May 2023


We know that children and young people in care have, on average, lower educational attainment than their peers. However, we do not have a good sense of what works to improve educational outcomes for this group. 

Catch Up® Literacy is a reading intervention typically delivered in schools by teachers or teaching assistants for struggling readers. This evaluation was carried out to assess whether the Catch Up® Literacy intervention could be successfully delivered in the home by foster carers. This model of delivery is new to Catch Up® Literacy both in terms of the agents of delivery i.e. foster carers, and the targeted children i.e. children in care. This evaluation was conducted by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and the Institute for Employment Studies. 

This study follows an evaluation of Catch Up® Literacy by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) which found it was effective in schools in improving literacy. Reanalysis of the EEF data by What Works for Children’s Social Care (WWCSC) suggested that Catch Up® Literacy had ‘Signs of Potential’, i.e. an intervention that appears to have a larger positive impact for young people who have had a social worker than for their peers. This prompted us to fund the present study. 


This evaluation aimed to address the following three research questions:   

1. Evidence of feasibility – Can the intervention be successfully delivered by foster carers/kinship carers in the home?   

2. Readiness for trial – Is Catch Up® Literacy scalable for a randomised controlled trial in this context?    

3. Cost – What is the cost per child of delivering the Catch Up® Literacy intervention?   


Five local authorities and one independent fostering agency agreed to support the study. Forty-one foster carers took part in the programme, with 44 foster children receiving the intervention.   

The study used mixed methods to address the key research questions. Baseline and endline surveys were sent to all foster carers, and they were also invited to interview towards the end of the intervention. Interviews were also carried out with the delivery partner. Endline surveys were sent to all of the children, and they were all invited to take part in an endline reading assessment delivered via Zoom.   

A cost analysis of fixed and variable costs was carried out to calculate a cost per child as well as a cost per carer to account for those carers who delivered to multiple children.   

Key findings 

  1. The evaluation findings suggest that Catch Up® Literacy can feasibly be delivered by foster/kinship carers in the home. While a number of barriers to implementation and engagement with the programme emerged, overall children and their carers self-reported positive reading outcomes, including an increase in enjoyment of reading, along with an increase in confidence and skill in specific areas.  
  2. While training for carers was generally well received, there were a number of suggested adaptations, including face to face delivery. It emerged in interviews that carers made a number of adaptions to the programme content in response to the needs of the children in their care, which could have an impact on the reliability of future evaluation. The primary outcome measure appeared to be appropriate for use in future evaluation.  
  3. Cost per child was £880.05. While this is significantly higher than the EEF evaluation, it may not be a useful comparison since a teacher or teaching assistant trained to deliver a school-based intervention can support a large number of children thereby lowering the cost per child. 


The evaluation team made practical recommendations to improve the recruitment of participants to the programme, the training carers receive, and the ongoing support and delivery – which can be found in the report. 

Further research is needed to explore some of the issues and recommendations identified, particularly around engagement both of the carers and the children taking part. In particular, future evaluations would benefit from being aware of the multiple adaptations foster carers made to their implementation of the programme. Given the complexity of the home and school contexts of children in care, more flexibility may be needed within the programme and systematic recording of adaptations would help to understand the impact of these on children’s outcomes. 

Read the report

Read the research protocol