Department of Education

Research projects

Empowering Staff to Enhance oral language in the early years

Early language skills are one of the strongest predictors of later outcomes, particularly literacy. However, one in four children in England does not achieve the expected level of language development by the age of five, and this figure is even higher for disadvantaged children.

This project aims to improve outcomes for disadvantaged young children by supporting early years practitioners to offer high-quality language-learning environments. It will refine and evaluate an existing intervention (Talking Time), which targets a range of oral language skills. The intervention was effective in a small trial in inner London and will be enhanced to include professional development to support adult-child oral language interactions. Targeting children from settings in the most socially disadvantaged areas, it will be compared to standard practice in matched settings through a randomised controlled trial involving 600 children in 36 nursery classes.

The primary outcomes are changes in the children’s language skills and the language-learning environment of the classroom. Social emotional development and staff knowledge will be examined as secondary outcomes. The effects of child and setting factors will also be included in the analysis to capture barriers to implementation.

External collaborators include, Julie Dockrell (UCL) and James Law (University of Newcastle).

Funder: Nuffield Foundation
Start date: 2019
End date: 2020

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