Evaluating a parent-delivered language enrichment programme

Children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds have poorer educational outcomes than their better off peers. Intervention programmes delivered by parents may be a valuable tool to support early learning and school readiness, and to help close this social class achievement gap. However, recent research funded by the Nuffield Foundation found a lack of rigorous evidence for the effectiveness of parental involvement programmes.

This project aims to address this gap by evaluating an oral language intervention delivered by parents. Oral language skills – including knowledge of vocabulary – are the foundation for later literacy development and play a significant role in children’s attainment at school.

The researchers will carry out a randomised controlled trial to compare the effects of the oral language intervention against a control intervention (motor skills training). They will work with children’s centres to recruit 195 parents with a 3-4 year-old child. Parents will be trained and supported to deliver the interventions over a 30-week period. Children will be assessed before the intervention, straight after the intervention, and after a delay of six months (to assess the longer term effects).

The research team was previously involved in the development of the Nuffield Early Language Intervention, a programme delivered by teaching assistants in nursery and reception classes. This new study focuses on children of the same age, but will explore whether a similar intervention could be delivered by parents rather than teaching assistants.

The researchers predict that the children receiving parent-delivered oral language intervention will make significant gains in language and pre-literacy skills.

Project details



Professor Charles Hulme and Dr Kelly Burgoyne, UCL

Professor Maggie Snowling, University of Oxford

Funding programme:


Grant amount and duration:


1 January 2015 - 30 September 2017