Nuffield Early Language Intervention






The Nuffield Early Language Intervention is an evidence-based oral language intervention for children in nursery and reception who show weakness in their oral language skills and who are therefore at risk of experiencing difficulty with reading. It is delivered over 30 weeks by teaching assistants in groups of 3-4 children.  

The intervention was developed by a team from the University of York, who subsequently carried out a randomised control trial in 15 schools and feeder-nurseries across Yorkshire. After 30 weeks, the children who had received the intervention had improved expressive language skills, including the use of vocabulary and grammar. Their letter-sound knowledge and spelling also improved, indicating the foundations of phonics were in place. 

After six months, the children in the intervention group had maintained their progress and actually outperformed the waiting control group on reading comprehension. 

The Nuffield Foundation has worked with the researchers to license children’s communication charity I CAN to market the intervention, and to deliver training to licensed trainers and teaching assistants. In addition, £738,112 has been secured from the Education Endowment Foundation to conduct a randomised control trial of the roll-out early in 2013. This will involve 34 schools, and will be independently evaluated by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

In its development stage, the Nuffield Early Language Intervention was called Nuffield Language4Reading.

Project details



Professor Margaret Snowling, Dr Claudine Bowyer-Crane, Professor Charles Hulme, University of York

Funding programme


Grant amount and duration


1 January 2009 - 31 May 2012



Silke Fricke, Claudine Bowyer-Crane, Allyson J Haley, Charles Hulme, Margaret Snowling (2013) - Efficacy of language intervention in the early years. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry

Developing Language and Literacy: Effective Intervention in the Early Years

Julia M. Carroll (University of Warwick), Claudine Bowyer-Crane (University of York), Fiona J. Duff (University of York), Charles Hulme (University of York), Margaret J. Snowling (University of York)

Developing Language and LiteracyISBN: 978-0-470-71186-6

December 2010, ©2011, Wiley-Blackwell





Watch the Language4reading project in action, via the Teachers Media website (free but registration required):

The case for early years language intervention

Language intervention in nursery

Language intervention in reception

These short videos were originally made for the Teachers TV website.