The Blagger’s Guide to… Wave One Intervention


As with most education buzz-words, wave one intervention burst forth fully formed. Striding out confidently from the mouths of deputy heads and consultants as Athena strode from the head of Zeus. No one ever came into the hall and said “Guess what guys! There is a new idea in town and we are all going to do it!” Instead, it just got dropped into sentences where it wasn’t before. Phrases like “wave one intervention plans” and “wave one discussions” started dancing on lips and the blagger knew to nod sagely and hope it would pass.

I can only assume that new ideas are introduced, or not introduced, in this way because no one wants to be the person to tell us that something new is being added to our workload. And make no mistake about it, the arrival of these three little words have certainly done that.

It shouldn’t really be the case. “Wave one intervention” is something that all teachers do. Any time you have thought to yourself “I think that child is struggling. I’d best do something to help them” you have put in place wave one intervention. Well done. Have a lollipop. However, once it has been named it has been given power and life of its own.

Wave one intervention is now a thing that can be tracked and monitored. We can record our wave one intervention and monitor it. People can come and check it is logged and that we are following our wave one intervention plans. There can be spreadsheets!

When discussing wave one intervention the blagger comes into their own. When asked what intervention you are putting in place I’d suggest having a good list to reel off. Say it quickly and confidently so that no one can tell they are simply parts of every day practice and sound instead like something more bespoke. Try:

  • I’ll be putting in place a person-to-person interface session to discuss their learning journey (I’ll talk to them about their work).
  • I’ll be focusing my questioning to ensure engagement in the learning process (I’ll ask “Are you paying attention?”)
  • I’ll be discussing their independent work portfolio with relevant stakeholders (I’ll be calling home about their homework).

What you really want to do of course is identify why they are struggling and then do something so that they catch up. This may mean giving them some extra activities on a problem to practice, redefining a key word or addressing a misconception. Whatever it is, it is going to involve the two of working it out and it is unlikely to be helped with a tracking document.

Wave one intervention is an interesting example of what happens when something that teachers do as a matter of course becomes co-opted and over complicated by those outside the classroom. Time that could be spent actually intervening and planning how to help a pupil is instead spent creating a paper trail to show that this is being done.

Do say “Wave one intervention? Of course, I’ll give them some extra work to help them catch up”

Don’t say “Wave one intervention? I’m just going to wait until it becomes a wave three issue. Out of my hands that way.”


4 thoughts on “The Blagger’s Guide to… Wave One Intervention

  1. Just catching up with your posts after the end of term Mark. This is excellent. Having sat through the sudden arrival of “wave one” in a meeting this year it gave me a wry smile. Biting. Loved it. Keep up the great work.

    Liked by 1 person

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