Evidence and programme development

NELI was developed by Dr Silke Fricke (University of Sheffield), Dr Claudine Bowyer-Crane (NIESR) and Professors Maggie Snowling and Charles Hulme (University of Oxford). They understood that identifying children’s language needs early and providing them with targeted language support could ensure they have the fundamental foundations needed for good language and social and emotional development as well as later literacy and numeracy skills. They adapted approaches frequently used by speech and language therapists and developed NELI as a resource that could be used by schools for pupils in Reception class with weak oral language skills.

In 2010/11 the Nuffield Foundation funded a randomised controlled trial in 15 early years settings to evaluate NELI. This research involved comparing the progress in language skills made by children who had received NELI to those who had not. The children who received NELI made significantly more progress in their language skills, compared with children who hadn’t received the programme.

Following this, the Education Endowment Foundation funded two further randomised controlled trials, both independently evaluated. The latest and largest, published in May 2020, involved 193 primary schools. Staff in the intervention schools received face-to-face training using materials designed by the developers but with the training led by Elklan.

To the best of our knowledge, this evaluation makes the NELI programme the most well evidenced oral language programme available.

COVID-19 response

In 2020, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department for Education provided £9 million for schools to access the NELI programme in the academic year 2020/21. Dr Gillian West and Professor Charles Hulme at the University of Oxford, with funding from the Education Endowment Foundation, developed online materials so that school staff could easily be trained to deliver the NELI the programme. Over 6,500 schools (40% of schools with Reception pupils in England) registered to receive NELI.

Due to the popularity of the programme and adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on nursery children’s access to education, care and enriching activities, the Department for Education has provided further funding for state-funded schools in England to receive and deliver NELI for the academic year 2021-2022.

One of the benefits of NELI is that, once staff are trained, they can continue to deliver NELI year after year using the same LanguageScreen account and NELI resources. Schools who received NELI in 2020/21 therefore do not need to re-register but can access some funded support next academic year.

If you are a current NELI school more information about NELI delivery next academic year can be found in the email sent to schools on 1 July. Here you will find information on who to contact to request replacement training invitations for new staff as well as request additional NELI kits.