Coaching Early Conversations Interaction and Language (CECIL) Merseyside Evaluation

Nancarrow A, Garner O, Dawson A |   | Institute for Employment Studies | Mar 2024

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The aim of the CECIL Merseyside project was to develop and explore a sustainability model to embed initial training which, in this case was Hanen LLLI. Everton nursery school led a team of experienced early years teachers who provided coaching support between September 2022 and July 2023 to settings that had taken part in the Education Endowment Fund’s Hanen LLLI outcomes trial the previous year. A team of five coaches provided the sustainability support to a total of 11 settings in Merseyside, with each setting receiving one to six in-person coaching visits.

This project investigated how the Hanen training was embedded with early years practitioners in Merseyside and how their practice developed in their second year with additional support following the initial training. This provided an opportunity to observe how settings continued to deliver good practice following staff changes, including where staff who participated in the initial Hanen training had left the setting.


Research questions helped to delineate findings into five groups as follows:

1 Do practitioners and setting managers find the sustainability work useful and are they able to incorporate it into their practice? Do they feel able to continue this in the longer term?

  • Successful sharing of knowledge and strategies to setting staff and overall improved practitioner understanding of how to support children’s developing communication and language skills.
  • Effective embedding of learning was demonstrated in practice, and there was successful sharing of knowledge.
  • The Coach visits were viewed as useful.

2 What are the barriers or enablers for nurseries to participating in the sustainability work?

  • Lack of staff cover was viewed as a key barrier.
  • The general complexity of early years settings was also viewed as a barrier.
  • A key enabler was the presence of effective leadership and management.
  • Allowing for practitioners to visit other settings.

3 What are the perceived impacts of the CECIL Merseyside project on practitioners’ skills, knowledge and confidence?

  • Increased practitioner confidence and improved practitioner interactions with children. Practitioners not only demonstrated improved knowledge of which strategies they were using with children but also used new strategies with children (e.g. commenting) or tweaked strategies they already knew.
  • Managers generally made more effort to engage parents, and there were some increases in parental engagement.

4 What are the perceived impacts of the CECIL Merseyside project on children’s language and communication skills?

  • Positive impact of the programme on children’s language and communication skills (e.g. providing more words in responses).

5 What factors may need to be considered in scaling up the CECIL Merseyside project and sustainability work to deliver it in more nurseries in the future?

  • The provision of staff cover.
  • Face-to-face meetings preferred over virtual meetings.