Borrowdale CE Primary School
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Four- and five-year-olds at Borrowdale School take part in early language programme

Earlier this week the BBC published a report with the title 'lockdowns hurt the children's language development.' In the Autumn term, Borrowdale School signed up to take part in a programme to support four- and five-year-olds whose early language and literacy development has been most affected by the pandemic.


The Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI) programme is the most well-evidenced early years language programme available to schools in England. The programme was offered to the school at no cost by the Department for Education in response to disruption to schooling caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.


Developed by world-leading researchers at the Universities of Oxford, Sheffield and York, NELI involves scripted individual and small-group language teaching sessions delivered by trained staff. Training took place remotely during the lockdown period.


The NELI programme, published by Oxford University Press, has been robustly tested through several trials, including two funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). The most recent, found that children who received NELI made, on average, +3 months of additional progress in oral language skills compared to children who did not receive NELI. The targeted language support provided by NELI will therefore be an important part of Borrowdale School’s response to Covid-19 recovery.


The lesson in the photographs was focussed around the story of Cinderella. The story was told in full in the first session to ensure the children were familiar with it. In the second session the children were encouraged to retell the story as they were helped by held up prompt cards. In the third session (as photographed) the children were asked to choose a character. Then, as the story was retold, they had to jump up when they heard their character names. Following this, the children acted out their own version of the story using the masks that were provided to them. At all times, but specifically in language sessions, the children are asked to use full sentences to develop their language skills. They are also encouraged to include the new words they have learned during the sessions. We are encouraged by the progress the children have made so far. Not only does NELI help to improve the children’s speech, it also teaches good listening and attention habits which are encouraged throughout the day.


Delivery of the 20-week NELI intervention had been planned to begin in January, however this had to be delayed until the school re-opened fully after the second period of partial closure. This means that the NELI intervention will extend into the next academic year to complete the full programme.


Mr Smits, our headteacher commented:

“Concerns around school starters’ language and communication development were growing in recent years and with the impact of COVID-19 this is even more worrying, so it is reassuring to know that the NELI programme is available to meet our pupils’ needs.”