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A programme integrating early numeracy and executive functions found evidence of more progress for children who took part than children who did not. A large follow up evaluation will now test this integrative programme at scale.

The 'Orchestrating Numeracy and the Executive' (The 'ONE') programme bridges educators’ needs and recent evidence, to train early years practitioners to support early numeracy and executive functions together. The ONE programme trains practitioners to embed executive function challenge into maths learning through fun activities in classrooms. The programme was co-developed with insightful practitioners at early settings across Oxfordshire, as well as a worldwide research team including: Gaia Scerif (University of Oxford), Rosie O'Connor (University of Oxford), Sylvia Gattas (University of Oxford), Rebecca Merkley (Carleton University), Steven Howard (University of Wollongong, Australia), Zach Hawes (OISE, Toronto), Vic Simms (Ulster University), Kathy Sylva and Ted Melhuish (Oxford), Emma Blakey (University of Sheffield).

The ONE was recently evaluated in a study assessing its feasibility and acceptability, supported by the Nuffield Foundation. Results from that study suggest that children who took part in the programme made more progress in numeracy skills and some executive function skills than children who did not take part in the programme. The study findings also indicate that progress was larger for children experiencing economic disadvantage, that practitioners found that the activities worked well for the children, and that practitioners were able to deliver the expected number of activities each week. You can find the evidence basis from the feasibility study here and on the Nuffield Foundation site here.

A new larger scale project, delivering and evaluating The ONE in 150 settings, has just been co-funded by the Education Endowment Foundation and the Department for Education’s Stronger Practice Hubs, together with other early years programmes, as a major part of the increased focus on support for the early years sector. All the newly funded projects will be independently evaluated, representing a significant contribution to the early years evidence base.

This trial will be the first large-scale evaluation of the ONE programme. The programme will be delivered by researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Sheffield. The lead investigators are Gaia Scerif (University of Oxford), Emma Blakey (University of Sheffield) and Victoria Simms (Ulster University). At Oxford, the team is made up of Rosie O'Connor and Caroline Korell. At Sheffield, the team is made up of Toni Loveridge and Carmel Brough. The independent evaluation will be conducted by RAND Europe.

Professor Gaia Scerif of the University of Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology said 'This new project is exciting because it builds on evidence and theory, but crucially stems from collaborating with early years educators. In particular, we aim to give children experiencing economic disadvantage more evidence-based opportunities to develop their early numeracy skills.'

Dr Emma Blakey, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology , said: 'Our recent studies have highlighted the crucial role executive functions play in early maths. This programme has brought together a team of international academics and early years practitioners to develop a programme of activities that are not only fun for children, but follow a sound evidence base in supporting core cognitive skills and early numeracy. We are excited to roll this out on a larger scale and hope the programme will support early learning, particularly for the most disadvantaged children.'

Professor Victoria Simms of Ulster University said: 'Our research team are passionate about developing and evaluating evidence-based interventions, in collaboration with early years educators, that aim to improve children’s outcomes. We are excited to begin this large-scale trial addressing the needs of early educators and supporting their personal development, that in turn should increase children’s numeracy skills. We look forward to working with in many settings and understanding what works for early numeracy learning!'

Interested schools and settings can go to the project website to find out more.