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Meet the team


Amy Leonard MBE


Amy is the Founder of Denford Associates and has over 20 years of experience in communications. She has worked for a global communications agency, in-house as Director of Corporate Affairs for a Government agency, and directly for Cabinet Ministers. Amy began her career in broadcasting, working at the BBC on national and local radio.

Amy set up Denford Associates in 2011, with a view to creating a specialist communications agency that focused on education and helping organisations articulate a clear set of messages that resonate with mainstream audiences.  

Amy specialises in working with senior teams, providing advice and hands-on support to Chief Executives and Chairmen on an organisation’s positioning and reputation management. She maintains excellent media contacts across national, specialist, regional and local media.


Amy is also the Chief Executive of The Talent Foundry, a social mobility charity that specialises in delivering employability programmes on behalf of UK corporates. Every year the charity works with over 80,000 young people from a network of 1,300 state secondary. Denford Associates provides pro bono PR to the trust.


Angus Walker

Account Director

Angus spent almost 20 years at ITN, as Political Correspondent, UK Editor and China Correspondent for ITV News. He was shortlisted for Royal Television Society TV Journalist of the Year in 2009 and nominated for an Emmy in 2014. 


Angus joined Denford in October 2021. Having previously been a Special Adviser at the DfE. His role involved co-ordinating the media operation at the Department for Education during the pandemic, media relations and strategic communications as well as providing policy and political advice to ministers. 


Angus has a wealth of knowledge and media contacts gained during his time covering and working in Westminster. His experience in the Lobby, alongside recent knowledge of government communications gives him a unique perspective. 


Cal Watson

Account Director

Cal has over 25 years of experience in communications and began her career as a journalist for The Daily Telegraph and a news reporter for Bloomberg.


Prior to joining Denford, she advised a number of schools and education charities on their communications strategies and has worked with corporates to develop school partnerships.

Cal specialises in creating impactful campaigns that change behaviours. She has worked on education-focused initiatives with leading institutions such as the British Library on the British Newspaper Archive launch, making historical newspapers accessible online for the first time.

Other education launches have included working with The National Archives on the release of the 1911 Census and with the Imperial War Museum on Lives of the First World War featuring 8 million life stories, to mark the centenary.

Cal enjoys hands-on tactical delivery to see creative ideas through to fruition.


Lucy Mannion

Communications Manager

Lucy has spent the best part of a decade as Senior Parliamentary Assistant to a high profile Member of Parliament.  During that time she worked with local and national print and broadcast media organisations, as well as dealing with a variety of stakeholders in the educational and charity sectors.

Lucy has a strong background in communications and has used her writing skills to support political candidates and members of local government at district and county level.  She has also engaged in copywriting work for numerous businesses and organisations and written political blog pieces.


Clara Plackett

Communications Manager

Clara began her career in the arts sector at a PR agency for music and culture, where she particularly enjoyed supporting creative campaigns related to education. Since then, she has gained in-house and agency experience across the education sector. She has joined Denford from the media team at Universities UK, where she secured high profile national print and broadcast coverage across a wide range of policy areas as well as leading on digital strategy.


Clara loves writing and using her communications skills to support senior leaders focusing on increasing social mobility, widening access to higher education, and improving mental health support for students and staff.


Kate Keating


Kate has over 20 years communications experience, having worked at the heart of Whitehall and for globally renowned organisations like the BBC and Metropolitan Police. In recent years, Kate has specialised in education communications, as Director of Communications at Ofqual – the government’s exams regulator – and heading up marketing, communications and admissions for one of Oxfordshire’s leading boarding schools. Kate has supported ministers, chief executives, chairs and head teachers to develop and deliver their goals, and brings a wealth of strategic, campaign and crisis communications.


Phil Copple

Communications Manager

Phil specialises in campaigns supporting school trusts and individual academies within these groups. Typically, these campaigns are targeting parents to change or augment the reputation of the trust or school.

Phil joined Denford from the New Schools Network (NSN), where he managed NSN’s media and press work. Before NSN, Phil worked for The Future Leaders Trust (now the Ambition Institute), a charity that provides training and development for senior leaders and headteachers

in challenging schools. Prior to this, he worked as a journalist for local media and wrote for a national financial trade magazine.

Aside from academy trusts, Phil also works with a number of social mobility charities to help build their profiles. At the Transformation Trust he worked with local and national media to raise awareness of the charity’s annual Rock Assembly event, as well as highlighting the charity’s fundraising efforts.

Most recently he worked with the Pearson National Teaching Awards on their annual ceremony and televised broadcast and was a key part of the team who doubled the coverage they received from the previous year. This involved working with national and local media to set up a

number of interviews and profiles of the winners, as well as

working carefully with the individual winners to ensure they promoted the awards as well as their own achievements.


Ruth Charlton

Social Media Lead

Ruth has a Business and Marketing background and spent the best part of a decade working for a well known FMCG brand in Account Management and Marketing roles. In the last few years,
she has specialised in Digital Marketing
and has invested time in training specifically in Social Media and Facebook Advertising.


Ruth has worked with a variety of businesses including; a number of Charities, B-Corps,
E-Commerce and organisations in the Education sector. She has a real passion
for how social media can allow organisations to directly reach and engage with their target audience.


Ruth brings knowledge and experience to our team, in creating and executing digital strategies that drive tangible results and is able to create content plans that tell a brands story. She has worked with us on the digital outreach of the Pearson’s Teaching Awards,
a national campaign to drive celebration and appreciation of the work that teachers do. She was also a key part of the team who created and executed a recent campaign
for the Tim Henman Foundation called #FindingYourSpark, which aimed to raise awareness and funds for the fantastic work they do.


Abi Simmons

Communications Manager

Abi is a communications specialist with 20 years of experience working as journalist, producer and reporter for the BBC. She covered many major stories with the education and family team. Abi regularly worked with school and college leaders, government departments and stakeholders to produce coverage that featured on national radio and TV bulletins. She also worked for the school outreach programme “BBC School Report”, helping students to produce news reports for a national broadcast. She was nominated for a Sony Award for her coverage on BBC Radio 4 and was shortlisted for a Creative Diversity Network award in 2014.


Abi worked as a freelance media trainer and content producer before heading up the comms team for the graduate police recruitment organisation, Police Now. Here Abi devised a social media and comms strategy and built positive press coverage across print and broadcast for the organisation. Abi secured high profile coverage for the CEO, graduate participants and police forces as well as managing crisis communications across the organisation.



Abi joined the environmental membership body, IEMA, during the pandemic, growing their social media presence, running the press office and securing prolonged media coverage. She produced their podcast and oversaw their membership magazine. She organised and ran a virtual work experience week for students with the Speakers for Schools programme, inspiring young people to learn more about careers within sustainability.



Abi specialises in spotting a story and finding the best channel for it. Abi is passionate about education, communication and storytelling.

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