Our people

Meet the team that helps change young lives.

Our Trustees

We believe that good governance lies at the heart of a flourishing charity. We are a group of volunteers who have a strong commitment to the work of Speech and Language UK. We bring our respective skills to the Board, and act as ambassadors for the charity’s diverse and excellent work with children and young people. We are always looking to strengthen governance. If you might be interested in contributing to our work as trustees, please contact us on info@speechandlanguage.org.uk for a conversation.

Roy Blatchford CBE

Chair of the board

Roy Blatchford has had an extensive career in education, both in the UK and internationally. Over the last forty years, he has been a teacher, headteacher, school governor, government adviser and director of various educational charities. Roy was Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools in England, with responsibilities for school improvement and the national inspection of good and outstanding schools.

Roy is the author/editor of over 150 books, including the best-selling 'The Restless School'. His latest book is 'The A – Z of Great Classrooms’ published by John Catt. Roy was awarded a CBE for services to education in the 2016 New Year Honours.

Duncan Smith


Duncan spent over 20 years with Permira, a global investment firm. From 2010 to 2023 he held the position of Finance Director and was responsible for the execution of the finance function across the firm and Permira Funds in a demanding and results-driven environment. Duncan has a Bachelor of Management Studies (Honours) from the University of Waikato, New Zealand and was a member of Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand (CA ANZ).

Riccardo Basile

Chair of the Social Enterprise Committee

Riccardo is a Principal at Permira, a global private equity fund investing in growing market-leading companies in the consumer, tech, healthcare, financial and industrial sector. Prior to joining Permira, Riccardo was a director at AlixPartners, where he delivered a number of operational turnaround programmes mostly in retail, consumer goods and industrial sectors. Before that, he worked for PwC where he focused on delivering supply chain transformation programmes. Riccardo had previously held line management roles in industry. He holds a MBA and an MEng from Bologna University, in Italy.

Dr Judy Clegg

Chair of Dawn House Governors

Dr Judy Clegg is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Human Communication Sciences at the University of Sheffield, UK. She trained as a speech and language therapist at the University of Manchester and completed a PhD in developmental language disorders at the University of Nottingham.

Judy is the Director of Professional Learning overseeing the clinical degree programmes in speech and language therapy. Her research interests focus on the developmental trajectories and outcomes of children with language and communication needs, the impact of social disadvantage on children’s language and communication development, the complex co-morbidity between children’s social disadvantage, their developing language and communication and their behaviour and mental health, and evaluating the effectiveness of interventions designed to facilitate children and young peoples' language and communication abilities. Judy is also co-editor of the journal 'Child Language Teaching and Therapy'. Further information can be found at www.sheffield.ac.uk/hcs/staff/clegg.

Susan Gregory

Director of Speech and Language UK Services Limited and Board Observer

Sue has decades of experience in the primary phase and was a headteacher for almost 12 years. Following secondment to a local authority, Sue was appointed as one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) in 2000. While at Ofsted, Sue led teams of HMI, developing inspection frameworks, policy, guidance and training materials across early years, schools and children’s centres. Sue held a number of leadership posts at Ofsted, including director responsibility for inspections, schools and early years. During her years as a director, she liaised with the Department for Education, national agencies, ministers and members of the House of Lords.

Sue retired from full-time work as an Ofsted Director and HMI at the end of December 2013 and is now working part-time as an independent education consultant. 

Simon Wright


Co-Founder and Director of Gatehouse Consulting Ltd., a leading internal communications consultancy. Clients include several FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 organisations. Prior to this he spent four years as Chief Operating Officer at Ernst & Young LLP. His interests and experience include digital communications, marketing, and branding. Simon has been a Governor at three schools.

Ann Gross


Recently retired from the civil service following a distinguished career including the last 17 years in senior positions in the Department for Education and prior to that 16 years in the Department for Health. Ann was responsible for strategy and policy on education for disadvantaged children, SEND reforms, mental health, children in care, the Child Poverty Unit and Sure Start Children’s Centres.

Luke Manning


Luke leads the corporate sustainability function for Refinitiv, the global provider of financial market data and infrastructure. In this role he develops Refinitiv’s position as a sustainable and responsible business, to help drive positive environmental and social impact, and chairs Refinitiv Charities.

Formerly a freelance journalist, with work published in the Financial Times, Guardian, Moscow News and the Times, Luke has subsequently specialised in developing and communicating core business strategies with tangible commercial, reputational and social impact. Prior to his current role, Luke worked with a number of global organisations in senior leadership and consulting positions, including Thomson Reuters, Balfour Beatty, Barclays Bank and Kier Group​.

James Willan K.C.


James is a barrister practising from Essex Court Chambers in London. He has over 15 years’ experience of commercial dispute resolution, during which time he has advised and represented a broad range of individuals, businesses and government departments. He was appointed one of His Majesty’s Counsel (K.C.) in 2021. James has supported legal advice and rights charities throughout his career, including as a committee member of the Free Representation Unit and of Citizens Advice.

Julie Dockrell (FRCSLT, FAcSS)


Julie Dockrell (FRCSLT, FAcSS) is Professor of Psychology and Special Needs at the UCL, Institute of Education and qualified as both a clinical and educational psychologist. Her research interests are in patterns of language development and the ways in which oral language skills impact on children's learning, interaction, and attainments.

A central theme in this research has been the application of evidence-based research to support children’s learning through interventions, enhanced language learning environments and professional development.

She has published in a wide range of journals and written books and book chapters on language development and language difficulties. She was the previous editor of the British Journal of Educational Psychology, associate editor for JSLHR and Learning and Instruction.

She was a co-director of the Better Communication Research Programme, UK. She is currently PI on a Nuffield funded research programme examining universal language support for nursery aged children in areas of social disadvantage and Co-I for the Education and Cognition stream for UKRI- GCRF Action against stunting hub.

Narayan Deb


Narayan is an Assistant Principal at Kingsley Academy, London. He has previously worked as a senior leader and teacher at schools in London and Birmingham. Prior to working in education, Narayan worked in the legal industry as a Paralegal.

Narayan is passionate about education, particularly how to develop teachers and leaders in the most challenging contexts. He also has a strong interest in literacy, language and communication and how to develop a culture of reading in schools.

Jean Gross, Trustee of I CAN, 2010 – 2021

Distinguished Fellow of I CAN

Jean Gross’s contribution to children’s speech and language should be seen in terms of major importance to the national development of children’s speech and language, with substantial personal recognition through peer review over a sustained career.

Reaching the unseen children: practical strategies for closing stubborn attainment gaps in disadvantaged groups www.routledge.pub/ReachingTheUnseenChildren

Our Senior Management Team

Meet our Chief Executive, Jane Harris, and the rest of our Senior Management Team.

Speech and Language UK's CEO, Jane Harris, smiling at the camera. Jane is white with short black and green eyes. She is wearing a red top and against a white background.

Jane Harris

Chief Executive

Jane is an experienced and energetic charity sector leader, with 15 years’ experience influencing public policy, building new audiences, and increasing income, raising the profile of and support for third sector organisations including the National Autistic Society, Leonard Cheshire Disability and Rethink Mental Illness.

As an experienced charity leader, Jane has spent her career raising the profile of issues that impact on people’s lives through influencing public policy, building new audiences and increasing income generation. She helped to measurably change public perceptions of mental health and autism.

Carol Payne

Deputy Chief Executive

As Deputy Chief Executive, Carol is responsible for the full portfolio of Speech and Language UK and Communication Trust projects and is leading our team of Lead Advisors, Speech and Language Advisors, Speech and Language UK Associates and Project Support staff.

Carol began her career as a Speech and Language Therapist – working first in Kettering and then West Sussex. She then became Team Leader for the Schools’ Speech and Language Service working for Surrey and Sussex NHS Trust, then was promoted to the role of Speech and Language Therapy Service Manager providing SALT services across Crawley, Horsham and Mid Sussex where she also served as the Allied Health Professional representative on the Professional Executive Committee.

From 2007-2019, Carol was the Head of Special Needs, Disability and Psychology at Wandsworth Borough Council where she led the implementation of the SEND reforms, managing a wide range of professional staff and leading the strategic development of special educational needs and disability provision across the borough.

Neil Maslen

Director of Education

As the senior educationalist in the organisation, Neil’s role is to ensure the very highest quality education in our two schools and provide sector intelligence and professional guidance to work across the organisation that requires educational input. He is also the safeguarding lead for the organisation.

Neil has worked in education for over 20 years, which includes 15 years as a senior leader and headteacher and more recently as a school improvement lead in a large multi-academy trust. His experience spans both the primary and secondary phases and he has supported schools with a range of Ofsted judgements. In addition, he has facilitated on a range of National Professional Qualifications, such as the NPQML, NPQSL and NPQLT.

Louisa Reeves

Director of Policy and Evidence

Louisa leads on Speech and Language UK’s policy and public affairs strategy. Working to ensure that politicians and senior decision makers know about the importance of talking and understanding words to children’s futures. She combines her experience as a speech and language therapist and her knowledge of the organisation to ensure that we talk about speech and language challenges and their solutions with authority and expertise to a wide range of influencers as well as partner organisations. She also leads on ensuring that we take an evaluative approach to all our work, making sure our tools and training are evidence informed and thoroughly evaluated.

Samir Afhim

Director of Fundraising, Marketing and Communications

Samir is a successful and transformative charity leader with an extensive history of delivering sustainable income generation, digital maturity, infrastructure, and culture change.

Samir is highly experienced in strategy development with extensive experience of leading strategy review processes and ensuring with key stakeholders across, governance, staff, and beneficiary/supporters.

He is also an expert in infrastructure renovation delivering the digital transformation and full systems/process/culture change at multiple organisations, through user centred design and agile project management methodologies.

Career highlights include outperforming income budget by £2 million during the pandemic by developing and embedding a digital first agile approach to development delivery across the charity as Director of Fundraising and Communications at Freedom from Torture and tripling income and delivering a completely new systems infrastructure as Director of Income Generation at Crohn's and Colitis UK.

Sarah Pearson

Director of Finance and IT

Sarah is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and holds the ICAEW diploma in charity accounting. She has specialised in charities and not-for-profit entities for over twenty years, beginning her career in accountancy and audit practice, and then moving after qualifying to work directly in the not-for-profit sector.

Sarah has extensive experience of working in leadership roles encompassing both financial and other operational aspects within diverse and growing charities. She has particular experience in managing change, financial strategy, investments, and large-scale capital projects.

Jenny McConnell

Principal, Dawn House

Jenny is a speech and language therapist and joined Dawn House School in 1993 having worked in the NHS for 6 years. Jenny helped to design the collaborative working model that we use today to meet the academic, social and language needs of our children so effectively.

Jenny later became a Speech and Language Therapy co-ordinator in school and then Head of Therapy. During this time Jenny gained further leadership qualifications and was appointed Principal in 2017. Jenny is passionate about ensuring that children with speech, language and communication needs get the support that they need.

Majella Delaney

Principal, Meath

Majella is a qualified primary school teacher who taught in Ireland for seven years before moving to London to gain more experience and challenge herself in her field. She has taught in a range of urban and rural schools in both mainstream and special education. She is also a qualified SENCo and has completed the National Professional Qualification for senior leaders and has a range of experience in middle and senior leader positions. Before joining Meath school, she was Vice Principal for Inclusion in a large mainstream school with specialist resource provision for Speech, language and communication which gained accreditation as a centre of excellence for Inclusion and is currently a flagship school for inclusion. She joined Meath in September 2020 as Deputy Headteacher and was appointed Principal in October 2022.