Development & evaluation of a preschool language programme

This programme will develop and evaluate a whole class nursery oral language intervention for children in the year preceding their entry into primary school.

This project will develop a preschool language programme aimed at enhancing the oral language skills of children in early years settings. Building on best evidence, and experience of designing and trialling the Nuffield Early Learning Intervention (NELI) the project team will develop, and provide robust evaluation of a language programme designed to enrich the nursery curriculum for all children while providing targeted support for children with weaker language skills.

The intervention will be delivered during daily whole-group sessions by nursery staff, trained by the project team to use scripted materials. Furthermore, the team will also provide nursery managers with a digital language screening tool, to assess children’s oral language skills and to aid in the identification of six children in each class with the lowest language scores. These children will receive additional small-group and individual language support, delivered by nursery assistants. Materials will be developed with input from Early Years practitioners to ensure the programme is flexible enough to be adapted for future use in diverse nursery contexts and that the content is appropriate to the curriculum.

The research team will undertake a robust evaluation, by conducting a pre-registered clustered randomised controlled trial and working alongside an independent researcher who will complete the data analysis blind to group membership.

The programme has the potential to reduce inequalities at the start of a child’s formal education while bringing about educationally significant improvements in children’s language skills during a critical development period.

Project details



Professor Charles Hulme, University of Oxford

Professor Maggie Snowling, University of Oxford

Grant amount and duration:


January 2019 - May 2021