The New Zealand Ministry of Education |- Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga was trialling an Oral Language and Literacy initiative (OLLi) to support early literacy and oral language skills among young learners in New Zealand. OLLi was being implemented across 8 regions in New Zealand, and was expected to reach approximately 24,000 children within 800 Early Learning Services from 2018 to 2021. Through specifically trained Speech-language Therapists, the initiative intended to positively influence ELS culture and staff, build confidence and improve practice in terms of building oral language and literacy in children. As a result, children’s oral language and literacy was expected to improve through these engagements that emphasised language sounds, words, structure and complexity.

The Evaluation

Standard of Proof supported the Ministry of Education national and regional teams to test and iterate the design of a cluster-randomised trial to work alongside this initiative throughout the first year. The evaluation is now complete, providing robust evidence within this ‘real-world’ context.

The Lessons

The objectives of this evaluation were to ensure accuracy alongside feasibility and appropriateness within the context in which OLLi was being delivered. To support these objectives, we applied principles from the Real World Evaluation approach during the trial phase. Specifically, the approach provided a framework to identify constraints within the OLLi context as well as strategies to ensure methodological rigour was maintained. The framework focused on time, budget, data and political/contextual constraints inevitable when working in a “real world” context such as OLLi.