An early language intervention aimed at reception pupils as part of Covid recovery efforts has been found to have a sustained positive impact on oral language skills and confidence using language.

Developed by researchers at the Universities of Oxford, Sheffield and York, the Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI) trains teaching assistants and others to deliver scripted individual and small-group language sessions to four and five-year-olds who need additional support.

The intervention takes place over 20 weeks and during 2020/21 and 2022/23, NELI reached 11,000 primary schools thanks to funding from the Department for Education as part of its Covid recovery strategy.

Research and anecdotal evidence from schools shows that pupils’ early literacy skills have been hit hard by the pandemic and time spent in lockdown as have language and communication skills.

Two evaluations have been published of the NELI programme. The first, from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) finds that NELI has had a sustained positive impact on young children’s oral language, early word reading, and reading comprehension beyond the initial intervention. It also finds that the intervention “particularly benefits children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds”.

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