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Early Years Covid-19 Recovery Grant Fund

This project offered schools and settings the opportunity to apply for grant funding to run their own speech, language and communication projects. The aim was to support early years children’s speech and language development, which in many cases had been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. 


Childminders, Head Teachers / School Leaders, Local Authorities, Parent and Toddler/Community Group Leaders, School Teachers, Settings & Early Years Practitioners, Trusts

Aimed at

Early Years Foundation Stage, KS1


Early Years, Language Development


Place Based, Whole School

Why was the project needed?

When early years children returned to their school or setting after the national lockdowns, assessments highlighted an increased level of speech, language and communication need. As a result, the Norwich Opportunity Area (NOA) chose to establish the Early Years Covid-19 Recovery Grant Fund to allow schools and settings to apply for additional funding to support this cohort of children effectively. Our aim was that this funding would support children to meet their Early Learning Goals (ELGs) for Communication and Language and support early years transition.

What happened and what was the impact?

There was no initial limit put on the amount of funding that could be requested in order to allow for ‘bigger thinking’. Schools and settings were encouraged to submit applications that took account of sustainability and evidence-based approaches, therefore many schools and settings opted to apply for funding to support new interventions, quality resources and/or additional continuing professional development (CPD).

Applications were then reviewed by the NOA team with support from Early Years Advisors and once approved, grant funding was later released. In some cases, applications were part-approved and in other cases applications were initially denied and applicants were invited to re-submit.  

Following two rounds of funding, 14 applications were received which provided £63,336 of funding to 15 schools and 2 early years settings. Requests for funding centred around the purchase of:

  • Voice 21 Oracy Training   
  • Signalong Training   
  • Early Talk Boost Training & Intervention Pack  
  • Elklan Training  
  • Attention Autism Training  
  • Lego Therapy   
  • Small World resources  
  • Other learning resources for the classroom  
  • Resources to improve the indoor/outdoor communication environment  
  • Staff time to deliver additional intervention   
  • Staff time to run parent café’s  
  • Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) consultancy hours  


After 2 academic terms, each school and setting that requested funding of more than £500, was asked to submit an end of project report. Schools and settings that requested more than £10,000 were also asked to provide an interim report to capture progress and impact data.   

The impact of this grant funding is difficult to measure collectively due to the wide range of projects undertaken. However, the interim and end of project reports do highlight improvements in settings speech and language culture, provision and assessment.

What did and didn't work?

Did work:  

By not setting a financial limit on the funding requests, schools and settings were encouraged to ‘think bigger’. The NOA were pleased to see some partnership applications submitted by schools that were in the same Academy Trust and overall, we were pleased to see a diverse range of requests made. This was particularly 

important to us as we know that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to supporting children’s speech and language needs.   

Did not work: 

During the middle of this project, England imposed their third national lockdown which resulted in many schools and settings being unable to meet their planned project timescales. In some instances, schools and settings had to reschedule planned training and for two schools who had requested funding for additional teaching assistant (TA) hours, these hours had to be rolled over to the next term in an agreed one term extension. The third national lockdown also had implications on schools and settings plans to embed new approaches, cascade training and capture impact data.  

How did you measure success?

At the application stage, each school and setting were required to submit their own success criteria in the form of ‘expected project outcomes’. These expected outcomes, alongside expected outputs, were then written into a monitoring document, which schools and settings used when completing their interim and end of project reports.  

Naturally, those projects that were deemed successful were those that met or exceeded their own success criteria or realised new positive outcomes that were not initially predicted. 


Ingredients For Success

To complete this project successfully, it was important that all schools and settings were able to draw upon their professional knowledge of children’s speech, language and communication needs in order to correctly identify and request the most appropriate types of intervention, resource and support, that would enhance children’s continuing development.  

This project also relied heavily on project management time due to the high level of coordination needed between the 14 lead applicants and the tasks listed below: 

  • The creation and distribution of the application forms 
  • The collation and anonymisation of the completed application forms 
  • The organisation of the multi-agency funding panel 
  • The creation and distribution of panel outcomes and monitoring documents 
  • The time needed to liaise with schools and settings where issues arose 
  • The review of the interim and end of project reports  
  • The time needed to coordinate the distribution of funding 

Lastly, given the nature of this project, a healthy finance budget and support from the finance team was also critical to this project’s success.

Is the Project Complete or Ongoing

The NOA Early Years Covid-19 Recovery Grant Fund project is close to completion, 12 of the 14 projects are complete. We are awaiting 2 more end of project reports.

How is the Project Sustainable

In the grant funding application form, sustainability was one of the seven intervention tests that all planned projects had to meet. Therefore, all projects that were approved and funded, would have met the sustainability standards.  

Examples of how applicants made their projects sustainable include: 

  • Purchasing quality resources or intervention toolkits that will continue to be used beyond the life of the project. 
  • Using a ‘train the trainer’ model to cascade learning to the wider workforce and embed new approaches. 
  • Purchasing external expertise/consultancy to bring about long-term whole-setting change.  

What are the Long Term Impacts

Long-term, we predict that through the use of evidence-based interventions, quality resources, increased staff capacity (where this is able to be maintained) and tailored support, schools and settings will be able to support all children to reach their Early Learning Goals in Communication and Language.

Estimated Costs

This project cost £63,336 to support 15 schools and 2 early years settings.

Area Most Impacted

Speech & Language


Early Years

Next steps to do something similar yourself

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Preparing for Literacy here

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Social and Emotional Learning here

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Parental Engagement here

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Putting Evidence to Work here

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning here

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Improving Maths in the Early Years here

Champions and contacts


Hub Contact Details

Norwich Opportunity Area Team
Norwich Opportunity Area Team
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