Undertaking short sessions to discuss everyday topics with young children has been found to boost their language skills and is being recommended as “a promising way” to help children catch-up when they come back to school after lockdown.

The Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI) sees teaching assistants given training and detailed lesson plans in order to deliver short, structured sessions around topics such as “time” and “what we wear” with small groups of Reception pupils.

The 20-week intervention consists of two 15-minute individual sessions and three 30-minute small group sessions each week, which focus on developing children’s narrative, vocabulary and listening skills, in addition to their phonological awareness and letter sound knowledge.

Rewarding the children was an integral feature of each session, from targeted verbal praise to more formal incentives like a “Best Listener Award”.

An independent evaluation of the programme in 193 schools, which was published this week by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), found that participating pupils made, on average, three months’ additional progress in language skills.

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