Education Endowment Foundation:Early Talk Boost (2023 trial)

Early Talk Boost (2023 trial)

Speech and Language UK
Project info

Independent Evaluator

The Institute for Employment Studies logo
The Institute for Employment Studies

A small group communication and language intervention for 3 – 4‑year-old children.

Pupils: 1056 Schools: 132 Grant: £127,355
Participating settings: 132

Early Talk Boost is a targeted early language intervention aimed at three- to four-year-old children. Speech, language and communication skills are key skills for young children, enabling them to access all areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum (EYFS). Early Talk Boost is designed to help support children who need a targeted approach to catch up with their peers. The Early Talk Boost intervention has been designed by Speech and Language UK specialist teachers and speech and language therapists, with the help of early years practitioners and parents.

The intervention is 9 weeks long and comprises of three 15 – 20-minute sessions a week. It is usually delivered to around 6 – 8 pupils in each setting.

As part of the Department for Education’s Early Years Recovery Programme, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is working with Stronger Practice Hubs across England to fund Early Years settings’ access to evidence-informed programmes and study the programme’s influence on practice and children’s outcomes. This initiative aims to support education recovery following the pandemic, whilst also developing our understanding of effective professional development in the early years.

There is wider evidence that approaches similar to those used in the Early Talk Boost programme can support children’s language development and a small trial of Early Talk Boost led by the programme developer previously found positive impacts on children’s language development. As a result, the EEF collaborated with the East of England Early Years Stronger Practice Hub, Early Years South West Stronger Practice Hub and Thrive Together Early Years Stronger Practice Hub to fund settings’ access to Early Talk Boost and commissioned an evaluation of the programme.

The EEF commissioned the Institute for Employment Studies to conduct an independent evaluation of the Early Talk Boost programme. The evaluation was to be a randomised controlled trial evaluating the impact of Early Talk Boost on 3 – 4‑year-old children’s language outcomes. However, the baseline 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 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 could be found that would have guaranteed a robust assessment of the programme’s impact. As a result, the decision has been taken to stop the evaluation for the time being.

A lessons learned report will be produced to summarise the challenges encountered during the evaluation and lessons learned for future research projects. Given the promise of the 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.

A lessons learned report will be published in 2024.