Page content

Ulster University is partnering with the Universities of Oxford and Sheffield on a large-scale project to train early years practitioners to support early numeracy, building on previous research which found this to improve children’s later educational attainment.

Co-funded by the Education Endowment Foundation and the Department for Education, 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.

This trial will be the first large-scale evaluation of the ONE programme across 150 settings, and delivered by researchers from Ulster University, University of Oxford and the University of Sheffield.

The ONE Programme 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.

Leading the research at Ulster University, Professor of Developmental Psychology Victoria Simms 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.”

Professor Gaia Scerif, University of Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology, added:

“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.”

For more information, visit: