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Nuffield Early Language Intervention

Researchers: Professor Margaret Snowling | Dr Claudine Bowyer-Crane ...

Project overview

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 three to four 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.

Independent evaluation

In 2016, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) published an evaluation study of the intervention. The statistically significant results from 34 schools demonstrated that the programme increased the attainment of levels of 4- to 5- year-olds in vocabulary, grammar and listening skills and improved language and children’s confidence. The EEF designated the intervention as a ‘promising project’ and a further, larger-scale trial involving 200 classrooms is in train.

Partnership with Oxford University Press

We are delivering the Nuffield Early Language Intervention in partnership with Oxford University Press (OUP). If you want to find out more about how to use the intervention in your school, visit the OUP website.

Awards and recognition

In September 2018, the programme was awarded 3 stars in the Teach Early Years Awards. The awards aim to uncover the very best educational resources on offer to those supporting the learning and development of children aged 0-5. This year, more than 400 nominations were whittled down to 60 finalists. Shortlisted resources were judged on their effectiveness and value for money.

The intervention was awarded 3 stars in the Reception category. The category judge, Sue Cowley said: “The resource is sturdy and well made, and the package includes training for a TA and a teacher as well.”

In February 2019, the programme was awarded a 3+ evidence rating in an updated version of the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) Guidebook. The EIF Guidebook provides information about early intervention programmes that have at least preliminary evidence of achieving positive outcomes for children.

Latest on this project


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

  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.