733 nurseries and early years settings across England will take part in eight new evaluations of programmes to support early language and numeracy development, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) announced today.
The new projects, co-funded with the Department for Education’s Stronger Practice Hubs, are a major part of the EEF’s increased focus on support for the early years sector. All the projects will be independently evaluated, representing a significant contribution to the early years evidence base.
They include the first ever EEF-funded evaluation involving childminders. The pilot of Communication Friendly Home-Based Settings, developed by Elklan, will give childminders training to improve their provision and practice to support their children’s language skills. This project is being evaluated by a team based at the University of York.
A version of this programme, Communication Friendly Settings, will also be tested across nurseries. The delivery organisation, Elklan, will train two staff to train other staff in their setting to support children’s speech, language and communication skills. The evaluation, led by a team from the University of York, will look at the impact of the programme on three- and four-year-olds.
Five more of today’s new projects will focus on early language development:
- Early Years Conversation Project (EYCP): Delivered by Sheringham Nursery School and Children’s Centre, the programme aims to develop staff’s interactions with children to improve the language skills of two- and three-year-olds. The evaluation will be led by Durham University.
- Concept Cat: This approach focuses on teaching vocabulary and supporting staff to teach high frequency concepts such as most, large and near. The programme was developed by the speech and language therapists behind Word Aware and is being delivered in collaboration with Better Communication CIC. RAND Europe will assess the impact of the programme on three- and four-year-olds.
- Early Talk Boost: Designed and delivered by Speech and Language UK, this 9‑week programme is targeted at three- and four-year-olds identified as needing additional teaching to support talking and understanding words. Each session includes language activities supported by songs and storybooks.
- Talk with Tales with Children (TWiTCH): Developed by Sheffield Hallam University, this approach supports early years staff to optimise their daily story time and provide discussion-based activities to promote children’s language development. A team led by Durham University will evaluate the pilot of this programme.
- Tales Toolkit: This programme supports staff to implement weekly oral storytelling and story scribing sessions using visual resources that promote a child’s understanding of how to structure a story. The programme will be delivered through a collaboration of Tales Toolkit with Goldsmiths University and aims to support children’s early language and social development. The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) will evaluate the pilot study of this approach.
One of today’s new trials focuses on early numeracy and executive functions. The ONE Project, delivered by staff at the University of Oxford and University of Sheffield, trains early years staff to engage groups of young children in play-based activities to support early numeracy.
These tasks last five to ten minutes and are designed to develop pre-schoolers’ numeracy skills by embedding cognitive challenge into learning activities. Core attention and flexible thinking skills, known as executive function, develop over childhood and support early mathematical learning.
The delivery team will work with early years educators to gradually embed executive function challenge into maths learning through fun activities co-developed with practitioners. Three activities are delivered each week over the course of the 12-week programme, and can be woven into small group activities, outdoor, and free play. Initial evidence evaluation was supported by the Nuffield Foundation. The independent evaluation will be conducted by RAND Europe.
Early years settings can explore the programmes available in their area and express interest in taking part through the EEF website.
Professor Becky Francis CBE, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), said: