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Early years support for schools

Opportunity for primary schools to receive EEF Promising Project, Nuffield Early Language Intervention, at no cost.

The Department for Education is working with the EEF and other delivery partners to make Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI) available to state-funded primary schools. Online training and resources will be available at no cost for schools where additional targeted support for oral language would be particularly beneficial. The aim is to support the language and early literacy skills of Reception pupils through additional targeted support provided by trained early years staff.

What is NELI?

The Reception NELI programme involves scripted individual and small-group language activities delivered by teaching assistants (TAs), or early years educators, to children identified as being in need of targeted language support. The 20 week NELI programme aims to develop children’s vocabulary, listening and narrative skills and in the last 10 weeks also involves work to develop phonological awareness and early letter-sound knowledge as foundations for early literacy.


What is the evidence base?

NELI was initially funded by the Nuffield Foundation. This research, led by the programme’s developers, found that those who received the intervention had improved expressive language skills, including the use of vocabulary and grammar. 

Following this, the EEF has funded two randomised controlled trials, both independently evaluated. The latest and largest, published in May 2020, involved 193 primary schools. Staff in the intervention schools received training from Elklan and resources from the Oxford University Press. This found that children receiving the NELI programme made the equivalent of +3 additional months’ progress in oral language skills, on average, compared to children who did not receive NELI. This result has a very high security rating: 5 out of 5 on the EEF padlock scale. Children receiving the NELI programme also made additional progress in early word reading and on a teacher administered language assessment.

NELI is listed as one of the EEF's Promising Projects. We are currently supporting a development pilot of an online training model to enable NELI to be delivered at scale. This has been made possible thanks to the financial support of ICG, which is supporting the EEF to scale up our Promising Projects.

How can I get involved?

The Department for Education are registering schools’ interest for delivering NELI this academic year. Teachers and Teaching Assistants would receive a newly developed online training programme in early January, following the identification of target pupils and distribution of the programme materials in late autumn.

We recommend reading the FAQs to understand what is involved in delivering the programme.

To register your interest, please take 2 minutes to complete this form, or for any further questions please contact: contact.neli@education.gov.uk.

Schools who express an interest will be contacted with further details during the first half of the autumn term. We expect high demand for the programme so encourage you to register early. While we are inviting expressions of interest from all state-funded primary schools, places are limited and in the event of over-subscription, schools will be prioritised based on their percentage of FSM eligibility.