School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

Staff Profiles

Professor James Law

Professor of Speech & Language Sciences



Originally qualifying with a BA in linguistics from the university of east Anglia, I went on to study Speech and Language Therapy in London. I worked as a speech and language therapist in Hackney, east London for eight years before moving to City University, London in 1989. There I completed by PhD in 1993 and went on to become Head of Department in 1999 and Professor the following year. In 2004 I moved to Edinburgh to set up the Centre for Integrated Healthcare Research. I moved to Newcastle University in January 2010 as Professor of Speech and Language Science.


This is mostly covered under personal information above.

Roles and Responsibilities

My main role is research capacity and capability development within the Speech and Language Sciences Section and beyond. I am particularly interested in increasing the integration of research across the School of Education, Communication and language Sciences and between the Humanities and Social Science Faculty and the Institute of Health and Society in the Medical School to which I am affiliated.


1978 B.A. (Hons) Linguistics 2:1 University of East Anglia at Norwich.
1981 Licentiateship of the College of Speech and Language Therapists.
1993 PhD. City University, London.

Previous Positions

1988 – 1991 Speech and Language Therapist – City and Hackney Health Authority, London.
1989 – 1997 Lecturer, City University, London.
1997 - 2001 Senior Lecturer - Reader, City University, London.
2001 – 2004 Professor, City University, London.
2004 - 2009 Director, Centre for Integrated Healthcare Research, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
2010-01-10 Professor of Speech and Language Science, Newcastle University


1981 Membership of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.

Honours and Awards

2000 Fellowship of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists

2018 Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)


Other than English none at an academic level.


Research Interests

I have two main strands of research expertise
1. Child language research
This can be further divided into:-
a. Systematic Review
I have been involved in carrying out a number of systematic reviews in the area of language and communication. I am editor on the Cochrane Collaboration Developmental, Psychosocial and Behaviour Problems Group. I carried out the first Cochrane review of intervention for children with primary speech and language delays/disorders in 2003 and have since published a review of electropalatography interventions for children with cleft palate. Outside Cochrane I led the Nuffield Speech and Language Review group between 2005 and 2008 producing a review on the relationship between language and behaviour difficulties for the EPPI Centere in London. I have been involved in a recent reanalysis of the data on receptive language interventions which is to be published shortly in the journal Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology.
b. Longitudinal cohort analysis
In 2005 I received a grant form the UK Economic and Social research council to look at the language data in the British Cohort Study with collegues from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies in the Institute of Education, University of London and with Robert Rush, statistician from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. This enabled us to look at the relationship between language performance at school entry through to adulthood and will have led to the publication of four papers over 2009-2011. In each case it is clear that early language performance has a clear impact on subsequent outcomes whether in literacy, employment or mental health, above and beyond non verbal performance and demographic factors. Since then we have started some work on the Millenium Cohort Study and the Growing Up in Scotland study. I have also become a part of the CLICC consortium with colleagues in Australia and the US looking at ways of potentially combining data across large scale powerful cohorts to address key policy questions in the area.
c. Health/Educational Services research
In 2000 I was PI on a national project in England and Wales to examine services of children with speech and language needs. This led to some six publications at the time but perhaps more importantly positiioned to me to be a part of a research team feeding in to the Bercow Review of Services for children with Speech Language and Communication Needs (SLCN). This reported in 2008 and was follwoed by the Better Communication Action Plan late in 2008 and this led to the funding of the £1.5m Better Communication Research Programme. I am currently a part of a team (with professors lindsay (Warwick), Dockrell (London) and Roulstone (Bristol)working on this. This will run through to 2012 with the potential for another two years funding thereafter. The aim is for this work to feed in directly to future policy development in the area of SLCN.

2. Service user research
I have had a number of funded projects looking at the service experiences of people with communication difficulties. This started with a project funded by NHS London Primary Care Initiative looking at the experiences of people with aphasia, learning disabilites and specific lamguage impairment. I then carried out the Aphasia in Scotland project, a review of services for people with aphasia in Scotland, which included a substantive "user" element and most recently I have been working on a project funded by Speakability Scotland on the experience of ICT use as a form of therapy for people with aphasia.And finally I have just completed a review of the perception of the experience of service of "vulnerable healthcare consumers" of whcih those with with communication difficulties are an integral part. This review is to be submitted shortly.

Other Expertise

Out of my work in the field of child language I have developed an interested in the study of cases of extreme deprivation or so called "feral" children. This led to my being involved in the 2003 Optomen Television documentary for Channel 4 Television entitled "Wild child – The story of feral children".

Current Work

Most of this is covered above:- I am working on eight papers currently in a variety of related areas and with three different teams of researchers.
A major part of my research effeort is, at the moment, dedicated to the better communication research programe and specifically my contribution to two of the workstreams, namely that on "Best evidence" and "Economic Evaluation". For the latter I am collaborating with Professor Jenni Beecham of the London School of Economics.
Over the last year I have collected language, literacy and behaviour data from a school in an area of extreme deprivation in Scotland and have been working on its analysis with Robert Rush, statistician form Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. I presented data from this study at the recent Child Language Seminar at City University in London and am working on two papers based upon these data.
Since coming to Newcastle University I have been funded, with Helen Stringer from the Speech and Language Science section and Maria Mroz and Simon Gibbs from Education, to carry out a series of single subject experimental designs looking at the impact of language interventions for behaviour. These will start in the autumn of 2010.
We are just about to complete the re-write of the 2003 Cochrane Review related to interventions for children with primary s[peech and langauge delay/disorder.
I am involved with a public health trial of speech and language therapy intervention in Melbourne, Australia. We have developed the training manual and will be rolling out the intervention over 2010-2011.

Future Research

Each of these strand identified above have potential for future development. For example with colleagues in Scotland i have just submiteed a bid to the Chief Scientist Office for funding of a project looking at relevant outcomes for people with aphasia.
I am currently working on a proposal for "Flexibility and Sustainability Funding" from NIHR with colleagues in Northumbria to analyse available data on a screening procedure with a view to putting in for NIHR funding for a larger scale project in due course.
The BCRP funding will roll forward allowing us to complete aspects of this activity over the next couple of years. This will also lead to the development of new intervention studies, for example the evaluation of "communication friendly" schools which we hope to set up in the coming months.
We are looking into the setting up of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership related to the commissioning of services fo childrenw ith SLCN - a practical extension of the work that we are doing for the Better Communication Research Programme.

Research Roles

I am a member of the School Research Committee.
I am a member of the subject area research committee currently working on a research strategy for the section.
I act as a research mentor for staff with an interest in research into developmental speech and language difficulties.

Postgraduate Supervision

I have one Postdoc researcher, Biao Zeng, who is working with me on the Better communication research programme.
I have supervised three students to completion
2005 - City University, London – Peacey - Growing up with SLI: perceptions of the parents of children with specific language impairment.
2009 – City University, London - Camilleri – The use of dynamic assessment as a means of differentiating children with good and poor language outcomes. (City University, London).
2009 – City University London - Hettarchichi – Parent/child interaction and its relationship to language development in children from the Indian subcontinent (City University, London).
and have three currently underway (or which one, Page, is in the final stage of review corrections)
2010 - Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh - Page – Managing uncertainty in midwifery (QMUE)
Mackie – Language development, behaviour and mental health in primary school children (QMUE).
Mattel – Complex syntax in adolescents (QMUE).
I am just about to start the supervision of Jenna Charlton in an ESRC nominated studentship looking at the observational measurement of language and behaviour in primary school children.
I have examined seven PhD/MPHil students in the UK, in Eire and in Australia.

Esteem Indicators

I am on the editorial board for six journals and provide regular reviews for a number of others.
Between 1998 and 2000 I was a member of the Speech and Language Therapy Working Group – a joint funded body set up by the DfEE and the DoH. This group was reconvened in November 2003.
2003-2004- Representative of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists on the Children's Care Group Workforce Team (CGWT) in the DoH feeding in to the National Service Framework for Children.
2002-2004 - Member of the Education And Workforce Planning Board of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.
Voted one of the top ten Speech and Language Therapists in the UK – Autumn 2002.
Trustee of Connect – The Communication Disability Network 2000-2003.
Honorary Visiting Professor City University, London 2004-
External examiner
o University of Reading 1999-2003.
o University of Newcastle 2005-2009.
On the editorial boards of Child: Language Teaching and Therapy, Child: Care Health and Development, The International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, Evidence-based Communication Assessment and Intervention.
Editor of the Cochrane Collaboration “Developmental psycho-social and behavioural problems group”.
Academic Director Health Services Research Programme NHS Lothian - 2008
Chair of the Advisory group for Enquire – the Scottish service for additional support for learning – 2008.
Lead of the QMU group which successfully bid to be framework contractors for “Better Together” Scotland’s Patient Experience Programme 2008-2011.
Representative of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists on the Scottish Parliamentary Committee on the Health and Sport Committee’s examination of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services – April 2009
Reviewer for
• Canadian Institute for Health Research
• New Zealand Ministry of Education
• The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation
• University of Manchester - RAE
• University of Abertay - RAE
• University College Cork, Ireland
• University of Oulu, Finland
Grant reviews
• Department of Health
• Mental Health Foundation Grant Programme
• Health Technology Assessment Programme
• Economic and Social Research Council
• Medical Research Council
• Nuffield Foundation
• National Institute of Health Research
• Chief Scientist Office, Scotland

Finally I have had a range of contacts with the media. The most significant are the following:-
BBC World Service – 1999 – Children’s Communication Skills and their implications for children who have been abused or neglected.
BBC Today programme – 2001 – A discussion of the role of intervention to accelerate language development in young children.
Channel 4 – 2003 – Optomen Television documentary Wild child – The story of feral children.
Herald Society November 2007 – major feature on Aphasia in the context of the Aphasia in Scotland project funded by NHS QIS.
BBC Radio 3 – 2008 Between the ears: Out of the mouths
Herald January 2009 Front page coverage of report to the Scottish Government on Children with complex needs.


I have either led or been on teams with gratnts worth 2.8m in total
These are listed below with * against those for which I have been Principal Investigator.

1995-1997 - North Thames Regional Health Authority. - An investigation into the value of two different methods of providing intervention to three year old language impaired children and their families in Hackney (£80K).* (with Kot and Barnett).
1997-1998 NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, University of York - Child Health Surveillance - An evaluation of screening for speech and language delay (£50K).* (with Boyle, Nye, Harkness and Harris).
1997-1999 - North Thames Inner City Research R&D Group - A comparison of two methods of identifying pre-school children with language problems - 18 months - (£90K). The overheads for this project went to a Department of Child and Adolescent Health where the project was based. (with Laing, Logan and Levin).
1999-2001 An evaluation of national nursery provision for language impaired children (£100K) funding from the charity ICAN [Invalid Children’s Aid Nationwide].* (with Dockrell).
1999-2000 Speech and language provision in England and Wales – a national survey and examination of the relationship between health and education resources in the provision of services to children with speech and language difficulties, (£130K) funded by both the Department for Education and Employment and the Department of Health.* (with Lindsay, Peacey, Gascoigne and Soloff).
2000 Research Priority setting exercise for the NHS (London) in the field of Communication Disability (£3.7K).* (with Byng and Bunning).
2000 - 2002 DfEE (Sure Start) Promoting speech and language development in Sure Start areas (£38.5K).* (with Roy and Harris).
2002-2003 Promoting partnership: facilitating primary care provision for people with communication disabilities London NHS (E) (£73K)* (with Byng, Bunning and Farrelly).
2002-2003 developing MSc programme with Institute of Education (c100K – main grant holder at IOE).(with Peacey and Dockrell).
2002-2004 - DFES (Sure Start) - Improving Speech and Language Development of Children in Sure Start Areas (£117K).* (with Roy and Harris).
2002-2003 - City and Hackney Primary Care Trust – Consultancy for Speech and Language Therapy Service in City and Hackney PCT (£32K).*
2002-2005 - HEFCE FDTL – Phase Four Case Study material for teaching and learning: CaSTLe (£249K).* (with Canning).
2002 - Nuffield Foundation - Effectiveness of intervention approaches for children with primary speech and language delay: a review of the literature related to children up to sixteen years (£9.5K).* (with Garrett and Nye).
2003 - Forth Valley and Ayrshire Primary Care Trusts research initiative Reducing Health Inequalities Research Programme Improving communication in primary care: the implementation of Health Talk: Count me in in two Primary Care Practices (£15K). * (with van der Gaag).
2004 - Sure Start Unit, DfES - The Sure Start Language Measure (SSLM) Standardisation Study (£56K) * (with Roy).
2004 - Nuffield Foundation - The development of the Nuffield Foundation Speech and Language Review group (£72k)*.
2006 - ESRC – The mediating effect of language and literacy skills on the cycle of disadvantage – following five year olds into adulthood (£100k) (with Schoon, Parsons, and Rush).
2006 - NHS Quality Improvement Scotland – The Aphasia in Scotland Study (109k) (with Pringle, Irving, Huby, Smith, and Conochie).
2007 - NHS Quality Improvement Scotland - Perineal trauma and repair (£36k) * (with Page and Wallace).
2007 -Scottish Executive Social Research – Mapping the NAHP workforce for children and youth people with complex needs in the community (£49k) * (with MacCann, O’May and Buchan).
2007 - Lanarkshire – Review of Parenting services – (£43k) (with Plunkett).
2008 – Department for Child, Families and Schools – The use of resources for children with speech, language and communication needs (£38k) (with Lindsay, Dockrell, Peacey and Desforges).
2008 - NHS Lothian – Examining risk of disability in the Millenium and Growing Up in Scotland birth cohorts (£23k)*(with Woods, Hogg and Rush).
2008 – NHS Lothian – The assessment of vulnerability in public health nursing practice: A user-centred exploration with a focus on the Lothian child concern model (£20k) (with Hogg, Hanley, Kennedy and Mathews).
2009 - NHS Health Scotland - Evaluation of the National roll out of the national Play@home scheme (£148k) (with Mercer and Rush).
2009-2012 – Department for Children Schools and Families - Programme Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) Cost-Effectiveness Research Programme (£1.5m) (with Lindsay, Dockrell and Roulstone).
2009-1010 – Long term Conditions Alliance Scotland - Using computers to enhance the lives of those with aphasia £43,000. (with Macguire and Speakability)
2010-2013 – NHMRC Australia - Improving outcomes of preschool language delay in the community: Randomised trial AUD 890,000 (with Wake, Reilly and others).
2011 – Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty, University of Newcastle for Visiting Professor Reilly from Murdoch Research Centre, Melbourne £4950.
2010 – School for Education, Communication and Language Sciences, Newcastle University Improving the behaviour of primary school children through their communication skills: A pilot case series study £ 12,420 (with Stringer, Gibbs, Mroz and Wiles).

Industrial Relevance

The greater part of my work is of direct relevance to the development of services in the health and education systems.


Not applicable


Undergraduate Teaching

I am involved in teaching undergraduate research design in Years 1 and 2 and also run the Evidence Based Practice course for the fourth year students.
I also have input the writing of Case Reports and Dissertations.

Postgraduate Teaching

I contribute a critical appraisal module to the MSc Evidence Based Practice in Communication Disorders