We are very proud that both our headteacher, Molly, and our head of teaching and learning work beyond the Ark Start network – most recently, they have been consulted by the EEF on their Early Years toolkit which helps us ensure that we are using evidence based approaches to ensure our children get the very best start in life.

We have been particularly interested in the evidence around developing early communication and language, which we know is an important foundation for reading and writing later in school but also a fundamental element of a child’s wellbeing. The Ark Start curriculum and pedagogy are rooted in the research for what works best for young children.

The EEF toolkit emphasises the importance of teaching and modelling vocabulary to children in their early years, highlighting its positive impact on oral language skills. The implementation of vocabulary instruction, on the other hand, requires careful consideration, with studies indicating that children with developing language skills progress more rapidly when receiving consistent vocabulary support.

The approach of teaching and modelling language through stories shows strong evidence of effectiveness for all children. Staff in early childhood education can utilise storytelling techniques, such as interactive reading and discussing experiences, to teach and model language. Prompts, such as asking open questions and using props, can also support language development.

There is limited evidence from impact studies demonstrating the effectiveness of social communication practices in isolation. However, these practices are often part of successful interventions when combined with other approaches such as language modelling and teaching pro-social behaviour. Non-verbal communication, including eye contact and gestures, is believed to support language development and help children better understand social communication: mirroring, gestures, eye contact, and teaching facial expressions have all shown positive impacts on children’s language and communication outcomes.