After a first degree in mathematics at the University of Cambridge, I took an MSc in Experimental Psychology at the University of Sussex. Following my PhD on learning at the University of Cambridge I was offered a lectureship at the University of Sheffield, where I have stayed ever since. My lifelong interest is in learning, and I have enjoyed the opportunity to make contributions both to research and practice. I was awarded a Personal Chair in 1996. Following a much appreciated year's Senior Fellowship awarded by the Royal Society / Leverhulme Trust, I was Head of Psychology for four years, completing the extended term of office in August 2004. I also completed an MBA in strategic planning in 2005. I was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Pure Science in 2005.
My interests are in dyslexia and developmental learning disabilities, and these started in the late 1980s, when (with Angela Fawcett) I started investigating learning processes in dyslexia. This led to our automatisation deficit hypothesis (1990) – a `cognitive level´ framework that demonstrated that dyslexic people have difficulty in automatising a range of skills, including skills completely outside the literacy domain. We followed this five years later by our cerebellar deficit hypothesis, a `brain level´ hypothesis that attributed the automaticity problems to inefficient cerebellar function, This was followed six years later by our `ontogenetic causal chain´ model that provided a developmental model of how the symptoms arise. This framework was broadened five years later by our `Specific Procedural Leaning Difficulties´ framework that investigates dyslexia in terms of the neural systems involved, and manages to provide a framework which facilitates discussion of all the developmental disorders within a coherent framework. I have published over 100 articles, book chapters and software systems. Recent screening tests (with A. Fawcett) include the Pre-school Screening Test, the Dyslexia Early Screening Test, the Dyslexia Screening Test and the Dyslexia Adult Screening Test, and Ready to Learn, all published by the Psychological Corporation. The research is now highly influential internationally. A key characteristic of the inter-disciplinary research is that it highlights the value of brain-based diagnostic techniques to the understanding and treatment of learning disorders.