Talk for Literacy

Talk for Literacy is a speaking and listening intervention that comprises two programmes: the Vocabulary Enrichment Intervention Programme (VEIP) and the Narrative Intervention Programme (NIP). Teaching assistants delivered the intervention to small groups of pupils


Key Stage 3

Key stage




EEF Summary

There is good evidence for the positive impact of oral language interventions, and for the positive impact of TA-led structured interventions. The EEF funded this trial to see if these speaking and listening programmes could improve reading attainment.

Pupils that received Talk for Literacy made the equivalent of three months’ additional progress in reading. There was an even larger impact for pupils eligible for free school meals – although the small number of pupils make this result less secure than the overall finding.

Talk for Literacy appears to be a promising approach for improving reading outcomes. The EEF continues to evaluate oral language approaches. 

Research Results


Months' Progress
Evidence Strength

Reading (FSM)

Months' Progress


Were the schools in the trial similar to my school?

This small trial took place in three secondary schools in the West London borough of Ealing. Two of the schools were rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, while the final school was rated ‘good’.

Could I implement this in my school?

The Vocabulary Enrichment Intervention programme and Narrative Intervention Programme were both developed by Victoria Joffe, who has published books on how to implement the interventions. 



Delivered by



Participant group


12 Weeks

Intervention length

How much will it cost?

The cost of training and equipping two TAs to deliver the intervention to one cohort of 40 pupils each year for two years works out at £29 per pupil. This assumes a one-off training cost of £2,000 and provision of teacher resource packs at £87.50 each.



Cost per pupil


2 Days

Training time per staff member

Evaluation info





Key Stage

Key Stage 3

Start date

January 2012

End date

January 2014

Type of trial

Efficacy Trial

Evaluation Conclusions

  1. The speaking and listening intervention had a moderate impact on overall reading ability but this was not statistically significant (although was on the border of being so).

  2. The intervention had a significant impact on pupils’ ability in passage comprehension; an effect size of 0.25, equivalent to approximately 3 months of additional progress compared to control pupils.

  3. The intervention had no significant impact on pupils’ ability to complete written sentences or accurately recall spoken sentences.

  4. The reasonably fast pace of delivery and necessarily selective approach to the programme materials (given the time available) may have limited the intervention’s impact.

  1. Updated: 11th September, 2018

    Printable project summary

    1 MB pdf - EEF-talk-for-literacy.pdf

  2. Updated: 5th February, 2016

    Project Report

    867 KB pdf - EEF_Project_Report_TalkForLiteracy.pdf

Full project description

The speaking and listening intervention evaluated was a combination of two programmes: the Vocabulary Enrichment Intervention Programme (VEIP) and the Narrative Intervention Programme (NIP). The former aims to teach children new words and to encourage the use of these words in speaking and writing. The latter aims to enhance the understanding and expression of narratives to develop speaking and listening skills. The dual intervention was used with pupils who needed extra support to improve their literacy (either not having reached Level 4 at Key Stage 2 or considered ‘vulnerable’ Level 4 readers). The aim was to enhance pupils’ literacy by improving their vocabulary and narrative skills. 

Five Teaching Assistants (TAs) and one teacher in the three secondary schools received training on the VEIP, the NIP and speech, language and communication difficulties. They delivered the VEIP to 118 Year 7 pupils in small groups (three to eight pupils) between September 2013 and December 2013 (approximately 12 teaching weeks) and the NIP between January 2014 and March 2014 (approximately 11 teaching weeks). Each intervention group had two lessons a week (40–60mins). 

The programme was evaluated using a randomised controlled trial which compared the intervention to a ‘business-as-usual’ control group. The delivery and evaluation of this project was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation as one of 23 projects focused on literacy catch-up at the transition from primary to secondary school. It was one of four projects funded with a particular focus on reading comprehension.