Children with Speech Sound Disorders in Primary Schools: Views, Attitudes and Experiences of Children, Families, and Educators

   School of Allied Health Professions, Nursing and Midwifery

  ,  Wednesday, June 26, 2024  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project description:

Primary school years are a vital time in children’s development, with implications for their educational outcomes, quality of life, and society. Although most children are competent communicators by the age they enter school, some do not have age-equivalent speech and language skills. Speech Sound Disorder (SSD) is an umbrella term that includes different subtypes of speech disorders, which negatively impact the acquisition of speech sounds in a child’s language and affect the intelligibility and comprehensibility of the child’s speech. Prevalence estimates range between 2.3% and 24.6% of children. Children with SSD are at an increased risk for literacy difficulties, are more likely to require additional support at school, experience frustration and are more likely to be bullied. Thus, primary school can be difficult for children with SSD, yet there has been little investigation of the views, attitudes, and experiences of children with SSD and their parents/carers in this context in the UK.

SLT services are integrated into schools in countries such as the UK but lengthening waiting lists, increased population need post-COVID, generally overstretched services and workforce vacancies, make accessing appropriate SLT services difficult and limit SLT services for many children with SSD. At the same time, educators, although playing a major role in supporting children’s educational, social, and emotional development, have reported that they feel unprepared for supporting children with SSD and more research is needed concerning their perspective in this area. Research in the primary school context is also necessary for informing the development of SLT service delivery models and classroom practices that encourage positive learning environments and provide learning experiences that enable inclusion of children with SSD as well as supporting their needs

This PhD project therefore aims to investigate the views and attitudes towards talking, and the schooling experiences of children with SSD in UK primary schools, their families and educators. More specifically, the project will explore the views, attitudes and schooling experiences of 60 primary school children with SSD cross-sectionally (10 per year group from Reception to Year 5 at the first testing point (t1)). It will also investigate the relationship between children's views, attitudes and experiences; their age/year group; their speech accuracy (severity of SSD); level of SLT received; family-reported intelligibility and participation; and parent/carer as well as teacher views and experiences. Changes over time in views, attitudes or experiences will be explored longitudinally by following-up child and carer/family participants 1 year later (t2), when participating children are in Year 1 to Year 6.

If you have any questions or are planning to submit an application, please contact the first supervisor (Dr Silke Fricke: ).

The Faculty of Health is offering a number of scholarships for the academic year 2024/5 for eligible students. This project is being considered for the Faculty, PGT>PGR and Underrepresented Student scholarship schemes. You do not need to apply more than once as your application will automatically be considered for all scholarships based on your eligibility criteria. Please see below for any additional requirements. 

Students worldwide are welcome to apply but will need to fund the overseas fee difference of around £24,000 per year but will not be eligible for the Underrepresented Student scheme.


We are accepting applications from current and past (who have graduated in 2022 & 2023) PGT students from the Faculty of Health.

Underrepresented Student

We are accepting applications for the University of Sheffield Research Scholarships for Black or Black British (of African or Caribbean heritage), Asian or Asian British (of Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian heritage) or multiple ethnic background including one of the ethnicity groups listed above.  

The University of Sheffield is committed to increasing opportunities in doctoral research for particular minoritised students who are currently under-represented in our postgraduate research student population.

Candidates will be required to complete a declaration form and upload it to their application. Applicants with overseas fee status are NOT eligible for these awards.

How to apply:

Please complete a University Postgraduate Research Application form available here: Candidates applying for the BAME scheme will be required to complete a declaration form and upload it to their application.

Please clearly state the prospective main supervisor in the respective box and select ‘School of Allied Health Professionals, Nursing & Midwifery’ as the department.

Proposed start date:

October 2024

Entry Requirements:

Candidates must have a first or upper second class honours degree or significant research experience. 

Additional requirements:

The PhD is suited to candidates with an academic background in Speech and Language Therapy, Applied Linguistics, Psychology, or Education.

The following would be an advantage: a) knowledge of speech development and speech sound disorders in children, b) knowledge of the International Phonetic Alphabetic including transcription skills, c) experience of working with and conducting assessments and interviews with children and adults, d) experience of collaborating with schools.

Medicine (26) Psychology (31)

Funding Notes

The scholarships cover tuition fees and a tax-free stipend at the UKRI rate (£19,237 for students starting in October 2024), as well as a training and development allowance.


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