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Nuffield Early Language Intervention FAQs

Answers to common questions about accessing the Nuffield Language Intervention in 2020-21.

1. What is NELI? Who is it for, and how is it delivered?

The Reception Nuffield Early Language Intervention Programme (NELI) is a 20-week targeted programme designed to improve the oral language skills of children aged 4-5 in need of support in this area. The programme can be delivered by a trained teaching assistant (TA), or early years educator, through small group and one-to-one sessions.

The programme has an initial focus on expressive and receptive vocabulary, listening and narrative skills through discussion of key thematic images and the retelling, creating and summarising of stories. During the latter half of the programme, phonological awareness and letter-sound knowledge activities are also introduced as a foundation for early literacy skills.

2. Why focus on oral language skills? Why NELI?

NELI was developed by a team of UK-based researchers (from the Universities of Oxford, Sheffield and York) in response to the vast evidence-base that highlights oral language skills as a crucial foundation for thinking, learning and social interaction. Evidence indicates that children’s oral language ability during their early years is one of the strongest predictors, of not just later success in literacy and numeracy, but also their employment and wellbeing.

Oral language skills can be enhanced through targeted and specific teaching. Several robust EEF trials, have found that NELI improves both children’s oral language and early literacy skills. A recent trial of the programme found that children made on average 3 months of additional progress compared to children in the comparison group. Through these trials NELI is now the most robustly evaluated and well evidenced early language intervention available in England. 

3. How many pupils could participate? How are they selected?

EEF’s trials of the NELI programme involved one TA delivering the programme to 5 children who were typically drawn from the TA’s associated reception class. An initial assessment of pupil’s oral language skills is embedded in the intervention, to enable children who could benefit most from the programme to be identified. LanguageScreen, a short tablet-based assessment used in the programme, is undertaken with all children in Reception by school staff. It usually takes 10 mins per child to complete. LanguageScreen enables school staff to identify which children are in greatest need of targeted language support (see question 7).

We understand that many children may be highlighted during screening as in need of targeted support for language. We encourage school staff to make their own professional judgments about how many pupils they would like to receive support through NELI. It may be useful to consult our Teaching and Learning Toolkit’s ‘Small Group Tuition’ page to inform your decision on group size. If you would like several groups of children to receive NELI, we would recommend considering training more staff to implement the programme, or ensuring the trained adult has the capacity to support more than one group of children. 

4. How many staff are needed to deliver it?

NELI requires one member of staff to deliver the programme to at least one small group of children. Sessions happen away from whole class teaching and take up a few hours of that staff member’s time per week (see question 6 below).

The EEF trials evaluated a model where a TA or an early years educator delivered the programme to 5 targeted children. However, the training provided will support any school-based adult to deliver the programme. Therefore, you may choose for a class teacher, intervention-lead, TA, early years practitioner or NTP academic mentors to deliver the programme – schools can choose who delivers the programme to their children

It would be useful for schools to identify a project lead for the programme in their school e.g. Inclusion lead, SENDCo, Early Years phase leader or Reception lead.

5. What does the training involve? Who needs to be trained?

In order for NELI to be available across England, but also accessible in a socially distanced manner, an online training model has been developed. Staff who are nominated to deliver the 20-week programme will access online training via the platform FutureLearn. The core training content will take around 8 – 10 hours to complete and can be undertaken in a self-paced manner over a two-three week period.

The most recent trial of NELI provided face to face training for the staff delivering the 20-week programme (which in this case was a TA) as well as some training for the class teacher. It is recommended that the member of staff who is supporting, but not necessarily delivering, the programme completes some of the training e.g. the class teacher if a TA is delivering the programme. This would be around 2 hours of training covering the fundamental aspects of understanding and supporting language development, as well as an overview of the programme.

The online training will be available to start in January 2021 and we recommend completing the training within the first few weeks of Spring term 1 in order to promptly start the programme and ensure good coverage of the 20-weeks of sessions before the end of the school year.

6. How much time does NELI take to deliver?

The 20-week programme includes materials to deliver three 30-minute small group sessions a week and support to provide two 15-minute 1:1 sessions for each targeted child. Therefore, if 5 children were to receive NELI, a member of staff would need 4 hours of delivery time each week for 20 weeks. A small amount of additional preparation time may be required to ensure staff have read the manual and prepared the correct picture cards ahead of each group session, as well as time to reflect on what individualised support children may need for their 1:1 session.

7. What other resources are needed to deliver NELI effectively?

A set of materials will be delivered by Oxford University Press to your school which includes two manual (Part A and Part B) for delivering the NELI sessions to pupils and the resources used during the sessions i.e. a puppet and picture cards. It would be useful to also identify a quiet space to deliver the group and individual sessions.

Ahead of starting delivery of the programme with the children you will need to have completed assessments using the app LanguageScreen (see also question 3). The LanguageScreen website provides details and videos on the preparation needed to get ready for and complete the assessments. Some time will be needed to create and upload a class list via LanguageScreen’s platform as well as download the app from either the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. You will need a tablet that includes a camera and access to WIFI in order to complete the assessment with children, as the app uses QR codes.

Beyond this, the main resource is time for the assessments, training and to deliver the group and individual sessions (see question 6).

8. Can our school deliver NELI alongside other interventions?

Yes, NELI is designed to complement not replace any other language or literacy support. 

9. What schools can receive NELI at low cost?

The DfE has made up to £9 million available for NELI and are inviting all state funded schools with a reception class to apply, but places are limited. If places are over-subscribed, schools will be prioritised based on their percentage of free school meals (FSM) eligibility.

10. Will there be a research project attached to the delivery of NELI as in the previous EEF trials?

Yes, EEF are funding an evaluation of the national scale up of online delivery of NELI. However, participation in the delivery of NELI is not restricted to just the schools who are willing to take part in the research project. Schools can opt into take part in the evaluation and will be contacted by the research team at a later date (see timeline in question 11)