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Early Years Implementation Leads

Early Years practitioners in 13 x EY settings benefitted from ring-fenced time to access intensive training; planning, delivering and evaluating projects to improve early numeracy/literacy outcomes for children.

Projects helped to: enhance staff subject knowledge, increase the quality and range of learning resources & equipment in settings, improve teaching & learning, provide targeted intervention support and ultimately to help further children’s development in key early literacy and numeracy skills.


Settings & Early Years Practitioners

Aimed at

Early Years Foundation Stage


Early Years, Language Development, Literacy


Student/Family Support, Whole School

Why was the project needed?

National Data indicated that disadvantaged children across Ipswich were underperforming at the Early Years Foundation Stage, compared to their non-disadvantaged peers. Some EY settings required stronger skills and additional capacity to identify, implement and evaluate the right interventions to drive rapid improvements in early literacy/numeracy.

What happened and what was the impact?

What Happened:

12 x EY practitioners across 13 x EY settings were designated as “Early Years Implementation Leads” (EYILs), benefitting from ring-fenced release time out of ratio, accessing training and support to identify a specific area of challenge within their setting and identify appropriate, evidence-based approaches to progress children’s early literacy/numeracy development, leading to improved outcomes.

After completing foundation training, EYILs each submitted robust action plans, once signed-off, they were able to access £2,000 grants to support them in achieving their implementation outcomes. Leads then began delivering the key ingredients of their plans (which were closely aligned to overarching priorities within their settings) including: devising timetables for intervention groups, redesigning parts of the curriculum, arranging in-house staff training, creating engaging numeracy/literacy learning zones within their settings and providing coaching support to colleagues.

Throughout the year, leads provided termly progress updates and continued to meet regularly during network sessions, sharing learning and expertise.

In the summer term, EYILs produced cascading learning action plans, setting out their intended approach, ensuring that gains from their projects were sustainably embedded across the whole setting.

The Impact:

EY Setting Managers reported:

  • It has been beneficial for settings to have an individual closely focused on early literacy/numeracy.
  • High levels of confidence that the EYIL would help their setting to secure improved early literacy/numeracy outcomes, than would otherwise have been the case.
  • Improved maths provision and enhanced teaching of early literacy.
  • The project enabled settings to address previously identified priorities, which would have been unfeasible without the additional capacity and funding.


Early Years Implementation Leads reported:

  • The training and network meetings were useful, relevant, appropriately paced and engaging. Having recordings of sessions was appreciated, as EYILs could look back on these and share them with other practitioners in setting.
  • Staff in settings felt genuinely excited and motivated about the new literacy/numeracy projects; empowered staff were provided with a voice and platform to share top tips and suggested changes.
  • Ring-fenced time out of ratio enabled EYILs to make positive changes, implement improved practice, support staff and model effective strategies.
  • EYILs planned for and implemented activities which engaged and challenged children, including introducing & teaching new skills and extending learning, leading to improved relationships and increased confidence amongst the children.
  • Resources and revamped learning environments supported provided children with extensive open-ended learning opportunities, including “borrow bags” which created a learning link with families.
  • The opportunity to identify practitioners’ strengths & weaknesses and evaluate staff literacy & numeracy skills; this provided invaluable information for improving practice within settings.
  • Capacity to assess all children and have a confident overview of where they were working at and which interventions were needed to support their learning & development.
  • Increased ability to recognise things that weren’t working effectively within setting and having the time and resources to make changes to implement improved practice.
  • Opportunities to exchange knowledge and ideas with other EYILs.

What did and didn't work?


Training was firmly rooted in EEF guidance on the principles of effective implementation and evaluation, early communication, SEND, supporting children’s early reading/writing and early numeracy, parental engagement andcascading learning.

The virtual delivery model proved to be very popular with EYILs, enabling them to log in from their setting, eliminating the need to travel to/from a training venue and therefore minimising required release time from ratios.

Following the successful delivery of foundation training from the Research School, EYILs were equipped with the skills and knowledge to effectively implement and track the impact of their projects.

Survey data found:

  • 85% felt the quality of training was good/excellent
  • 79% felt the amount & frequency of training was about right
  • 73% felt the training was appropriate to their needs


Network Meetings:

EYILs noted the many benefits of coming together regularly to collaborate, share learning and expertise. Leads found that network meetings were most useful in supporting them with drafting action plans, selecting appropriate intervention approaches, identifying suitable training providers, increasing staff buy-in and monitoring impact.

EYILs formed an active community of like-minded professionals, regularly meeting to share their experiences and gain support.

Survey data found:

  • 82% were keen that the network continues beyond 21-22
  • 68% felt that the opportunity to be part of a network was quite important, 20% felt this was very important


Project Timeline:

The planning and delivery timeline for the project proved to be hugely successful. EYILs were identified, and their ring-fenced release time agreed with setting managers in May/June 2021, prior to beginning their roles in September 2021. This meant that leads across all participating settings were free to attend training and network sessions throughout the year, which aided collaboration.

EYIL reported that ring-fenced time enabled them to undertake duties which were invaluable to the success of their projects, which enhanced the quality of teaching & learning and helped improve outcomes for children.

The training calendar was shaped in partnership with the Research School Network, with delivery of sessions beginning in September 2021.

Impact of Covid:

High levels of staff absences proved challenging, meaning that EYILs were sometimes absent from work, needed in ratio during their ring-fenced EYIL time or unable to conduct face-to-face collaborative activities as originally planned due to social-distancing.

How did you measure success?

Levels of Engagement with Research Evidence:

EYILs provided a baseline assessment followed by termly updates indicating:

  • The extent to which they engage with research evidence in education
  • Confidence in using research evidence to inform their planning, teaching & learning
  • Confidence in effectively implementing & evaluating new projects in their setting

 Spring data indicated that EYILs are now far more likely to engage with research evidence in education (increasing from 50% to 85%).

Compared to the baseline, EYILs’ confidence levels in using research evidence to inform planning, teaching and learning continued have continued to rise, alongside confidence in implementing and evaluating new projects effectively.

Aggregated Milestone/Pupil Outcome Data:

EYILs were required to indicate implementation milestones, evaluation milestones and pupil outcomes within their action plans. Individual EYILs reported back the extent to which their milestones/outcomes had been met, which were then aggregated to measure success of the overall project.

Spring data indicated:

  • 32% of leads had fully met their implementation milestones
  • 54% were making good progress towards their implementation milestones
  • 1 lead had fully met their pupil outcomes, with a further 93% either making good progress/some progress towards these


Survey Responses:

We surveyed EYILs and found:

  • 97% felt their action plans and training would have an impact on the quality of project implementation & outcomes for children
  • 94% were confident in their own ability to achieve the aims set out in their plan to cascading learning from the EYIL project
  • 85% felt their role had set the foundations for strong implementation in their setting for future years


We surveyed managers of participating settings and found:

  • 100% felt confident that their EYIL would be able to share learning from their project across their setting
  • 90% reported that the EYIL role had set the foundations for strong implementation in their setting for future years


Ingredients For Success

  • A calendar of virtual training planned & delivered by the Research School Network.
  • A calendar of virtual network meetings arranged & facilitated by the Ipswich Opportunity Area’s Project Leadand Ipswich Associate Research School’s Coordinator.
  • Evidence Leads in Education (part of the Research School Network), deployed to provide 1:1 support to EYILs, e.g. assisting with drafting and refining action plans.
  • An EYIL padlet: an online repository for recordings of training & network sessions, EEF guidance reports and other resources.
  • £22,750 total costs for 13 x EYIL including: staff release costs (0.5 days per week, 1 academic year), a £2,000 grant per setting (to purchase training/resources), Research School training fees and Evidence Lead in Education deployment fees

Is the Project Complete or Ongoing

The project is ongoing – EYILs will benefit from ring-fenced release time until the end of the academic year 21-22. Beyond this, the EYIL network will continue to meet, facilitating collaboration between settings, as well as accessing training and guidance from the Research School Network and Teaching School Hubs.

How is the Project Sustainable

Having accessed intensive training in the principles of effective implementation, EYILs are now equipped with the skills & knowledge to:

  • Undertake thorough needs analysis
  • Produce action plans including appropriate interventions/approaches
  • Accurately measure progress and evaluate impact


These foundations for strong implementation will benefit setting for years to come, to help drive improvements in children’s early literacy/numeracy development, through better and more evidence-based practice.

A keen focus on cascading learning has ensured that key learning from the project has been shared more widely, leading to improved subject knowledge and levels of confidence amongst other staff in participating settings.

The EYIL network will continue beyond 21-22, with active support and engagement from the Research School Network and Teaching School Hubs.

What are the Long Term Impacts

It is expected that over time, improvements in staff subject knowledge and self-confidence, teaching & learning and engagement with children will lead to improved EYFS outcomes.

See how others have implemented this Big Idea

Developing literacy and numeracy teaching in an EY setting - Nature Den Nursery

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Implementing Maths into the Early Years Setting - ABC Childcare

Developing Literacy and Maths - Wigwams Nursery

Improving Literacy Skills - Early Years @ Highfield Whitehouse

Improving Maths as an Early Years Implementation Lead - Happy Tots Pre-School

Supporting Early Literacy - Rainbow Bright Nursery

Maths in Action - Little Learners Nursery

Developing early numeracy and literacy - Daisy Chain Pre-School

Improving mathematical and literacy development in all areas of learning - Sunflowers Preschool, Ipswich

Improving Early Literacy - The Children's Triangle Nursery

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