Using Research to improve Language in the Early Years (URLEY)

A+ Education Ltd is collaborating with the University of Oxford and University College London to develop and deliver the Education Endowment Foundation-funded URLEY programme. URLEY aims to improve children’s language, social and emotional outcomes in the early years, in order to achieve a lasting effect on child outcomes in later key stages and beyond. It has a specific focus on narrowing the gap for disadvantaged children, helping them to catch up with their peers. The evidence-based URLEY professional development programme – designed for nursery and reception class teachers – involves using research tools as a framework for self-evaluation and improvement.

URLEY is being tested as part of a large-scale randomised controlled trial to evaluate impact on practice and child outcomes. One hundred and twenty two primary schools are taking part, and the evaluation is being carried out by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) and National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR). Schools are reporting positive benefits but the impact on practice and child outcomes will not be known until the evaluation has been completed. Findings will be published on the Education Endowment Foundation website in early 2019.

Since engaging in URLEY we have already experienced a positive impact within the early years environment. Staff attending the training have found it highly supportive of their aim to provide a communication rich environment, their enthusiasm for the URLEY approach has led them to feedback to all staff and cascade their learning across both EYFS and KS1.The URLEY mentor support has enabled them to remain focused and confident when applying the strategies in the work place, which has led to progress within all groups, not just the targeted group. I am confident that URLEY will be embedded within our school and expect to see the strategies applied in other age groups.”

Head Teacher of a participating school

Go to URLEY Members’ pages to access URLEY Resources.

The Wolverhampton Early Years Improvement project

In 2014-2015 we worked with Education Central in Wolverhampton to create a year-long professional development programme for nursery and reception class teachers. Teachers attended a five day course which prepared them to use the Environment Rating Scales for self-evaluation and improvement. They also received individual support from practitioner mentors and attended cluster group meetings. ECERS assessments carried out at the start and the end of the project (a 10 month gap on average) showed that teachers had improved their practice in many different areas, including the quality of adult-child interactions and support for children’s language and thinking skills. Some improvement examples are shown in the graphs below.

Figure 1. Overall improvement as measured by ECERS-R and ECERS-E (1= inadequate, 3=minimal, 5=good, 7 = excellent)

ECERS-R and ECERS-E language items: indicators on which 10 or more classes improved (number of classes achieving each indicator at baseline and follow-up)

Comments from participating teachers…

Staff interaction has vastly improved as a result of ECERS training. We felt that we needed to collect lots of evidence for Ofsted, so were continually making observations, we had lost sight of what mattered and that was spending time with the children. ECERS feedback opened our eyes to how children were not being supported adequately in their learning, and as a result we changed our practise. In January we were graded ‘good’ by Ofsted, and they did not look back as the children’s books at all, due to the data showing good progress.

The staff within our setting have enthusiastically embraced new ideas. They have also benefitted from the in class training provided by the ‘in class’ support. This gave them a direct link with ECERS which helped them feel valued as professionals

The training course (5 day course) has been excellent for my development. It was very detailed and provided us with theory which has helped us to back up our ethos and what we already believed in as a foundation stage. It gave you the opportunity to reflect and make changes to your provision over time.

We were fortunate to have an inspirational, clear but ‘down to earth’ speaker who clearly knew what she was talking about but was also willing to listen to course participants.

The project has given me time and space to consider and implement many of the things that I had already considered to be important. It has provided a framework that I could adapt for my setting. It has been really helpful to give me ‘permission’ to put ideas into practise. I need to see some settings that are ‘outstanding’ now to extend my skills.

• Hear more about what Heads and Teachers had to say about the project here.
• Read the evaluation report here.
• Read the overall study report on the Education Central website here.