How Catch Up works

Catch Up® interventions

Catch Up® offers two structured one-to-one interventions, proven to significantly improve the achievement of learners who find literacy or numeracy difficult.

Catch Up Literacy A book-based reading intervention which enables struggling readers to achieve more than double the progress of typically developing readers.
Catch Up Numeracy An intervention addressing 10 key components of numeracy which enables learners who struggle with numeracy to achieve more than double the progress of typically developing learners.
Both interventions are based on rigorous academic research and are targeted to the needs of individual learners. They involve 15-minute individual sessions delivered twice a week by teaching assistants, teachers or mentors.
  • Achieve double the normal rate of progress in learners' Reading and Number Ages
  • Maximise effectiveness of support staff, trained to deliver proven interventions
  • Improve learners' confidence, behaviour, and engagement with the whole curriculum
  • Encourage learning through success with interventions targeted to individual needs

Each intervention begins with assessments for learning, which enable the adult to identify an appropriate focus for the individual learner - for Catch Up® Literacy, a book of an appropriate level of difficulty; for Catch Up® Numeracy, activities of an appropriate level of difficulty that address a specific component of numeracy.

Each intervention then comprises two 15-minute individual sessions per week, delivered in most cases by teaching assistants, in which the learner reads from the chosen book/takes part in the chosen numeracy activity, and completes some linked writing/recording that addresses identified miscues. Throughout both interventions, the emphasis is on providing effective personalised learning support for the individual learner within a positive, supportive and enabling framework.

Find out about how the interventions work >


Catch Up® Literacy was created by Diana Bentley, Dee Reid and Suzi Clipson-Boyles (Oxford Brookes University) in response to research (Thomas and Davies, 1997), which found that ‘18% of all 7/8 year olds have reading difficulties’. Catch Up® then received repeated requests for a similarly effective numeracy intervention, which resulted in Catch Up® Numeracy being developed during 2007, based on the extensive research of Dr Ann Dowker (University of Oxford).

Recent figures suggest that this research is still as relevant today. In England (2013), 11% of 7-year-olds were working below the expected level in reading, and 9% in mathematics. For 11-year-olds (based on DfE expectations from 2014), 25% are below the expected level for reading, and 27% for mathematics.

Two Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) randomised controlled trials, involving Catch Up® trained Teaching Assistants supporting pupils over 30 weeks, showed:
  • Pupils receiving Catch Up® Literacy support whilst transferring from Year 6 to Year 7 improved their literacy outcomes by 2 months compared with the control group.
  • Pupils receiving Catch Up® Numeracy support in Years 2 to 6 improved their numeracy outcomes by 3 months compared with the control group.

Catch Up® Literacy and Catch Up® Numeracy are both featured in the EEF Report 'Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants - Guidance Report - October 2018'

Both interventions are recommended in the ‘Guidance for literacy and numeracy catch-up programmes’ (Welsh Government document no: 088/2012)

Over 500,000 struggling learners have been helped with the Catch Up® interventions and over 33,000 supporting adults, including teaching assistants, teachers, carers and mentors from the UK and worldwide, have been trained to deliver them. Catch Up® is now used in over 6,000 schools across the UK, with both interventions being available in English and Welsh medium.