Early Language Development: EEF Report October 2017

17 October 2017

Author: Karen Roskilly: Sandringham School Research Lead

A new review of the evidence on early language development, commissioned by the EEF in partnership with Public Health England, has examined the most effective ways to support young children with delays in their early language development.

The report summarises existing literature on language development and states:

  • The majority of children follow similar patterns of language acquisition.
  • The rate at which students acquire language is sensitive to the amount of input they receive from adults and the quality of this input is more important than the quantity.
  • Broadly speaking, children need to be using between 50 and 100 words before they start putting words together into word combinations.
  • At some point between two and three years of age, children typically start to produce longer, more complex sentences.
  • Putting words together may be a better predictor of later abilities than the number of words that a child uses.

Most recent figures suggest that between 7-14% of children struggle with language before school starts and that this can hold back their reading and writing ability later in school.  In lower socio-economic groups, this figure is much higher.  Across the whole of England in 2015, approximately 15–20% of four- and five-year-old children were not meeting expected levels.

The report carried out a review of interventions associated with language or pre-literacy in the preschool period.  Evidence from the most robust studies suggests that there would be merit in carrying out further evaluations of two key types of intervention:

  1. Parent–child interaction interventions with young children as a means of promoting children’s language abilities and ensuring that children are ready for learning when they get to nursery at 2–3 years; and
  2. Training early years practitioners (professional development) to deliver interventions within early years settings.

The report also highlights the need for better monitoring of children at different stages of their development to identify those who are falling behind and would benefit from targeted support.

This evidence review will inform guidance on early years literacy teaching, which is due to be published later this year.

Posted on 17 October 2017
Posted in: Evidence
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