IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Supporting oral language skills in early years: challenges and opportunities

07 December 2021, 6:00 pm–7:00 pm

Teacher and children in an early years setting. Image: Monkey Business / Adobe Stock

In this online talk, Professor Julie Dockrell will give an overview of her ongoing project which aims to support language development in early years.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Roberto Filippi

There is substantial evidence indicating that strong oracy skills are the foundation for learning, achieving and social communication at school. Yet many children around the world enter school with poor oral language skills. Addressing their needs in preschool settings becomes an important and achievable goal, but one which raises many challenges for policy and practice. 

Challenges are evident both in terms of identifying children’s language learning trajectories, understanding the knowledge and expertise of practitioners and the limited resources for evidence informed universal/tier 1 oral language support. 

To explore some of these issues Professor Dockrell will draw on data from trial in 40 nursery settings in areas of social disadvantage in England. The intervention aims to support language development for all children by empowering staff to enhance the children’s oral language – a universal intervention. 

In the current project over 800 children were assessed on language and cognitive measures, 40 classes were observed and staff completed an online questionnaire prior to schools being randomised into intervention or business as usual arms of the trial. The manualised intervention drew on but significantly developed Talking Time © (Dockrell, Stuart, & King, 2010) to provide more explicit CPD activities to ensure sensitivity with the diversity and needs of the varied nursery settings. Challenges with implementation of the intervention and the needs of the children provide a strong basis for informing oracy practice in the early years and guidelines for the development of policies more widely.

This event will be particularly useful for those interested in child development, education, developmental psychology, language development and interventions.

Bridging Educational Sciences with Practice in Education seminar series

The event is part of this knowledge exchange seminar series which aims to bridge educational sciences with practice in education. The UCL Institute of Education, in collaboration with Cambridge Primary Education Trust (CPET) and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Teaching School Hub, brings you ten leading experts in the field of Education and Psychological Sciences who will engage with you, presenting their work, and outlining policies and new strategies in education.

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About the Speaker

Professor Julie Dockrell

Professor of Psychology and Special Needs at UCL Institute of Education (IOE)

Julie Dockrell (FRCSLT, FAcSS) is qualified as both a clinical and educational psychologist. Her research interests are in patterns of language development and the ways in which oral language skills impact on children's learning, interaction, and attainments. A central theme in this research has been the application of evidence-based research to support children’s learning. She has published in a wide range of journals and written books and book chapters on language development and language difficulties. She was the previous editor of the British Journal of Educational Psychology, associate editor for Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research (JSLHR) and Learning and Instruction. She was a co-director of the Better Communication Research Programme, UK. She is currently PI on a Nuffield funded research programme examining universal language support for nursery aged children in areas of social disadvantage and Co-I for the Education and Cognition stream for UKRI- GCRF Action against stunting hub.

More about Professor Julie Dockrell