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A comprehensive programme of assessment, training and intervention supporting speech and language in the early years

The NELI Programme

The NELI Programme provides schools with a way of identifying early language difficulties and is proven to improve children’s language skills and behaviour in school.

NELI helps children aged 4-6 years old with the weakest oral language skills catch up with their peers through targeted small group and individual sessions. It focuses on developing children’s vocabulary, listening and storytelling skills. Large scale trials have shown NELI helps children make 3-5 months’ additional progress on top of what they would be usually be expected to achieve.

NELI was developed out of decades of research into children’s early language development and is the only early years language intervention to be awarded 5/5 for evidence strength by the Education Endowment Foundation.

Programme Structure

The NELI Programme includes three main components. Reliable and easy-to-use language screening, easy-to-access CPD-certified training and the 20-week targeted intervention programme.

Language Assessment

Schools first assess with LanguageScreena quick, reliable and highly accurate language assessment. Any adult in the school can, in less that ten minutes, obtain a comprehensive overview of a child’s language ability. LanguageScreen is used to assess the language skills of all children in the class at the beginning of the year, identify the children who need additional targeted support. At the end of the year it is used to ensure all children are still meeting age-expected outcomes as well as evaluate the progress of those children who received the intervention. 

CPD-Certified Training

The NELI Programme includes comprehensive online training for teachers and teaching assistants. It is delivered completely online so you can complete the courses at your own pace, courses will take 10-12 hours to complete. The courses explore language development, critical strategies to support language skills, how to deliver NELI and videos of NELI in action. You are mentored throughout by the research team and speech and language professionals.

Individual and Small Group Sessions

The NELI intervention is a 20-week programme consisting of weekly small group and individual sessions. NELI aims to develop children’s vocabulary, listening and narrative or storytelling skills through scaffolded activities. Each week children are introduced to new vocabulary as “Special Words” as well as consolidating their learning from previous sessions.  


The research and evidence behind NELI

NELI is one of the best evidenced education interventions globally and is the only early years language intervention to be awarded 5/5 for evidence strength by the Education Endowment Fund. 

A series of randomised controlled trials and independent evaluations have shown that it brings about educationally meaningful improvements:

  • NELI children made 3-5 months’ additional progress in language skills in just six months.
  • Children from less advantaged backgrounds made an average 7 months’ additional progress in their language skills.
  • NELI children’s behaviour was shown to improve significantly (compared to the control group).
  • Children with English as an Additional Language (EAL) made the same additional progress as children speaking English at home.
  • NELI’s positive effects can be seen long-term, with improvements in language and word reading being seen in children two years after the intervention.

Communication and language impacts on everything, including life skills and NELI gives them the grounding they need before we concentrate on other areas of the curriculum, such as reading and writing.

Shushila Bhanderi, Assistant Headteacher,
Uxendon Manor Primary School
Customer Stories

The NELI Programme – Yewstock School’s Favourite Intervention

Yewstock School share why The NELI Programme is their favourite intervention and the impact its having across their Early Years.

Customer Stories

The NELI Programme: A Vital Part of Early Years Provision

St Thomas More School share why The NELI Programme is a vital part of their Early Years Provision, with clear progress made by every child who participates.

Customer Stories

Transforming Language Development at Henleaze Infants School with NELI

Henleaze Infants School share how NELI is helping their children improve in confidence, vocabulary and narrative story telling skills.

Narrative Milestones

A narrative is a story or sequence of linked events or ideas, and it can be difficult for young children to produce a narrative effectively. Whenever they are telling you what they had for tea, or what happened just now in the playground, or pretending to be Goldilocks and the Three Bears, they are using narrative skills.

Once children can choose which words to say, and combine these to make individual sentences, they need to be able to build them into a coherent sequence or story. Narrative skills develop as children get older and there are typical narrative milestones. NELI helps you support the children who are finding these skills difficult.

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