The Matthew Effect

Key research & what it means for schools

Closing the Disadvantage Gap - Where should you start?

Why is it that the disadvantage gap proves so difficult to close in schools? It may be down to the Matthew Effect. A term originally coined by Walberg and Tsai (1983), it has been linked to poor reading attainment in research by Stanovich (1986), but what is it?

It is based on a parable from the bible, which paraphrased is; "to those who have, more will be given. From those who have not, even what they have will be taken away." Matthew (25:29)

Stanovich postulated that as young readers master phonemic awareness, their expertise grows exponentially, but also those who struggle to acquire the basic elements of reading will fall further and further behind.

He says:
"Slow reading acquisition has cognitive, behavioural, and motivational consequences that slow the development of other cognitive skills and inhibit performance on many academic tasks."
So not only is slow reading a problem for the reading skills of those who suffer, but it also has a knock on effect to other equally crucial skills and cognitive abilities.

Ensuring all children are able to read at a level appropriate for their age is the single most important target for all teachers. If pupils fall behind their peers, they begin to struggle to access the curriculum. Cognitive skills such as critical thinking and the ability to process complex information also begin to suffer. All teachers, no matter what their subject specialism need support to know how to develop and nurture effective reading for all their pupils.

We use research to shape the bespoke support that we offer to schools and have created many research-informed, bespoke strategic packages to develop reading. If you would like to know more about how we can help you to provide equitable education for all of the pupils in your care, just contact us via our website at

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A Little More About Us

Who are we? - We are Finola & Jane, Literacy & Numeracy specialists, with 35+ years of teaching, training & leadership experience between us.

Can you trust us? - We have both worked for Welsh Government supporting schools & senior leaders across Wales. We have held senior leadership posts, delivered support to strategic education advisers, and published curriculum support guidance with Oxford University Press...but if you need to know more visit our website for testimonials from schools we've worked with.

Why should you buy our support? - Put simply, because we believe in impact. We do exactly what our name suggests. Our school support is always bespoke, high quality and designed specifically for each school we work with. Our focus is on delivering measurable impact for pupils.

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