Two-fifths of primary schools in England have signed up to take part in a programme to support four- and five-year-olds whose early language and literacy development has been most affected by the pandemic. 62,000 reception-age pupils in 6,672 schools will receive the Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI) this school year.
The NELI programme is the result of research led by Professor Charles Hulme (Department of Education) with the President, Professor Maggie Snowling, and Dr Gillian West (Department of Education). The research was funded by the Nuffield Foundation and Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the programme is regarded as the most well-evidenced early years language programme available to schools in England.
The programme was offered to state-funded schools with Reception pupils at no cost by the Department for Education (DfE) in response to disruption to schooling caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The EEF is managing the scale-up, which has been funded under the DfE’s wider COVID-recovery efforts.
‘'Children’s oral language skills are a critical foundation for the whole of formal education. To learn in the classroom, children need to understand what is said to them and be able to express their thoughts and feelings. Good language skills underlie a child’s ability to learn to read and to master arithmetic.’
Professor Snowling added:
‘After a series of robust research trials I am delighted that government funding will enable the roll out of the Nuffield Early Language Intervention in the early years.’
So far, c.20,000 teaching assistants and teachers have received online training designed by the research team and provided via Future Learn, the leading social learning platform, to deliver the NELI programme to pupils.
The NELI programme, published by Oxford University Press, has been robustly tested through several trials, including two funded by the EEF. The most recent, involving 193 schools, found that children who received NELI made, on average, +3 months of additional progress in oral language skills compared to children who did not receive NELI.
New emerging findings from an ongoing EEF-funded study, which aims to examine the impact of Covid-19 disruption on primary school starters, suggest that language and communication are particular areas of concern for teachers this year.
In response to a survey carried out in Autumn Term 2020, 96% of the 57 participating schools reported being ‘very concerned’ or ‘quite concerned’ about their pupils’ language and communication skills due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The research is being undertaken by the University of York, the Education Policy Institute, and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. This research suggests that targeted language support provided by NELI would be an important part of Covid-19 recovery.
Details of the published programme can be found at Oxford University Press.
More information about NELI is available here.