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The Department for Education has announced today that the Nuffield Early Language Intervention – proven to boost children’s early language skills – will form a key part of its COVID-19 catch up package for schools.
Up to £9 million is available for the programme to provide schools with training and resources, helping them deliver one-to-one and small-group support for five-year-olds whose spoken language skills may have suffered as a result of the pandemic.
Every state funded primary school with a Reception class is eligible to apply, with priority given to schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils. Participating schools will receive resources and will be able to access online training from the start of the spring term 2021.
The Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI) was developed with funding by the Nuffield Foundation. It is a 20-week targeted programme designed to improve the oral language skills of children aged 4-5 in need of support in this area. NELI can be delivered by a trained teaching assistant (TA), or early years educator, through small group and one-to-one sessions.
The programme has an initial focus on expressive and receptive vocabulary, listening and narrative skills through discussion of key thematic images and the retelling, creating and summarising of stories. During the latter half of the programme, phonological awareness and letter-sound knowledge activities are also introduced as a foundation for early literacy skills.
Earlier this year an independent evaluation by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) found that NELI boosts the language skills of four- and five-year olds by an additional three months.
The Nuffield Early Language Intervention has been proven effective at improving children’s language skills, which are essential for building the foundations of literacy and learning. It is necessary now more than ever, as schools try to help pupils most at risk of falling behind. Having supported the development and trialling of NELI and seen its positive effects, the Nuffield Foundation is delighted that the DfE is enabling children in so many primary schools across the country to benefit.Josh Hillman, Director of Education at the Nuffield Foundation