New speech and language project seeks early years expertise

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A speech and language therapy service is looking for early years settings to be part of a pilot training project involving virtual reality.


The training aims to develop the use of adult-child interaction to boost the speech language and communication skills of children, improve staff observation, and involve parents in home learning.

The project is the brainchild of Iris Speaks, a team of tech entrepreneurs and speech and language therapists, which has been awarded £50,000 to develop a mobile app.

Called Sparkle VR, the app will provide training in five-minute chunks, with interactive features such as quizzes, games, podcasts, plus written and video content.

The team of speech and language therapists who are writing the training are looking for early years staff to help make it relevant as part of a development phase which will involve two workshops in November and March. They then want the staff to use the app in a pilot phase which runs from March to August 2019.

Iris Speaks Speech and Language Therapist Alys Mathers says ‘The issue of how to train teams of staff in communication development skills, then ensure these are applied in day-to-day activities, is a challenge [we] have come across time and time again. 

'Virtual reality and app-style training are starting to be used in gaming and education, and [we] plan to bring this exciting new technology to early years settings.’ 

Staff will receive the app and training in how to use it plus equipment such as virtual reality goggles, and be supported by a specialist speech and language therapist. The impact of the training on the children’s speech, language and communication skills will be gathered via EYFS assessment data.

The practitioners taking part in the training will be interviewed to gauge levels of engagement with the training and its impact on day-to-day practice.

Iris speaks is looking for seven settings, each with 10-15 early years practitioners working within them. It also wants to recruit an additional early years setting manager and practitioner to join a review panel.

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