US and Reading teacher educators have joined forces with UK multilingual primary schools to improve teaching for children whose home languages are not English. By coaching teachers to talk less, and let their children talk more, teaching has become more intentionally conversational and multilingual children have found their voices.

Children whose first language is not English may make less progress than their English-speaking peers but there is limited professional development to support teachers in the practices that address this.

A unique partnership between Professor Naomi Flynn, Indiana University’s Professor Annela Teemant, and Aspire Community Trust schools in Southampton tackled both challenges. With PhD student Aniqa Leena and Reading’s Professor Suzanne Graham, they adapted and tested Teemant’s Enduring Principles of Learning (EPL) approach which encourages teachers to design classroom activities which are talk-rich and culturally sustaining.

After a pilot EPL professional learning project in 2019/20, Flynn observed improved teaching and pupil engagement in Headteacher partner Emma Kerrigan-Draper’s Southampton school of 98% multilinguals. This fostered the four-school 2022 Talk-Rich Teaching Project, where test results showed that where teachers used the UK adaptation of the EPL this boosted multilingual children’s English speaking, listening and reading skills.

Involving schools’ staff as equal partners was critical to the project’s success because schools need professional learning bespoke to their settings. Project outcomes will inform the design of a toolkit for upscaling rollout of school-led, sustainable change for enhancing multilingual children’s educational success. Internationally the project continues as a two-way trans-Atlantic collaboration seeking solutions to shared educational challenges.

“Now our children are routinely described as being strong orators, articulate children, who increasingly are transferring those skills into their reading, writing and other curriculum outcomes.” — Emma Kerrigan-Draper, Headteacher

Judges' comment

“An impressive project, using the insights and expertise of the various collaborators to their fullest, that has far-reaching implications for learners across the nation and globe.”


  • Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
  • Mount Pleasant Junior School, Southampton
  • Aspire Community Trust, Southampton


  • Fulbright US/UK Commission
  • University of Reading Research Fellowship