Evaluation of NELI, the evidence-based Nuffield Early Language Intervention
May 6, 2020
Evaluation Report Year 2
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 four to five) and involves scripted individual and small-group language teaching sessions delivered by school staff, usually teaching assistants (TAs) or reception teachers. The 20-week intervention consists of two 15-minute individual sessions and three 30-minute small group sessions each week delivered to the three to six children with the lowest language skills in each classroom. Schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils were prioritised in recruitment efforts. The sessions focus on improving children's vocabulary, listening, and narrative skills while phonological awareness and letter sound knowledge are also developed during the second half of the programme.
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 over 6,500 schools across England in the 2020/21 academic year and 4,297 schools in the 2021/22 academic year.
This study, conducted by RAND Europe, was a mixed methods process evaluation of the implementation of NELI at scale across schools in England using surveys, interviews, and case studies. An estimated 94,000 pupils participated in the intervention over the first year (2020/2021) and second year (2021/2022) of the scale-up, averaging six pupils per class. There are two reports: this is the second and summarises findings from the cohort of schools (4,297) that started receiving NELI in the 2021/2022 academic year. Data collection for the evaluation of the second year of the NELI scale-up began in December 2021 and finished in August 2022.
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