Education Endowment Foundation:Early Years Conversation Project (trial)

Early Years Conversation Project (trial)

East London Research School

Trial to test the impact of the Early Years Conversation Project, a Professional Development programme to support staff with developing practical strategies to enhance children’s communication and language skills in the whole class.

Independent Evaluator

Durham University

Sign-up deadline

30 September, 2024 at 12:00am

Key Stages

Early Years

Setting places


Regions available

Recruitment and Delivery

Recruitment: March – September 2024

Delivery: September 2024 – July 2025 / September 2025 – July 2026

Eligibility: To participate, settings will need to:
- Commit to releasing one practitioner who works directly with 2 – 3‑year-olds as the EYCP Champion’ to attend training sessions throughout the academic year.

- Commit to releasing the setting manager or the Early Years Foundation Stage lead for 3 training sessions, in addition to supporting the EYCP Champion’ throughout the project.

- Have not participated in Manor Park Talks, Newham Communication Project or Camden Kids Talk.

- Not be taking part in the DfE Early Years Professional Development Programme or any other Early Years trials funded by the EEF or similar funder.

- Be located in one of the Local Authorities listed

The Early Years Conversation Project (EYCP – formerly piloted as Manor Park Talks, which was based on the Every Child a Talker programme) is a professional development programme developed and delivered by the East London Research School.

The project aims to promote conversational responsiveness by training two professionals from each setting. In private, voluntary and independent (PVI) nurseries that will be the manager and room lead working with children aged 2 – 3 years old. In school nurseries it will be the Early Years Foundation Stage Lead and the nursery teacher.

The room lead or nursery teacher will be identified as the EYCP Champion’ from each setting. The EYCP Champion will be given expert support from an experienced mentor to enable them to implement and embed the following strategies in everyday practice:

  • ShREC: Share attention, Respond, Expand and Conversation
  • Interactive book reading

Practitioners are trained through 1.5 days face-to-face training and six pre-recorded online modules. An experienced team of mentors provide wrap-around’ support for the EYCP Champion. At the beginning and end of the programme an ITERS‑3 (Infant/​Toddler Environment Rating Scale) observation of the setting’s environment is completed by the mentor to provide formative feedback on progress towards providing a language-rich environment. Mentors will run nine hub meetings across the year with a minimum of five support visits to settings. Hub meetings will be used to build knowledge, revisit learning from the online modules and embed understanding.

Settings are eligible if they have a minimum of 8 children aged 2‑years-old at the start of September 2023, who will attend the setting for a minimum of 15 hours a week during the 2024 – 2025 school year. 

They can be state-maintained or PVI nurseries located in one of the following Local Authorities: Enfield, Haringey, Waltham Forest, Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Islington, Camden, Redbridge, Barnet, City of London, Westminster, Newham, Brent, Wandsworth, Greenwich, Sutton, Merton, Kingston and Richmond.

Schools/​settings can register their interest here: Early Years Conversation Project (

Find out more via the Early Years Conversation Project website.

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.

The EEF is working with A Brighter Start Stronger Practice Hub to fund settings’ access to the EYCP and evaluate the programme through an efficacy trial.

This efficacy trial follows a pilot evaluation by NatCen, funded by the EEF, across 12 early Years settings and 6 schools in Newham. Findings from the pilot demonstrated evidence of promise for improving children’s communication and language outcomes, as hypothesized in the Theory of Change. The pilot results also indicated that the strategies were becoming embedded in daily practice. The efficacy trial will allow us to rigorously investigate the potential impact of the programme. It also adds to the evidence base on the benefits of a language programme that supports staff working with 2 – 3 year olds, an area where there is currently an evidence gap.

The EYCP will be evaluated by a team from Durham University using a randomised controlled trial. This will be an efficacy trial, meaning the programme will be tested under best possible conditions. 70 settings will be randomly allocated to either deliver the EYCP in the first academic year (2024−25) or be part of the waitlist control group that will deliver the intervention in the second academic year (2025−26).

The evaluation will measure the impact of the EYCP on children’s receptive and expressive vocabulary using a combination of the British Picture Vocabulary Scale, the Early Language Identification Measure and the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories-III. Secondary outcomes will include children’s communication skills and the practitioner’s early language pedagogical knowledge. The evaluation will also include an implementation and process evaluation.

The evaluation report will be published in Spring 2026.

Maintained nurseries and Private, Voluntary and Independent early years settings in the following Local Authorities can register their interest in taking part in this research project:

North London: Enfield, Haringey, Waltham Forest, Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Islington, Camden, Redbridge, Barnet, City of London, Westminster, Newham, Brent

South London: Wandsworth, Greenwich, Sutton, Merton, Kingston and Richmond

To register your interest, please follow this link Early Years Conversation Project (