Effective intervention to support oral language skills in English as an additional language in the early years

  • Victoria Murphy University of Oxford
  • J. Karemaker University of Oxford
  • K. Sylva University of Oxford
  • G. Kanji University of Oxford
  • F. Jelley University of Oxford
Keywords: EAL, Early Years, Vocabulary, Intervention


Increasingly, children enter Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) settings with English as an additional language (EAL) and for many of these linguistically diverse children, their knowledge and skills in the English language is less-well developed than native-speaking (NS) peers.  Much research over the past few decades has indicated how important early language and emergent literacy development is within ECEC settings, as children’s skills in these domains underpins later literacy development and academic achievement. Furthermore, many children from linguistically diverse backgrounds tend to have less well-developed vocabulary knowledge and struggle with aspects of literacy later on.  In this paper we present the findings of a Professional Development (PD) intervention study aimed at helping teachers to develop and implement effective strategies that support oral language skills in both EAL and NS pupils. We discuss these findings in relation to two other oral language interventions where the focus was on working directly with pupils. We argue that whereas evidence suggests interventions working directly with pupils can be more effective on improved child language outcomes, we need to focus more energy on developing good PD for Early Years Practitioners to support them in their critical roles in children’s educational development.