LIVELY Project

Newcastle University is conducting a research project to evaluate the effectiveness of language interventions for pre-school children in nursery contexts with significant language difficulties. We are looking for Local Authority and school partners to help us identify potential participants.

Around 10% of children in the UK have language difficulties, rising to 40% in the most socially disadvantaged areas. Research has consistently shown that children who do not recover from such difficulties are at risk of adverse longer-term outcomes such as unemployment and poorer economic and psychological wellbeing.

One approach to address this issue is to target ‘at-risk’ children with interventions designed to promote language skills in the early years. However, few interventions have been formally evaluated. 

The LIVELY Risk Assessment

This LIVELY Risk Assessment outlines the LIVELY project approach to managing risk when working in schools. It has been updated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are aware of the need to balance the benefits schools and children will get from their involvement in the LIVELY project with potential risk. Our prevailing aim is to ensure that school staff and children, as well as the research team, are safe and to do everything possible to avoid spreading the virus.

LIVELY risk assessment (pdf)

LIVELY risk assessment PHE letter

LIVELY infection control policy (pdf)


The LIVELY team will be wearing PPE when they work with the children. If your child wants to see what this will look like they can watch the video below. 

You can also access our PPE Booklet (pdf)

The LIVELY Research Project

This research project, funded by the Heather van der Lely Foundation, aims to evaluate the effectiveness of language interventions for children with language difficulties by randomly allocating schools to one of two groups:

  • Building Early Sentences Therapy (BEST) was developed by Newcastle University in partnership with speech and language therapists and has promising early signs of effectiveness.
  • The Derbyshire Language Scheme (DLS) has been used widely for many years but has limited formal evaluation. The study will use an adapted version of this scheme

It is not currently possible to say which of these approaches is the most effective and this is the main question of this research study.‌

Schools will be randomly allocated to one of the two groups: BEST or DLS. Teachers will then be asked to identify children who are failing to meet expected language targets and who may benefit from a language intervention. Parents will be invited to participate in the project and asked to sign a consent form. After baseline assessments are conducted to confirm children’s eligibility for the project, researchers will deliver the interventions to the BEST and DLS groups. Researchers will work with teaching assistants from the schools to provide two intervention sessions a week for eight weeks. Each session will last about 30 minutes. After the 8 weeks when interventions are delivered to children the researchers will assess all children again. A third assessment will be conducted about 6-8 weeks later. This process will be repeated over two waves.‌ 

There is more information on the LIVELY Flyer (opens as a pdf).

The LIVELY study has been preregistered on the ISRCTN registry