May 6, 2020
Evaluation Report Year 1
Published in: Education Endowment Foundation website (March 2023)
Posted on RAND.org on March 10, 2023
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 school staff, usually teaching assistants (TAs). The 20-week intervention consists of two 15-minute individual sessions and three 30-minute small group sessions each week, delivered to the 3–6 children with the weakest language skills in each classroom. The sessions focus on improving children's vocabulary, active listening and narrative skills, and in the second 10 weeks include a small additional session element (3 mins only) focusing on developing phonological awareness and letter-sound knowledge.
The second independent impact evaluation of NELI (Dimova et al, 2020) found that participating Reception pupils made on average +3 months progress in oral language skills compared with a business-as-usual control group. Based on this evidence from 200 schools, and the need to support with education recovery in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Department for Education provided £9 million to scale the delivery of NELI to schools across England in the 2020/21 academic year.
This study, conducted by RAND, was a mixed methods process evaluation of the implementation of NELI at scale using surveys, interviews and case studies. There are two reports: this report summarises findings from the cohort of schools (6,667) and pupils (~50,000) who started receiving NELI in the 2020–21 academic year. The objective of the first year of the evaluation was to assess and understand the scaling process in a Covid-affected environment and to provide recommendations for supporting future scale-up of educational interventions. Due to the national lockdown in January–March 2021 and the subsequent delay to schools' delivery of NELI to pupils, schools were encouraged to continue to deliver NELI in the 2021–22 academic year when pupils were in Year 1, to enable children to receive the full 20-week programme. The evaluation began in December 2020 and data collection finished in February 2022.