UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Nuffield Early Language Intervention Project

Principal Investigator:Professor Charles Hulme (UCL)
Co-investigators:Dr Kelly Burgoyne (UCL), Dr Maria Kyriacou (UCL), Dr Silke Fricke (Sheffield), Alexandra Zosimidou (Sheffield), Liam Maxwell (Sheffield), Dr Claudine Bowyer-Crane (York), Professor Maggie Snowling (St John’s College, Oxford)
FunderI CAN The Children's Communication Charity



Oral language skills in early school years provide an important foundation for the later development of reading comprehension and are therefore critical to educational success. UCL has teamed up with the Universities of Sheffield and York to evaluate the efficacy of the Nuffield Early Language Intervention programme which aims to improve the language skills of children with oral language weaknesses . The programme is suitable for children in nursery/ reception classes and aims to develop 3 key areas: vocabulary knowledge, narrative (story telling) skills and listening skills. It was evaluated in a previous study by the same team of researchers. The programme has been published by the children's communication charity I CAN, who will be marketing the programme and training nurseries and schools to deliver it.


The Nuffield Early Language Intervention project is a RCT where approximately 360 children in 34 nursery classes (in Sheffield and London) will be screened on simple measures of oral language proficiency. Children who identified as having language weaknesses will then be randomly assigned to one of the 3 treatment groups: 1. A 30-week intervention group will receive a language intervention programme starting in nursery classes in April 2013 and continuing for their first 2 terms in Reception class. 2. A 20-week intervention group will receive the same intervention but starting in September 2013 (they will therefore receive the intervention during their first two terms in Reception class). 3. A waiting list control group will receive an integrated reading and language intervention (which is known to be effective from a previous study) starting in September 2014. All interventions will be delivered to children in their nurseries/schools by teaching assistants trained by I CAN. Children in the 3 treatment groups will be assessed on standardised language and reading measures pre- and post- intervention. A cohort of children in the same schools who are a year older than the children in the trial will also be assessed on language measures. These data will be used to explore the extent to which the intervention affects overall levels of language skills in the participating schools.


The study seeks to establish the effectiveness of the Nuffield Early Language Intervention programme in its published form when training is delivered by I CAN. Two other critical aims are to establish whether the 30-week version of the programme starting in nursery classes produces larger effects than a 20-week programme that only starts in Reception class and to explore predictors of response to intervention.

Key publications
1: Bowyer-Crane, C., Snowling, M.J., Duff, F.J., Fieldsend, E., Carroll, J.M., Miles, J, Götz, K, & Hulme, C. (2008) Improving early language and literacy skills: differential effects of an oral language versus phonology with reading intervention. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49, 422-432.

Further Information
Contact: Professor Charles Hulme (c.hulme@ucl.ac.uk)


Keywords: oral language, reading, language skills, intervention