learning gaps – you can’t group three students who need different areas of support together and expect them all to make progress!

At Third Space Learning, up to 15 pupils can receive personalised online one to one maths tutoring from their own dedicated tutor in the same, convenient one hour timeslot. 

3. Large group boosters

If you have stretched resources, you may look at larger group boosters to support your pupils. However, as above, the larger the group, the less effective your intervention may be. This is because there is less dedicated feedback and support and the content is likely to be less personalised.

The EEF did find that some subjects, such as group reading, may be better suited to larger group sizes so it may be worthwhile trailing with your classes.

4. Peer tutoring

Peer tutoring is not only an effective but also an affordable option for secondary schools. 

This intervention involves older students teaching younger ones, or learners exchanging roles between teaching and learning. It has an average positive impact of around five months, which is similar to one-to-one tuition. 

Moreover, group work during peer tutoring enhances not only academic but also emotional and social skills, such as confidence and mental health. 

However, successful programmes require careful planning and guidance, such as question frames and training for students. Note that peer tutoring may not be the best fit for younger students or those with disabilities or social difficulties.

5. Feedback

Feedback sits at the core of effective teaching and learning. When used effectively, feedback supports pupil progress by addressing misconceptions and closing the gap between where a pupil is and where the teacher wants them to be.

However, not all feedback has such positive effects and it can actually damage pupil progress. It can also be a time-consuming task for teachers.

This is why it’s important to invest time into developing an evidence-informed strategy for providing effective feedback that doesn’t add unnecessary workload to teachers. This might include developing a specific feedback intervention to focus on the pupils who need it most.

Read more: Effective marking

6. Metacognition

Metacognition is about how pupils monitor and direct their own learning. According to the EEF, teaching pupils to use metacognitive strategies can be worth the equivalent of +7 months of additional progress. It also has very low start up costs.

The EEF recommends explicitly teaching metacognitive and self-regulation strategies in small collaborative groups. However, the challenge with developing metacognitive learning interventions is that they are most effective when embedded in a curriculum and are subject-specific, rather than as an extra ‘add-on’.

Existing trials by the EEF suggest metacognitive interventions have mixed outcomes but suggest that metacognitive interventions can have a positive impact on both writing and mathematics.

The power of metacognition is something we have hard wired into the Third Space Learning methodology for our one to one maths interventions. Metacognitive strategies used by tutors help us to ensure pupils make excellent progress in maths.

The one to one nature of our programme allows for purposeful and personalised talk for maths. Tutors are trained to ask open-ended questions with a focus on reasoning, discussing, arguing and explaining.

Tutors also use questioning to scaffold and encourage pupils to assess and judge their learning throughout and at the end of a session. Through post-session questions, pupils are able to get an accurate picture of their learning which empowers them to become more independent learners.

Post-session questions on Third Space Learning's one to one online maths tutoring programme

How to achieve success in your learning interventions

You’ve identified a need for intervention in your school. But what’s the next step? Here are six strategies to help guide your intervention planning.

1. Identify which pupils need support

In a report on intervention programmes, one of Ofsted’s top recommendations was that schools “ensure[d] they understood the importance of thorough identification of pupils’ needs”. This is because without this, schools won’t be able to carefully plan programmes

The usual formative and summative assessment systems used in your school are a good place to start. This will help you to identify the pupils would greatly benefit from extra support, such as:

  • Pupils not meeting the expected standard or are at risk of slipping below;
  • Pupils whose grades sit just below the next grade boundary;
  • Pupils with high potential but low attainment due to pandemic-related gaps, poor attendance, or lack of support at home from carers;
  • Pupils receiving pupil premium or those with SEND, SEMH, or EAL needs;
  • Pupils who have missed a lot of school due to illness or family issues;
  • Pupils with similar ability levels or knowledge gaps for small-group tuition interventions.

A short intervention programme may give these pupils the small boost they need to get back on track.

2. Decide who will deliver the interventions and make sure they are trained and confident

A recent review by Ofsted into the effectiveness of the government’s National Tutoring Programme found that catch-up interventions delivered by qualified teachers tended to be of higher quality than other types of tutors. 

This is echoed by findings from the EEF, which found that interventions from class teachers had a greater positive effect than those delivered by teaching assistants.

However, the obvious time and money constraints often mean that using a teacher is not always viable. Instead, you may be using a teaching assistant, or volunteer. 

The EEF found that interventions from teaching assistants or volunteers could be moderately effective, if they were provided with thorough training, and were clear on the expected teaching methods and learning outcomes. The study found the most effective programmes were those offering professional development for teaching assistants to deliver specific, structured interventions.

If you’re planning to use teaching assistants or other members of staff to deliver interventions, make sure you factor in the time and resources to provide comprehensive CPD and detailed, structured session plans. Training should occur not only in the early stages of an intervention but be provided on a continuing basis.

For schools opting for tutoring with Third Space Learning, we take care of the hiring and training of all of our tutors.

All of our tutors:

  • Hold or are working towards a University degree in STEM or other maths-related subject
  • Undergo full background checks to receive enhanced DBS checks and a Police Clearance Certificate
  • Pass assessments for subject knowledge, communication skills and teaching ability
  • Complete and pass our intensive initial tutor training programme designed by former UK maths teachers
  • Receive regular session evaluations and other feedback from Academic Coaches

3. Consider the practicalities

When it comes to planning interventions, there are several practical considerations to take into account.

  • Deciding who will provide the tuition, whether it will be teachers, teaching assistants, academic mentors or external sources like independent tuition organisations;
  • Funding and allocation of resources, including the use of Pupil Premium funding and National Tutoring Programme funding;
  • Choosing the location and timing of interventions, including consideration of space limitations and impact on attendance and student motivation
  • Balancing interventions with regular classroom instruction and ensuring that intervention sessions do not interfere with other subjects or activities.

4. Conduct thorough assessments

To ensure the success of an intervention programme, assessing students before, during, and after the programme is of utmost importance. You can use recent tracking or existing baseline test scores, or create an assessment tailored to the intervention. 

It is crucial to ensure that the assessments align with the objectives of the specific intervention programme. Once the programme has ended, assessment plays a pivotal role in evaluating its effectiveness. 

Sharing your findings with colleagues regardless of the outcome. If the pupils made excellent progress, that’s splendid news: other teachers in your school or partner schools may find the strategies useful. If pupils didn’t make the expected progress, it’s still useful learning and your colleagues can assist you in searching for alternative methods.

All pupils receiving online one to one maths tutoring with Third Space Learning complete a diagnostic assessment before they start their lessons. This not only identifies gaps in student learning, but also the misconceptions that are holding them back. The results from their diagnostic assessment inform the tailored selection of Learning Objectives pupils will cover in their tutoring sessions.

But their journey doesn’t end there. Post-session questions further diagnose outstanding gaps and adapt the subsequent Learning Objective sequence. This ensures each pupil’s learning experience is fully personalised, from start to finish.

Teachers will always have access to on-demand individual pupil progress reports and, at the end of their tutoring, pupils will complete an end of programme assessment which includes:

• Learning objectives assessed
• Number of questions answered correctly
• An overview into their maths mindset; their effort and confidence levels, as well as how much they enjoy maths and the value they put in their learning

Third Space Learning mission checkpoint report
Pupils receiving tutoring with Third Space Learning complete an end of programme assessment, in addition to formative post-session questions which help to personalise their learning journey.

5. Make sure you plan ahead

As teachers, we all know the importance of lesson planning and it is no different for interventions. 

The EEF found that interventions should be explicitly linked to normal classroom content in order to be effective. This means there needs to be clear and regular communication between classroom teachers and tutors during the planning and delivery stages of interventions.

Ofsted’s report into the National Tutoring Programme found evidence to suggest that, however good an intervention teacher may be, tutoring cannot work without a well-considered and constructed curriculum. 

Schools with strong curriculums were able to target specific gaps and plan an appropriate sequence of topics for their interventions. Make sure that whoever is responsible for planning intervention sessions has a good understanding of your school’s curriculum and is using it consistently in the planning process.

6. Use evidence-based teaching strategies

By keeping these factors in mind, educators can help students reach their full potential and achieve academic success:

  • Use evidence-based teaching strategies;
  • Choose teaching styles and methods that work best for delivering intervention based on the pupils’ age, needs, ability, and the school’s existing style of learning;
  • Refer to the EEF toolkit to evaluate the effectiveness of different teaching and learning styles;
  • Use effective, evidence-based teaching techniques such as concrete-pictorial-abstract technique, deeper questioning, or bar modelling;
  • Encourage metacognition and a positive-growth mindset, especially for older learners;
  • Ensure that if the tutor delivering the session isn’t a qualified teacher, teaching techniques should be explicitly present in planning and taught through staff training;
  • Nurture a sense of enjoyment during intervention sessions using games, interactive activities, and technology;
  • Create a supportive, nurturing environment to encourage engagement and motivation, which can improve attendance and performance.

Looking for more ideas for your intervention strategy? Read more:

What are examples of interventions?

There are many different intervention options in school, depending on a pupil’s individual needs. Interventions include behavioural, social and emotional and academic and may take the form of one to one, small groups, online or in person.

What are effective interventions

Effective interventions will have clear goals, use evidence-based strategies and effectively use assessment to track pupil progress and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, making adjustments along the way.

How do you implement intervention strategies?

Here’s a six step guide we suggest to successfully implement intervention strategies in your school:

1. Identify which pupils need support
2. Decide who will deliver the interventions and how they will be trained
3. Consider the practicalities, including funding and resources
4. Conduct thorough assessments 
5. Make sure you plan ahead
6. Use evidence-based teaching strategies

It’s also important that, at the end of a learning intervention programme, assessment is used to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention so that you can make necessary adjustments for future interventions. 

Do you have pupils who need extra support in maths?
Every week Third Space Learning’s maths specialist tutors support thousands of pupils across hundreds of schools with weekly online 1-to-1 lessons and maths interventions designed to plug gaps and boost progress.

Since 2013 we’ve helped over 150,000 primary and secondary school pupils become more confident, able mathematicians. Learn more or request a personalised quote for your school to speak to us about your school’s needs and how we can help.

Subsidised one to one maths tutoring from the UK’s most affordable DfE-approved one to one tutoring provider.

Rosie Summers
Rosie Summers
Rosie is a former primary school teacher who now works as a educational content writer and tutor.
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Third Space Learning Guide to Effective One to One Interventions

Third Space Learning Guide to Effective One to One Interventions

Find out how to plan, manage, and teach one to one (and small group) maths interventions in Key Stage 2

Download FREE Now!

Third Space Learning Guide to Effective One to One Interventions

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Find out how to plan, manage, and teach one to one (and small group) maths interventions in Key Stage 2

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The Ultimate Guide to Effective Maths Interventions [FREE]

Find out how to plan, manage, and teach one to one (and small group) maths interventions in primary and secondary schools.

Includes a 20 point checklist of techniques to improve your one to one teaching.

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