Education Endowment Foundation:An update on our commissioned trial of Early Talk Boost

An update on our commissioned trial of Early Talk Boost

Evaluating targeted early years programmes.

Early Talk Boost is a targeted early language intervention for three-and-four-year-olds who would benefit from additional support with their communication and language skills. 

Press Release •2 minutes •

The Early Talk Boost intervention has been designed by Speech and Language UK’s specialist teachers and speech and language therapists, with the help of early years practitioners and parents. It is informed by strong evidence and has demonstrated early promise in a study that showed impact on children’s ability to talk and understand words.

In March 2023, we commissioned an independent evaluation of the programme, funded through our work with the Department for Education’s Stronger Practice Hubs. Commissioned through our recently expanded focus on the early years, it was one of our first trials that was designed to test the impact of a targeted intervention for three-and-four-year-olds in early years settings. This meant that children in participating settings, who were identified as needing additional support with their language and communication skills, would receive the programme.

To kick-off the evaluation, the evaluators from the Institute of Employment Studies, undertook baseline data collection in settings that had signed up in the Autumn term of 2023. There were two aims to this: to identify those children who needed additional support with their language development in participating settings, and to assess their levels of development before they received the programme.

However, the data collection phase of the evaluation was more challenging than anticipated and it wasn’t possible to enrol enough children and settings within the timescale of the study.

The evaluator and programme developers explored a number of different options to ensure they would be able to continue with the evaluation, including running the trial over a longer period of time with different cohorts of children, but given the complexity of the evaluation design and challenges identified during the initial data collection process, no option would have guaranteed a robust assessment of the programme’s impact. As such, the decision has been taken to stop the evaluation for the time being.

Settings that took part in baseline testing will receive thank-you payments funded by the EEF, and all settings who signed up for the study will still be able to receive the programme this year, supported with funding from the Stronger Practice Hubs. Training, materials and support will be delivered by Speech and Language UK.

Targeted interventions are an important means of ensuring children who could benefit from additional support are assisted to meet age-related expectations. As one of the first EEF trials of its type, the learnings from this process will feed into future evaluation designs. They will also be distilled into a lessons learned’ report, published later this year, to support both the EEF evaluations and others running evaluations in early years settings.

Given the promise of the Early Talk Boost programme, and its popularity in England, the EEF is currently exploring how to recommission the evaluation of the programme, to give early years providers useful information about its impact and implementation.