Education Observatory

Research in Education at the University of Wolverhampton

Early Talk project

Evaluation of the I Can Early Talk programme

This qualitative evaluation of the I Can Early Talk (ET) programme at supportive level was commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), now the Department for Education (DfE). The research was conducted in 14 Sure Start (children’s centres) in England in 2010, focusing on children aged 3 to 4 years old.

RESEARCH TEAM: Judy Whitmarsh, Michael Jopling and Mark Hadfield

Children, Young People & Families
Completed Projects
Early Years


This evaluation of the I Can Early Talk (ET) programme was conducted in 14 Sure Start children's centres, focusing on children aged 3 to 4 years old. Although the report, its findings and recommendations are necessarily bounded by the approach taken to the evaluation and the evidence collected, efforts have been made to contextualise the findings in light of the change of Government since the research was commissioned and reflect the shift from central provision towards more localised services and partnerships.

“The main aim initially for me was around staff awareness of the importance of early language.”

“So often we find that children do not have descriptive language. They have more often been talked 'at' rather than 'to', so their vocabulary tends to be a bit limited.”

Project specification

Focusing on children's centres, the project specification was to:

  • qualitatively assess the pedagogical benefits of the ET programme;
  • explore its relationship with the ECaT programme;
  • explore how the ET programme meets the needs of differing groups of children; and
  • evaluate the perceptions of associated groups such as parents/carers and local authority members.

Research objectives

The research objectives were to:

  • provide impartial evidence of how the ET programme has influenced staff and enhanced their ability to provide high quality speech; language and communication support for pre-school children in children's centres settings;
  • explore how the ET programme meets the needs of diverse groups of children and investigate its universality;
  • integrate parent/carer and other perceptions of the ET programme in the evaluation;
  • integrate perceptions of the accreditation process of the ET programme and to identify overlaps and gaps in provision;
  • map how the ET programme interlinks with existing programmes of speech, language and communication support in children's centres settings;
  • evaluate how the ET programme meets the recommendations in John Bercow MP's A Rreview of Services for Children and Young People (0-19) with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (2008).

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These videos were produced by Soundhouse Media.