Oxford University – Nuffield Early Language Intervention Development of an Online Training Model

The Reception (aged 4-5) Nuffield Early Language Intervention Programme (NELI), has been shown to improve children’s oral language and early literacy skills, including in two robust EEF trials.

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

The EEF has funded two randomised controlled trials, which both found secure evidence of positive effects on pupils’ language skills. The most recent trial of the programme found that children made on average +3 months of additional progress in oral language compared to children in the comparison group.

This development pilot, led by the University of Oxford, will result in an online training and remote support model that allows staff to be trained to deliver the 20-week NELI programme to pupils without face-to-face training. 

Why are we funding it?

NELI has demonstrated its potential to support young pupils in need of support with spoken language. However, one barrier limiting NELI’s reach to more schools is the current reliance on face-to-face training for teaching assistants and class teachers. 

Given that NELI itself is well structured and manualised, the developers believe that high-quality online training – alongside some personalised remote support options – could enable staff to deliver NELI as intended.

We are funding the development and pilot of this model to support future scale-up of NELI. This project is being financially supported by ICG, as part of its work with the EEF to support the scale-up of Promising Projects. 

How are we evaluating it?

Following on from the EEF's effectiveness trial of NELI, RAND Europe was commissioned to undertake additional analysis to further explore NELI's impact on aspects of pupil’s development. Alongside this, RAND Europe will also undertake an independent evaluation of the pilot, focusing on the implementation of the new training model, assessing its effectiveness at preparing staff for confident and skilled delivery of NELI.

Assessments of pupil’s oral language skills will be collected by the development team and may be separately analysed for additional evidence of impact on pupils. 

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in late 2021.