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Developed by an Oxford team, led by Professors Charles Hulme and Maggie Snowling, the Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI) programme improves oral language skills in young children.

According to research by this group, there can be a transfer effect with oral language interventions, leading to improved reading comprehension.

As a result of official funding, it is hoped that all primary schools in England that want it, will benefit from the Oxford oral language programme. Last autumn, the Department for Education announced a £9 million investment in the programme, with a further £8 million announced for next academic year.

In this academic year, this funding has enabled the programme to be delivered by some 6,500 schools. Schools wishing to register interest, can do so here. The current rollout of the NELI programme in English primary schools is a stunning example of how basic academic research can be translated into practical application at large scale.

Read more on the University of Oxford’s Arts Blog –

The report of the International Advisory Panel on Teacher Education in Norway, “Transforming Norwegian Teacher Education”, co-authored by Professor Alis Oancea, was launched earlier this month, on Monday 18 May 2020.

The report is the culmination of three years of activity, including a programme of regular national and regional meetings and events, of the international panel chaired by Professor Marilyn Cochran-Smith (Boston College, USA). It makes two sets of recommendations: one on systemic or policy issues, addressed to the Ministry of Education and Research and to NOKUT (the Norwegian Quality Assurance Agency for Education); the other on collaboration, capacity and joint responsibility, addressed to TEIs and their school & municipality partners. The panel argues that bold and transformative change needs collaboration; active agency of all participants; building research capacity for (student) teachers & teacher educators; enhancing the practice­ orientation of student teachers’ experiences; and efforts to ensure the sustainability of the reforms.

NOKUT’s Director Terje Mørland welcomed the report as “useful for both the teacher education community and the Ministry of Education. The advice will also be important for NOKUT’s further work on education”, he said.

The Norwegian Minister of Research and Higher Education, Henrik Asheim, commented in the press: “I am very pleased with the knowledge base this report now gives us” and indicated ways in which the government will consider the recommendations of the report.

The report, together with video presentation by each member of the panel, is available at

Congratulations to the department’s Ashmita Randhawa (Research Officer, SKOPE Research Centre) and Ellie Suh (Postdoctoral research officer, Rees Centre) who have both won places on a new programme designed to help social scientists transform their innovative and marketable research ideas into a business or social enterprise.

The SUCCESS programme is a first-of-its-kind opportunity run by ASPECT, a growing network of organisations looking to make the most of Social Science research through business engagement, licensing and ventures. Through engagement with the programme both Ashmita and Ellie will work to turn their research outputs into innovative social enterprises.

Together with co-founder Tracey Denton Calabrese (Postdoctoral Researcher, Go_Girl: code_create, LNTRG), Ashmita will develop and scale up go_girl code+create – a research project that works with disadvantaged young women who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) by helping them to develop coding and digital skills while also addressing their social, emotional and psychological needs. Through its holistic approach go_girl_code+create helps to empower its participants, bringing them back into education, employment or training, whilst also helping local authorities reduce the high number of NEETs requiring support in the long term.

Ellie will work to establish a social enterprise that supports the development of a web-based platform for the Rees Centre’s Cost Calculator for Children’s Services (CCfCS) – a research-based data analytics tool that helps local authorities to make informed decisions by providing analysis on costs and outcomes of care provided to children in need. Moving to a web-based platform will enhance the calculator’s functionality and user-friendliness, whilst improving its power and flexibility through an intuitive user experience design.

Over the next six months Ashmita and Ellie will work to develop their research ideas through the SUCCESS programme. Keep an eye out for upcoming blog posts if you’d like to follow their progress.


Discover more about the department’s research centres:

The Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE) is a multi-disciplinary research centre that examines the links between the acquisition and use of skills and knowledge, product market strategies and performance (measured in a variety of ways). Find out more about the Centre’s work and research here.

The Rees Centre produces research evidence to improve policy and practice in the areas of children’s social care and education. Its aim is to improve the life chances and particularly the educational outcomes of those who are. To find out more about the Centre’s work and research see here.

LNTRG is a research group based in the department working in the area of learning and new technologies. Go_Girl:code+create was created by Professor Niall Winters and Dr Anne Geniets from this research group. To learn more about the group see here.

An intervention programme to improve the language skills of 4-5 year olds who are falling behind in school has been found to boost their progress by +3 additional months, according to the results from an independent evaluation published by the Education Endowment Foundation today. The programme is the result of research led by the department’s Professor Charles Hulme and Professor Maggie Snowling (St John’s College), funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The programme is now fully available through Oxford University Press.

1,156 pupils in 193 schools across England took part in a randomised controlled trial of the Nuffield Early Language Intervention during 2018/19. The trial, supported by the Education Endowment Foundation, was a large-scale effectiveness trial, which tested the programme in everyday conditions. The independent evaluator found the programme to be highly effective and to improve the language skills of four- and five-year olds who are falling behind and boost their progress by three additional months. The evaluators also found that the programme was an effective way of boosting language skills for children with English as an Additional Language (EAL). The findings have a very high level of security, and consolidate the findings of an earlier, smaller trial of the programme which found similar, promising results.

Commenting on the evaluation report, Professor Charles Hulme and Professor Maggie Snowling, said: ‘Our research focuses on children’s language and literacy development with a special emphasis on how to help children who find learning language and literacy skills difficult.

‘A strong foundation in oral language is key to children’s success in education and we are delighted that this most recent EEF trial of the Nuffield Early Language Intervention has produced such strong evidence of its effectiveness.

‘We hope that schools will be encouraged to adopt the programme for the benefit of the many children whose educational progress is hindered by language difficulties.’

The Nuffield Early Language Intervention is designed to improve the spoken language ability of children as they begin primary school. Targeted at children with relatively poor spoken language skills, it is delivered to groups of two to four children, three times a week, alongside some individual sessions. Teaching Assistants are trained by Elklan, a specialist training agency focused on speech and language interventions, to run the programme, which lasts for 20 weeks during their first year of school (Reception). Sessions focus on listening, narrative and vocabulary skills. Children were selected for the trial using an innovative school-administered app-based assessment of oral language skills (LanguageScreen), developed by the project team.

Early language skills are vital for children’s long-term success in education and other areas. Research has shown that children with more advanced language skills at the age of five are more likely to have better qualifications and subsequently be employed in adulthood compared with their peers. However, disadvantaged children are more likely to have fallen behind before school starts.

With current school and nursery closures likely to widen the early language gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers, it is clear that the Nuffield Early Language Intervention, a low-cost and effective, school-based intervention will be crucial to closing the ‘disadvantage gap’ which will inevitably widen whilst schools and nurseries are closed during the COVID-19 crisis.

Download the EEF NELI Project Summary and NELI Brochure for more information. The full report on the trial is here.

See the Nuffield Early Language Intervention being used in school at Our Lady of Muswell Primary School in London and Carmountside Primary School in Stoke-on-Trent.

Details of the published programme can be found at Oxford University Press.

Ted Melhuish, Professor of Human Development at the Department of Education has been appointed as International Early Years Policy Advisor to an Expert Group to oversee a new funding model for early years in Ireland.

Over the next two years the group will examine how effectively the current model of funding is delivering quality, affordable, sustainable and inclusive services for early learning and school-age childcare and will offer advice on how additional funding can help meet these objectives in the future. They will be joined by a research partner who will lead a programme of engagement with key stakeholders including children, parents and staff in the sector.

Independently chaired by Michael Scanlan, former Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children, the committee recently held their inaugural meeting where they were addressed by Dr. Katherine Zappone TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

On 8 – 9 September, Diane Mayer, Professor of Teacher Education, convened a Global Teacher Education Summit at Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford, bringing together 23 leading teacher education researchers from Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, Finland, Hong Kong SAR, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, North Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, the USA and Wales.

The aim of the Summit was to develop a research consortium and design a global research agenda to inform large-scale, longitudinal, and multi-site research investigating the impact of current teacher education policies and practices in each of the countries.

The Summit provided the catalyst for establishing a global agenda for conducting the research. Some examples of questions that will be guiding this work include: Who is coming into the teaching profession? Where they are teaching and who they are teaching? Who is staying and who is leaving, and why? What is the impact of particular patterns of professional education on professional knowledge and practice? What is their impact on pupil outcomes? What is the role of university-based teacher educators? What is the role of school-based teacher educators? And, how do teachers engage with and use educational research?

As a result of the Summit, the Global Teacher Education Consortium (GTEC) was established and members will meet again at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) 2020 in San Francisco in April and at the European Conference for Education Research (ECER) 2020 in Glasgow in August. In addition to the longitudinal research investigating ‘The Global Teacher Class of 2020’, an edited book is planned to provide an overview of the policies and research in each of the countries.

New ESRC grant will see first-time multi-disciplinary research conducted on consequences of school exclusions across the UK, led by the Department of Education at the University of Oxford.

A team of researchers operating across Oxford, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast and the London School of Economics (LSE) will further research into the impact of UK school exclusion after the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) awarded a large grant. The four year project will be led by Professor Harry Daniels and Associate Professor Ian Thompson at the University of Oxford’s Department of Education and is due to commence on 2 October 2019.

The ESRC has awarded £2,550,850 to develop a multi-disciplinary understanding of the political economies and consequences of school exclusion across the UK. The research will lead to a greater understanding of the cost of exclusions at individual, institutional and system levels, as well as pupils’ rights, entitlements, protection and wellbeing, and the landscapes of exclusion across the UK’s four jurisdictions.

There are vast differences in the rates of permanent school exclusion in different parts of the UK with numbers rising rapidly in England but remaining relatively low or even falling in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Latest figures show there were 7,900 permanent exclusions in England compared to just five in Scotland, not accounting for many informal and illegal forms of exclusion.

In this research, home international comparisons of historical and current policy, practice and legal frameworks relating to school exclusion will be conducted for the first time.

Ian Thompson, Associate Professor of English Education at Oxford’s Department of Education and Co-Principal Investigator for the research commented:  “Exclusions have long and short-term consequences in terms of academic achievement, well-being, mental health, and future prospects. Previous research and official statistics show that school exclusions are also far more likely to affect pupils with special needs, from low income families, and some ethnic backgrounds.”

Preliminary work conducted by the research team, which first established in 2014, has illustrated that pressures on schools to perform well in examination league tables can lead to the exclusion of pupils whose predicted attainment would weaken overall school performance. As a consequence, pupils who do not conform to the rules can be excluded to the social margins of schooling.

“Exclusion is a process, rather than a single incident, that can only be fully understood when examined from multiple professional and disciplinary perspectives,” said Harry Daniels, Professor of Education at Oxford’s Department of Education and Consultant Principal Investigator for the work. “Education policy has also largely ignored the work conducted by school and welfare professionals that attempts to address disruptive behaviour to prevent more serious incidents. This project therefore aims to highlight ways in which fairer and more productive outcomes can be achieved for pupils, their families, and professionals by comparing the ways in which policy and practice around exclusions differ in the four jurisdictions. “

The research is organised into three work strands: landscapes of exclusion; experiences of exclusion; and integration. The landscapes of exclusion strand examines the ways in which policies and legal frameworks shape interventions designed to prevent exclusions; the financial costs associated with exclusion; and patterns and characteristics of exclusion. The experiences of exclusion strand focuses on families’, pupils’ and professionals’ experiences of the risks and consequences of exclusion. The integration strand will integrate these findings to ensure that the learning is continuous as the research develops a coherent multi-disciplinary understanding of the political economies of exclusion.

These analyses will involve the cross cutting themes of: children’s rights, youth crime, values and the role of religion, geographical context, gender and ethnicity, social class, special needs and disability, and mental health.

For more information about this project:

Department academic Sonali Nag (Associate Professor of Education and the Developing Child) is collaborating with the Government of Karnataka to provide the curriculum framework for an oral language and emergent literacy programme planned to enter over 65,000 early childhood centres across South India. The current enrollment is just short of two million children.

The curriculum framework is based on Nag’s research on Indian languages and her evidence briefs on foundation learning in developing countries. Partner agencies include the Department of Women and Child Development, the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), Education for All mission (Samagra Shikshana Karnataka, SSK), teacher groups, institutions of higher education, educational NGOs, and UNICEF.

The programme is currently in the content development phase. A recent series of workshops saw resource persons draw on the region’s cultural heritage to develop stories for reading and retelling. Alliterations, rhymes and pithy couplets interspersed lively debates on how best to structure daily lessons. Sonali Nag commented, “The aim is to produce a pedagogically sharp, fun-filled and language-rich experience for all children.”

The next phase is to illustrate these narratives in a range of styles, which include easy to ‘read’ folk rendering of stories using basic geometric figures. The yearend will see the piloting of the first lessons and a phased, state-wide roll out is expected to begin in 2020. Beneficiaries will include first generation school goers, children living in print-starved hamlets and homes with limited resources for supporting literacy learning.

More details on Sonali Nag’s research can be found here.

Photo credit G. Arulmani

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