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Research & evidence

The research behind our screening apps

LanguageScreen was developed by a research team led by Professor Charles Hulme at the University of Oxford and is the product of extensive research. LanguageScreen was developed by the same research team responsible for the Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI) programme. We created LanguageScreen because we believe it is essential for teachers to be able to accurately assess children’s language skills.

LanguageScreen was used in a study evaluating the effectiveness of the NELI programme in 193 schools (involving testing roughly 6,000 children). In this study, LanguageScreen was effective in allowing school staff to identify children with language difficulties and also provided an accurate measure of the improvements in children’s language skill’s following the NELI programme.

The research team behind Language Screen and NELI are continuing to develop methods to help schools identify and ameliorate children’s learning difficulties including two new apps, MathsScreen and ReadingScreen, due to launch soon.

OxEd’s founder, Professor Charles Hulme, discusses interventions to improve children’s early language skills in this seminar for LuCID, the ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development.


Key research papers

Early language intervention improves behavioral adjustment in school: Evidence from a cluster randomized trial

(Gillian West, Arne Lervåg, Margaret J. Snowling, Elizabeth Buchanan-Worster, Mihaela Duta, Charles Hulme)
Journal of School Psychology (2022)
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  • This study investigated the effects of an oral language intervention (NELI) on children’s behavioural adjustment in school.
  • It was based on findings from a cluster randomized trial in 193 primary schools.
  • Children receiving NELI showed significantly greater improvements in behavioural adjustment than the business-as-usual control group.

Early language screening and intervention can be delivered successfully at scale: evidence from a cluster randomized controlled trial

(Gillian West, Margaret J. Snowling, Arne Lervåg, Elizabeth Buchanan-Worster, Mihaela Duta, Alexandra Hall, Henrietta McLachlan, and Charles Hulme)
The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (2021)
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  • This study provides strong evidence from a cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT) in 193 primary schools for the effectiveness of a school-based language testing and intervention programme (NELI) delivered at scale.
  • A ten-minute LanguageScreen test administered by school staff was found to be comparable in accuracy to a 30-minute language assessment, using standardised tests, conducted by professional speech and language therapists.
  • Children receiving NELI made significantly larger gains in their language skills than the control group.
  • The effects of intervention did not vary as a function of home language background or gender.

Children’s Language Skills Can Be Improved: Lessons From Psychological Science for Educational Policy

(Charles Hulme, Margaret J. Snowling, Gillian West, Arne Lervåg, and Monica Melby-Lervåg)
Current Directions in Psychological Science (2020)
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  • Oral language is crucial for social interaction and for learning in the classroom; it also provides the foundation for reading comprehension.
  • Children with language difficulties are at high risk of educational failure.
  • Recent studies have demonstrated that it is possible to produce significant improvements in children’s oral language through targeted language interventions.
  • There is also evidence that effects of language intervention can produce improvements in reading comprehension.
  • These findings have important implications for educational policy and practice.

Defining and understanding dyslexia: past, present and future

(Margaret J. Snowling, Charles Hulme & Kate Nation)
Oxford Review of Education (2020)
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  • Dyslexia is a difficulty in learning to decode (read aloud) and to spell.
  • For many years, research on dyslexia proceeded on the basis that it was a specific learning difficulty, meaning it could not be explained in terms of obvious causes such as sensory problems or general learning difficulties.
  • Failure to find qualitative differences in reading, and phonological skills, between children with dyslexia and children with more general learning problems led this kind of ‘discrepancy’ definition to fall from favour.
  • This paper argues that loosening the criteria for dyslexia has influenced common understanding of the condition and led to diagnostic confusion.
  • Implications for research and practice are discussed.

The Foundations of Literacy Development in Children at Familial Risk of Dyslexia

(Charles Hulme, Hannah M. Nash, Debbie Gooch, Arne Lervig, and Margaret J. Snowling)
Association for Psychological Science (2015)
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  • The development of reading skills is underpinned by oral language abilities.
  • Findings showed preschool measures of oral language predicted phoneme awareness and grapheme-phoneme knowledge just before school entry, which in turn predicted word-level literacy skills shortly after school entry.
  • Reading comprehension at 8½ years was also predicted by word-level literacy skills at 5½ years and by language skills at 3½ years.
  • These patterns of predictive relationships were similar in both typically developing children and those at risk of literacy difficulties.
  • These findings underline the importance of oral language skills for the development of both word-level literacy and reading comprehension.

OxEd research talks

Speech and Developmental Language Disorders – Judy Dunn International Conference 2022

17th November 2022, online
Speaker: Professor Charles Hulme
Title: Early Language Intervention is Effective and Important for Improving Educational Outcomes

The Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health logo

Dyscalculia & Literacy Conference 2022 – Focus on your learner: Strengths & Challenges

24th November 2022, Swindon
Speaker: Professor Charles Hulme
Title: Identifying and Ameliorating Children’s Language Difficulties

British Dyslexia Association logo

researchED Oxford

26th November 2022
Speaker: Professor Charles Hulme
Title: Identifying and Remediating Children’s Language Difficulties

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