Efficacy trial of the Communication Friendly Settings Programme

This is a two-armed, cluster, randomised controlled trial (RCT), with an embedded implementation and process evaluation (IPE), of the Communication Friendly Settings (CFS) programme delivered by Elklan Training Ltd.

CFS is a whole-setting programme that aims to promote the speech, language and communication skills of all children. It aims to do so through improving the quality and quantity of interactions between staff and children, so children are exposed to more vocabulary that is also appropriate to their developmental stage and next steps (i.e. children are provided with differentiated support).

The programme is being delivered as part of the Department for Education’s Early Years Recovery Programme. Within this, the Stronger Practice Hubs and the Education Endowment Foundation are working together to fund Early Years settings’ access to evidence-informed programmes. The overall aims of this funding are to support education recovery following the pandemic, and to develop our understanding of effective professional development in the early years. This is in the context of a current shortfall in opportunities for professional development within the Early Years workforce (DfE, 2022).

The central aim of the trial is to evaluate the impact of the CFS (Early Years) programme on the language skills of children aged 3–4 years of age. It is anticipated that 166 early years settings will participate in the evaluation nationally.

EEF: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/projects-and-evaluation/projects/communication-friendly-settings-2023-24-trial

ISRCTN: ISRCTN - ISRCTN15998528: Communication Friendly Settings programme of professional development for Early Years Practitioners effective in improving the speech and language skills of 3-4-year-olds compared to business as usual

Project aims

The central aim of the trial is to evaluate the impact of the CFS (Early Years) programme on the language skills of children aged 3–4 years of age. The embedded IPE will study the programme’s impact on the knowledge, skills and confidence of the whole Early Years setting staff and its consequent influence on practice.


Expected impact on policy and practice (dependent on outcomes) i.e. if positive outcomes the programme can be expected to be rolled out more widely. Peer-reviewed report will be published on the EEF website and contribute to their evidence base as presented in their Teacher Toolkit.

Publications and outputs

Currently the published protocol and further details on the study are available on the EEF website here.

c. January 2025 the Statistical Analysis Plan (SAP) will also be published on the website.

The peer-reviewed report will be available on the website c. March/April 2026

The trial is registered with the ISRCTN here.