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Reading Recovery is a widely implemented early intervention programme designed to help the lowest attaining children between the ages of five and six to learn to read, and, in turn, improve their educational attainment, life chances and career pathways.

Since 2005, when the KPMG Foundation developed the ‘Every Child a Reader’ initiative in conjunction with the Institute of Education, over 101,000 children in England have received Reading Recovery support. But how do we assess the impact of these interventions?


Pro Bono Economics was commissioned by the KPMG Foundation to provide an economic analysis of the costs and benefits of the Reading Recovery literacy programme, and to provide an up-to-date assessment of the social return on investment based on the latest evidence.

Pro Bono Economics utilised the findings from recent research into the long-term effectiveness of Reading Recovery by Jane Hurry at the UCL Institute of Education to help quantify the potential economic benefits that could accrue over the lifetime of the 101,000 children who have received Reading Recovery Support in England since 2005/6.

Benefits analysed in the study included those related to: increased earnings from employment; reduced expenditure by local authorities on Statements of Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Educational Health Care Plans (EHCP) for children in schools; cost savings for the NHS; and a reduction in costs resulting from crime. The overall value for money of the Reading Recovery Programme was assessed by comparing the value of potential benefits with programme costs over the period of 2005/6 to 2016/17.


The study revealed that:

  • In total the estimated potential benefits of the programme are between £940 million to £1,200 million for the 101,000 children supported between 2005/06 and 2016/17.
  • Per Reading Recovery pupil, the estimated potential benefits of the programme are £9,200 to £12,100, compared to around £2,800 in costs.  
  • For every £1 spent on Reading Recovery since 2005/6, a potential societal benefit of £3.30 to £4.30 has been created.
  • 70% of this societal benefit stems from the expected increase in lifetime earnings which Reading Recovery pupils achieve. Cost savings to local authorities related to SEN Statements/ECHPS accounted for most of the remaining 30%.


Pro Bono Economics’ study clearly shows the potential of well-designed early intervention literacy improvement programmes to not only improve children’s life prospects but also create a significant societal return on the cost of intervention.

Jo Clunie, Director of the KPMG Foundation, stated:

"What exceeded our expectations was their absolute commitment to understanding the figures…to really engage with the figures and break them down, so that we had a true reflection of what the costs (of per head delivery of service) were…it was really impressive...The report was as robust as it could possibly be…we have undertaken many evaluations before, but this has been the most thorough”