Who We Are

Heather van der Lely

The Heather van der Lely Foundation Trust is a charity that makes grants for academic research in the area of developmental language impairment. It is the legacy of late Professor Heather van der Lely, a professor of Developmental Language Disorders and Cognitive Neuroscience.

Heather created the Trust with two aims:

  1. To promote the Grammar and Phonology Screening (GAPS) test, to ensure that all children in the United Kingdom are screened and tested for specific language impairment (SLI) and dyslexia when starting school; and
  2. To create a research fund for basic research on developmental language impairments, specific language impairment (SLI) and dyslexia.

Heather intended her legacy to further the quest for solutions about the nature of interventions that best succeed in helping children with developmental language impairments.

Who Are the Present Trustees and What is their Role?

Chair- Dr Hilary Gardner

Treasurer - Mr Graham van der Lely

Secretary - Mrs Monica Uden

Trustee - Dr Jo Taylor

Trustee - Claire Durrant

Scientific/Academic Advisor- Prof Rhona Stainthorp.

The minimum number of Trustees is 2 and the maximum is 11. At present there are six trustees for the foundation.

Biographies of Key Personnel

Hilary Gardner

Hilary Gardner met Professor Heather van der Lely when they were both studying for an MSc at the Institute of Neurology, University of London in the early 1980s. .  Fellow Trustee Professor Rhona Stainthorp  also studied here and the three became not just colleagues but firm friends. Hilary went on to combine clinical practice with a part time academic career for 15 years at the University of Sheffield, and she still holds an honorary senior lectureship there. 

Hilary has been a Speech and Language Therapist for many years, qualifying in 1978, working predominantly with children and young adults with developmental language disorders, speech difficulties and autism. She has provided a service in all types of settings; firstly in community and hospital clinics then in mainstream schools and language units. More recently she has worked as part of a multidisciplinary team in an independent practice.

Having been actively involved as a Council member at both the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, and at the Association of SLTs in Independent Practice,  Hilary latterly took up an administrative position with the AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) charity 'Communication Matters'.  Hilary has also served as a trustee on small local charities supporting wildlife and natural burial.

Her research interests included Conversation Analysis of therapy interactions and other adult/communication impaired child dyads.  Having a strong clinical interest in developmental language disorders and the  nature of Specific Language Impairment (grammatical and mathematical processing), she worked with Professor van der Lely to standardise the GAPS (grammar and phonology screening test). However her strongest interest lay in exploring interactional outcomes of intervention in children and adults undergoing training from SLTs as well as the quality of provision within education for children with language and communication needs; making inclusion and collaborative practice work, especially in the international context.  Hilary supervised PhD projects in a study of collaborative SLT/teacher practice to enhance inclusion in a Sri Lankan school, Conversation Analysis of interactions with typical children and those with autism in a Malaysian context, Working with Parents during Speech and Language Therapy for Speech Sound Difficulties, Pragmatic Characteristics of 4-5 year old Saudi Arabian males with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) amongst others.

Graham van der Lely

Graham brings considerable business experience to the Trust. He is trained  in Commercial Horticulture and runs his own business and is also involved in  the Equine industry. For nine years he was Vice Chair of a large grower owned co-operative supplying all the major supermarkets in the UK.

His experience of education and academia comes through experience on several governing bodies:  as a governor of The University of the West of England and a governor of Hartpury College, a large land based college which achieved “Outstanding” status during his 9 year tenure as Chair. The college is currently seeking University title and developing it's research strategies.

Graham has 27 years of experience in governance having chaired audit, remuneration ,finance and other committees in FE and sat on audit, finance and strategic planning and performance committees in HE.

In the education sphere he is the treasurer and trustee of a Church of  England  School charitable trust  and consequently, having know Heather van der Lely for many years, is offering his support and experience  by becoming a trustee of the Heather van der Lely Foundation trust. 

Monica Uden

Monica Uden trained as a teacher and taught in a primary school in London before I had my family. Her second daughter has cerebral palsy and learning difficulties and experience as a parent led her to special schools. The 1980’s was a very interesting time in special education with much innovative work going on in London schools. Monica led curriculum innovation and developed my interest in and skills working with pupils who had speech, language and communication difficulties. At Brent Knoll School, as Headteacher, she had the opportunity to develop further develop the provision for pupils with autism and in response to the need to establish new models of provision, to set up the language resource for pupils with specific language difficulties. When the opportunity to lead at Dawn House School, (a specialist ICAN residential and day provision for Speech Language and Communication difficulties) Monica  was delighted to go and work there. It was an interesting time in the development of provision and Monica contributed to the development of ICAN’s training programme, regularly delivering courses around the country and was a member of the senior leadership team for the charity, developing their role and influence in improving provision for pupils with SLI. This role frequently involved working with the Department for Education.

However the most exciting aspect of this role was the work that we did at the school, bringing teachers, speech and language therapists and care staff together to deliver collaboratively in order to meet the needs of the pupils. Developing collaborative practice entailed breaking down the barriers that professionals build around their ‘’expertise’ and convincing each group that through collaboration they could deliver better outcomes for pupils in terms of their learning, the development of their speech, language and communication skills and their social and personal development.

Monica left Dawn House at the end of 2002 and moved to a community special school in North Yorkshire. At The Forest School she worked with the community speech and language therapy service to replicate the model of collaborative practice we developed at Dawn House School to meet the needs of the growing numbers of pupils with complex language and communication needs and autism who were being referred. This presented significant challenges with two part-time therapists instead of ten as at Dawn House. The Forest School became a specialist College for Communication and Interaction.  She retired from Headship in 2010 after 21 years leading three outstanding schools and worked for the last 5 years as an independent adviser to special schools in Leeds, Bradford, Barnsley and Kirklees as well as being on the strategic committee for the LACIC postgraduate courses for SLCN at Sheffield University, where she met Hilary Gardner.

Rhona Stainthorp

Rhona is a professor at the University of Reading. Her role in the Trust is founded on a long professional association with other members of the board. She studied at Masters level, alongside Hilary Gardner and Heather van der Lely, at the Institute of Neurology, University of London in the 1980s. Having taught for many years on PGCE and postgraduate level courses in Education, her interests include the development of reading and writing, notably individual differences in reading and writing, including precocious ability and children with learning difficulties. Research areas most recently include a longitudinal investigation of Rapid Automatized Naming performance and its relationship to reading: the role of orthographic processing and investagations into orthographic processes and their relation to reading in children with rapid automatized naming deficits. Rhona continues to work promoting good literacy teaching practice both here and abroad.

Dr Jo Taylor

Dr Jo Taylor is a Lecturer in Language and Cognition, in the School of Psychology and Language Sciences at University College London.‎  As an undergraduate at the University of Oxford, Jo was fascinated by Heather van der Lely’s work and this contributed to her decision to undertake a PhD supervised by Professor Kate Nation, in which she used artificial languages to study the development of language and reading.

Jo’s research continues to investigate the cognitive and neural bases of language and literacy learning, combining behavioural and brain imaging methods.  She has previously worked at the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, Royal Holloway, University of London and Aston University.  Funding bodies for her work include ‎the Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, British Academy, Leverhulme Trust, and the Royal Society.

Claire Durrant

Claire worked as a social researcher in large research agencies for around 30 years, including on projects for government departments, universities, the media and voluntary organisations.  She has also worked as a freelance social researcher.  In 2013, she returned to education to study for a Masters in Childhood and Youth Studies at the University of Sussex and is now in the third year of an ESRC-funded PhD.

Through her experiences as the mother of two boys – one with Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia and severe dyslexic difficulties and one with mild dyslexic difficulties – she has become particularly interested in the emotional impact that these difficulties can have on children and young people’s emotional well-being.  The title of her thesis is ‘A sociological study of the emotional well-being of children and young people with severe dyslexic difficulties in mainstream education’.

Claire had also worked as a Research Fellow at the University of Sussex in the Department of Social Work and Social Care; her role was to support the development and implementation of an impact strategy for the 'See Me, Hear Me' Pilot and Evaluation.  She has also been a trustee of the Brighton Table Tennis Club, where she was responsible for obtaining charitable status.

Chloë Marshall

Prof. Chloë Marshall is a Professor in Psychology, Language and Education at the UCL Institute of ‎Education, University College London.‎ Heather van der Lely was CHloe's supervisor at PhD level and continued to be a mentor and friend for years afterwards.  Prof. Marshall’s background is in biology, Montessori education, linguistics, and psychology. She ‎has a particular preference for collaborative research. Funding bodies for these projects include ‎the British Academy, Leverhulme Trust, Economic and Social Research Council, Education ‎Endowment Foundation, and the UCL/IOE Strategic Partnership.

The Trustees and their Mission

The Trustees have the following powers which may be exercised only in promoting the Objects of the charity

  • To promote research and publish the useful results of such research;
  • To commission, promote, publish, distribute or sell books, facsimiles, photographs, models and publications of every description;
  • To provide, promote, sponsor and organise lectures, discussions, exhibitions and other like events;
  • To act in collaboration with any person, body, institution or authority;
  • To appeal for and accept donations, subscriptions, legacies or other payments to be held upon trust for the purposes of the Charity provided that in raising funds the Trustees shall not undertake any permanent trading activities other than directly in pursuit of the Objects;
  • To make contributions, as they may think fit, towards, or otherwise assist (and whether out of capital or income), any charitable trust, institution or body having objects similar to the Objects;
  • To exercise all the powers of an absolute beneficial owner in relation to the disposition, development and improvement of any land held by the Charity (but only in accordance with the restrictions imposed by the Charities Act 2011), provided that in doing so the Trustees shall not be bound to maintain any building or other structure on land held by the Charity or to preserve or repair any chattels held by the Charity;
  • To transfer land held by the Charity to such other charitable body or bodies, having objects the same as or similar to the Objects, on such terms as the Trustees shall in their discretion think fit;
  • To apply any money to be invested in the purchase of or at interest upon the security of such shares, stocks, funds, securities, land, buildings, chattels or other investments or property of whatever nature and wherever situate, and whether involving liabilities or producing income or not, as they think fit (but to invest only after obtaining advice from a financial expert, unless the Trustees reasonably conclude that in all the circumstances it is unnecessary or inappropriate to do so, and having regard to the suitability of investments and the need for diversification);
  • To borrow on the security of all or any part of the property of the Charity or otherwise for any purpose (but only in accordance with the restrictions imposed by the Charities Act 2011);
  • To establish funds for particular purposes or to maintain reserves;
  • To insure all or any part of the property of the Charity against any risk, for any amount and on such terms as they think fit;
  • To employ any person or firm to manage to assist in managing the day‑to‑day running of the Charity as the Trustees may in their discretion from time to time determine and upon such terms and at such remuneration as the Trustees think fit; and
  • To do anything else within the law which promotes or helps to promote the Objects.

Key Publications and Examples of Heather's Work

  • van der Lely, H. K. J. (2005). Domain-specific cognitive systems: Insight from Grammatical Specific Language Impairment. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 9, 53–59. Google ScholarCrossrefMedline
  • van der Lely, H. K. J., Battell, J. (2003). Wh-movement in children with grammatical SLI: A test of the RDDR Hypothesis. Language, 79, 153–181. Google ScholarCrossref
  • van der Lely, H. K. J., Jones, M., Marshall, C. R. (2011). Who did Buzz see someone? Grammaticality judgements of wh-questions in typically developing children and children with Grammatical-SLI. Lingua, 121, 408–422. Google ScholarCrossrefMedline
  • van der Lely, H. K. J., Pinker, S. (2014). The biological basis of language: Insight from developmental grammatical impairments. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11, 586–595. Google ScholarCrossref
  • van der Lely, H. K. J., Ullman, M. (2001). Past tense morphology in specifically language impaired children and normally developing children. Language and Cognitive Processes, 16, 177–217. Google ScholarCrossref

The Grammar and Phonology Screen ‘GAPS’ assessment is available from STASS Publications


Two papers on GAPS are:

  • Development of the Grammar and Phonology Screening (GAPS) test to assess key markers of specific language and literacy difficulties in young children. Gardner H, Froud K, McClelland A, van der Lely HK.  Int J Lang Commun Disord. 2006 Sep-Oct;41(5):513-40.
  • An investigation to validate the grammar and phonology screening (GAPS) test to identify children with specific language impairment (2011).  van der Lely HK, Payne E, McClelland A. PLoS One. 2011; 6(7):e22432.
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The Heather van der Lely Foundation Trust is a UK registered charity, number: 1168658.

Postal address: PO box 194 Knaresborough HG5 5BS.