CECIL: Final Report

Coaching early conversations, interaction and language

Grauberg J, with IES contributions from Dawson A, Huxley C, Nancarrow A and Garner O |   | The Sutton Trust | Jun 2024

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This final report summarises the findings from the Coaching Early Conversation Interaction and Language (CECIL) Project, which started in September 2020. The research has focused on exploring coaching-led approaches to support the effective implementation of early language interventions, especially in Private, Voluntary & Independent (PVI) settings. This focus on the PVI reflects the large number and increasing proportion of disadvantaged children receiving their early care and education in these settings (Stewart and Reader, 2021).

At the core of the CECIL approach is a way of thinking about continuing professional development (CPD) informed by the logic model (Sims and Moss, 2017) that in order to achieve the best outcomes for children, there is a need for skilled and knowledgeable practitioners which can not be achieved by training alone but requires coaching support to build motivation, confidence, knowledge and embed skills ensuring effective and sustained good practice.

The approach has been reinforced by the Guidance Report on Professional Development published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), which stresses the importance of activities to embed practice (Collin and Smith, 2021).

Key Findings

  • The CECIL programme has been valuable in demonstrating that a coaching approach can help to support the effective implementation and sustaining of training in the use of evidence-based early language interventions in early years settings, including in the PVI sector.
  • The characteristics of a coaching approach – flexible, responsive, and delivered face-to-face are particularly suited to professional development in these settings, which are characterised by high staff turnover, underqualified staff and lack of time and resources for training and development.
  • The learning from CECIL has demonstrated that the specific professional background and qualifications of the coach matters less than their knowledge of the relevant evidence-based interventions, their understanding of the setting context, and their coaching experience.
  • The evaluations of the CECIL projects demonstrated that the coaching was valued and led to increases in practitioners’ motivation, confidence, knowledge and skills to use key language strategies, and to increases in the practitioners putting these strategies into practice during and in the year following training. Although child-level impacts were only researched in the first year of CECIL, the theory of change implies that children would have better language outcomes as a result.