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 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 proven to make a significant difference in students’ learning outcomes. We also give you the key steps needed 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 help positively impact your pupils’ academic progress.

What are intervention strategies?

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

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

Over 10 years of intervention experience

Here at Third Space Learning, we’ve worked with 4,000+ 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 intervention strategies. In this blog, we’ve included everything we’ve learned along the way.

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

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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? 

Why are intervention strategies in schools so important?

School interventions are crucial for promoting success, well-being, and unlocking the full potential of all pupils. Interventions aim to boost academic performance and enhance valuable social and emotional skills through:

  • Tutoring
  • Mentoring
  • Counselling
  • Specialised programmes

Continued learning loss due to the pandemic

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic still has 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. Take a look at how the pandemic continued to affect maths SATs 2024.

Figures from the Department for Education (DfE) show that in 2022, the percentage of pupils meeting the expected standard in maths at Key Stage 2 was 71%, down from 79% in 2019. In 2023, this rose marginally to 73%.

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].

A widening disadvantage gap

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

Whilst some progress had been made in certain areas, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a significant setback. Figures from the DfE showed that in 2022, the attainment gap in both Key Stage 2 SATs and GCSEs was the largest for 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 mean many pupils can’t catch up without additional support. 

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

Unaddressed gaps in maths are especially problematic. The nature of the subject means children’s learning needs to build on a solid understanding of essential foundation concepts.

For example, a pupil who has not grasped the value of numbers at the foundation stages will likely struggle with understanding the concepts of addition and subtraction. These gaps widen and cause pupils to fall further behind as they struggle to keep up with their peers.

For this reason, the link between KS2 performance and eventual KS4 performance is stronger in maths than in any other subject. 

Without an effective maths intervention strategy, struggling pupils will continue to struggle. A targeted and effective maths intervention ensures that all individual students can progress.

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 lasting about 30 minutes, three to five times a week over a set period for 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. 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.

One-to-one maths tutoring

Online tuition, such as Third Space Learning, 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 an entire class to benefit from personalised support in the same room simultaneously.

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 lessons are designed by UK curriculum experts and align with the national curriculum.

intervention strategies in schools when comparing numbers in School
Third Space Learning’s interactive classroom has been designed with maths in mind. Tutors and pupils can quickly access 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 together. This approach is commonly used for in-school interventions as it is a 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 is significantly weakened beyond a 1 to 3 delivery ratio. 

According to the EEF, small group tuition provides an average of four months of 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 a one-to-one tutoring approach.

When considering small group interventions, you must match students based on their learning gaps. You can’t group three students who need to target different areas of support and expect them all to make progress.

Personalised one-to-one interventions – simultaneously!

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

Stretched for resources? You may look at larger group boosters to support your pupils. But remember, the larger the group, the less effective interventions may be. larger groups receive less dedicated feedback and support and it’s likely the content is less personalised.

But large groups aren’t always a negative, the EEF found that some subjects, such as group reading, may be better suited to larger group sizes.

4. Peer tutoring

Not only is peer tutoring effective, it is also an affordable option for secondary schools and sometimes UKS2. 

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, similar to one-to-one tuition. 

Moreover, group work during peer tutoring enhances academic, emotional and social skills, such as confidence and mental health. 

Successful peer tutoring programmes require careful planning and guidance, such as question frames and student training.

Peer tutoring may not be the best choice for younger students or those with disabilities or social difficulties.

5. Feedback

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

However, not all feedback has such positive effects. In some cases, it can damage pupil progress. When given to individual students in written form, it can be time-consuming for teachers.

This is why schools should 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 helps 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 is also low-cost to implement.

The EEF recommends explicitly teaching metacognitive and self-regulation strategies in small collaborative groups. But, 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 mixed outcomes from metacognitive interventions. But they do suggest that metacognitive interventions can positively impact writing in English and mathematics.


Metacognition underpins the Third Space Learning one-to-one maths interventions methodology. Tutors encouraging metacognitive strategies help ensure pupils make excellent progress in maths.

The one-to-one nature of the intervention programmes allows for purposeful and personalised talk for maths. Tutors are trained to ask open-ended questions focusing on reasoning, discussing, justifying and explaining mathematical thinking.

Tutors also use questioning to scaffold learning and encourage pupils to assess and judge their learning throughout and at the end of a session. Through post-session questions, pupils can identify any outstanding areas of weakness. In turn, this empowers them to become more independent learners.

Post-session questions on Third Space Learning's one to one online maths tutoring programme
Third Space Learning tutors use a targeted slide to encourage pupils to reflect on what they’ve learned at the end of each lesson.

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

One of Ofsted’s top recommendations for intervention programmes was for schools to “ensure they understood the importance of thorough identification of pupils’ needs”. Without this, schools cannot carefully plan programmes

The usual types of formative and summative assessment are a good place to start. These will help identify the pupils who would greatly benefit from extra support, such as:

  • Pupils not meeting the expected standard or are at risk of slipping below;
  • Those 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;
  • Any pupils receiving pupil premium or those with SEND, SEMH, or EAL needs;
  • Children 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 Ofsted review into the effectiveness of the government’s National Tutoring Programme found that catch-up interventions delivered by qualified teachers were of higher quality than other tutors. 

This is echoed in findings from the EEF, who 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 teacher-led interventions are not always viable. Instead, using a teaching assistant, or volunteer may be more feasible. 

While teacher-led is most effective, the EEF found that interventions from teaching assistants or volunteers could be moderately effective. This was contingent on whether they were provided with thorough training and clear on the expected teaching methods and learning outcomes.

The study found the most effective programmes offered professional development for teaching assistants to deliver specific, structured interventions.

For those planning to use teaching assistants or other members of staff to deliver interventions, factor in the time and resources to provide comprehensive CPD and detailed, structured session plans.

Provide ongoing CPD to ensure all staff running interventions are up-to-date with the latest pedagogies and intervention strategies.

Third Space Learning tutor training

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

All Third Space Learning 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 elements to consider:

  • Decide who will provide the tuition: 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;
  • Choose the location and timing of interventions, consider space limitations and impact on attendance and student motivation
  • Balance interventions with regular classroom instruction and ensure intervention sessions do not interfere with other subjects or activities.

4. Conduct thorough assessments

To ensure the success of an intervention programme, assess students before, during, and after the programme. Use recent tracking or existing baseline test scores, or create an assessment tailored to the intervention. 

Assessments must align with the objectives of the specific intervention programme. At the end of the programme, post-intervention assessment helps evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention. 

Share findings with colleagues regardless of the outcome. Other teachers may find the strategies useful. If pupils don’t make the expected progress, it’s still useful learning and colleagues can assist you in searching for alternative methods.

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All pupils receiving online one-to-one maths tutoring with Third Space Learning complete a diagnostic assessment before they start their lessons. This identifies gaps in student learning and the misconceptions holding them back.

The results from their diagnostic assessment inform the tailored selection of Learning Objectives pupils will cover in their tutoring sessions.

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 have access to on-demand individual pupil progress reports after each session. At the end of their tutoring, pupils 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 into 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. Plan ahead

The importance of lesson planning is no different for interventions. 

The EEF found that interventions should explicitly link to normal classroom content 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 on 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 could target specific gaps and plan an appropriate sequence of topics for their interventions. Whoever is responsible for planning intervention sessions must understand the school’s curriculum and use it consistently when planning.

6. Use evidence-based teaching strategies

Educators can help students reach their full potential and achieve academic success when they:

  • Use evidence-based teaching strategies;
  • Choose teaching styles and methods appropriate to 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, effective 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 are explicitly present in planning and CPD 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?

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. 

Third Space Learning Upsell Section


Every week Third Space Learning’s maths specialist tutors support thousands of students across hundreds of schools with weekly maths tuition designed to plug gaps and boost progress.


Since 2013 these personalised one to one lessons have helped over 150,000 primary and secondary students become more confident, able mathematicians.


Learn about our experience with schools or request a personalised quote for your school to speak to us about your school’s needs and how we can help.


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.

Download free