The Nuffield Early Language Intervention

Evaluation Report

Published in: Education Endowment Foundation (2020)

Posted on RAND.org on May 05, 2020

by Sashka Dimova, Sonia Ilie, Elena Rosa Brown, Miriam Broeks, Andreas Culora, Alex Sutherland

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The Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI) programme is designed to improve the language skills of reception pupils (aged 4–5) and involves scripted individual and small-group language teaching sessions delivered by trained teaching assistants (TAs). NELI is published by Oxford University Press and was delivered in this trial by the University of Oxford in partnership with Elklan. The 20-week intervention consists of two 15-minute individual sessions and three 30-minute small group sessions each week. The children selected to participate in this trial were the five children in each classroom who obtained the lowest scores on a school-administered app-based assessment of oral language skills (LanguageScreen).

The programme focuses on developing children's narrative, vocabulary, and listening skills, while phonological awareness and letter sound knowledge are also developed during the second half of the programme. Training includes an initial two-day course for TAs followed by a half-day workshop half-way through the programme in addition to ongoing online support. Teachers also receive an initial half-day of training so that they can understand the programme and support TAs.

This project was a randomised controlled trial; 193 schools participated, 97 of which received the programme while 96 did not, the latter forming the control group. The process evaluation involved observations of the training, surveys with school staff, case studies in six schools (which used interviews with school staff), and analyses of TA training logs and online resource use. This project was co-funded with the financial support of Intermediate Capital Group (ICG). The trial took place between June 2018 and November 2019.

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