The Apex project

A robust and replicable model for the complete elimination of avoidable early literacy failure, able to be adopted at scale.


Launch Apex Project

Long term adaptive learning project to address the ‘Apex’ issue in education – the failure of around 130,000 pupils in England each year to be adequately literate on entry to Key Stage 2

  • Two decades of work reveals a root cause of underperformance of the UK schools’ sector with a huge cost-of-poor quality in both social and economic terms. 
  • Analysis shows extreme concentration of early literacy failure in disadvantaged pupils. 
  • Begin a systematic process of improvement in 10 Core Apex Schools.  
  • Data shows that the rate of early literacy failure can be reduced at least fourfold in some SFA schools in deprived areas. 
  • Supported by the Fischer Family Foundation and working with Success for All UK. 

Spring 2020

First tutoring and eyesight pilot

Piloting cost-effective, high quality tutoring in Key Stage 1 and Thomson vision screening programme

  • USA Success for All team come to the UK and work with training schools and Success for All UK staff 
  • Digitally-assisted early literacy tutoring in Years 1 and 2 using Tutoring with Alphie: a programme developed by academics at Johns Hopkins university and previously adapted for English schools by Success for All. 
  • Pilot is cut short by pandemic, but early results are excellent and schools continue to use programme during lockdown. 
  • Vision is identified as an important priority in improving reading, and the impact is already established in the US.  
  • Two schools conduct vision screening. 22 out of 78 children screened required follow up with an optician. 

Summer 2020

Decision to collaborate with FFT education to adapt and prepare Tutoring with the Lightning Squad

Rapidly anglicise a newer, better version of online tutoring and host in the UK in order to support a collaboration and expand work to National Tutoring Programme

  • Review all US content such as passages, sentences, questions, and words.  
  • Rerecord all sound associated with the programme.  
  • Create clone of US application, content database, and tools and reports for schools and tutors to access through an online portal. 
  • UK training modules for tutoring.  
  • FFT Tutoring with the Lightning Squad programme is ready and scalable for implementation in UK schools.

Autumn 2020

Complete Tutoring pilot and continue eyesight screening

Complete pilot in small number of schools with a view to continuing tutoring for all children who need it in Key Stage 1

  • 155 children in 9 schools tutored with 1:4 blended, reading tutoring programme in years 1 and 2. Download the full evaluation report. 
  • Key stage one tutoring has a good impact on students in 10 schools. 

Spring 2021

Decision to merge Success for All and FFT Education

Powering a new literacy programme for phonics, tutoring and literacy success

  • FFT Education and Success for All start to become one organisation.
  • Scoping for an online data tool to capture 8-weekly data points and improve instrumentation of the programme linked to FFT analytics.

Summer 2021

Tutoring for all in Key Stage 1 and vision screening across school

Core schools continue tutoring large numbers of Key Stage 1 children, using existing staff. Iterate how tutoring and school vision screening works best and what impact it has.

  • Year 1 and Year 2 Tutoring is helpful for getting children back on track after lockdown, reducing number of year 3 children entering KS2 behind 
  • Year 1 tutoring is effective after first term of Year 1, but may start 1:2, rather than 1:4.
  • Children are still making progress after 3 months of daily tutoring and progress may be ‘speeding up’ 
  • Some schools manage interventions by altering timetable, work before or after school or TWL within longer literacy lessons for the least able.

Autumn 2021

School vision screening

Foundation supporting schools with know-how and some additional staff support to continue to iterate how school vision screening works best and what impact it has

  • Six schools (total of 910 pupils) complete vision screen. 165 (18%) recommended eye tests at an optician. So far 50% of these children have been seen by an optician and 61% of those required intervention: 35 needed glasses, 8 already wore glasses but required a prescription change and 7 needed other vision support. 
  • Critical elements include adequate natural and/or enhanced LED lighting, and persistent regular contact with parents of pupils.  
  • Regular sharing of learning on eyesight screening with DfE Glasses for Classes project team. 

Spring 2022

Prepare key findings

  • Launch key findings and case studies in project report. 
  • Share findings via website and with policymakers.
  • Pupil journey longitudinal tracking for tutored using data tools alongside core schools.
  • Strengthening metrics for understanding contextual literacy achievement. 
  • Development of strong protocol for tutoring for all in Key Stage 1.


Continue to develop adaptive longitudinal learning project with core schools

  • Continue longitudinal tracking of tutored pupils and eyesight-tested pupils.
  • Strengthen tutoring for all and eyesight for all protocols.

Project team


Mike Fischer

Project Director, Chair of the Fischer Foundation and Founder and Director of the Fischer Family Trust

The Apex Project is the vision of Mike Fischer. Mike leads the project day-to-day, interacting with school leaders and staying at the coalface of education where he likes being the most!

Eliza Hilton

Head of Education Programme

Eliza Hilton leads the Education programme at the Fischer Family Foundation and manages all the programme investments and funding. She enjoys representing the Apex project to different stakeholders and developing and supporting our partnership with FFT Education.

Louise Parkinson

Apex Project Manager

Louise Parkinson does all the day-to-day management of the Apex project including detailed work with schools on the longitudinal tracking of pupils' reading abilities. Louise loves building strong partnerships with schools and contributing to their inspiring work on early literacy.