Meet the team

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Amy Leonard MBE

Director

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.

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Gina Malatesta

Account Director

Gina is an extremely experienced communications professional and has worked in Government communications for nearly a decade. Gina began her career in an PR agency before joining the Department for Education.

Gina joined Denford Associates in January 2019, having previously worked directly to the Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds and his special advisers on strategic communications planning.

Prior to that she ran the department’s 24/7 newsdesk, leading on crisis communications management. She has also held media roles at Number 10, the Government Equalities Office and the Department for Transport.

Gina is a first-class communications planner who has considerable experience of planning and executing public sector campaigns on a whole host of issues, from message development through to selling in and securing media coverage. Gina plays a central role in driving our

digital communications work and successfully led the digital outreach on Pearson’s 2019 Teaching Awards, a national campaign to drive celebration and appreciation of the work that teachers do day in, day out.

Gina is an energetic, can-do member of the team and brings a wealth of experience and contacts with her.

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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.

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Rhiannon Spellman

Account Director

Rhiannon began her career in the private sector working as a book publicist for a range of high-profile authors before joining Government communications where she has spent the past ten years. At the Home Office she led the crime prevention press desk before taking on the Home Secretary’s equalities brief, later at the Department for Education she ran the free schools media team and most recently she has managed strategic campaigns at the Department for Transport.

Rhiannon brings real creative flair to her work, and has real skill in identifying human interest angles that achieve message cut-through. She brings depth and breadth of experience and sector knowledge to her role at Denford Associates.

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Angus Walker

Account Director

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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. 

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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.

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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.

India Hurford-Jones

Communications Executive

India began her career at media agency MediaCom, where she assisted in providing digital solutions for high-profile brands, creative campaigns and building relationships with local and national media organisations. Alongside this, she has supported one of the largest global media publishers, Hearst Magazines, in copywriting, research and social media management.

 

India has also worked in teaching roles for a series of education and charity organisations. This includes an educational development position for the Akasa Foundation, a Community Learning Centre dedicated to improving access to schooling in third-world countries. 

 

India is passionate about writing and using her interpersonal skills to connect with stakeholders, bringing with her valuable communications skills, as well as knowledge of the teaching profession to Denford.

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.

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Sam Draper

Associate

Sam is a Copy Writer and Content Editor of over twenty years experience, writing for the BBC, Sky, various Government departments, business-to-business publications, TES, and a variety of educational organisations. Topics covered vary from a range of social issues, education, sport, entertainment, literature, and careers. He has also worked as a full time secondary school English teacher for 17 years, a teacher trainer and coach, and facilitator for an educational charity focused on careers and social development of teenagers.

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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.

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Kate Keating

Associate

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Communications Executive

Dan McDowell

Dan joins Denford with a Philosophy and Politics background. He has written on a variety of topics from UK politics, through to the role of the arts in mental health awareness.

 

For the duration of his MA in Creative Writing, Dan worked in marketing at an education services company, Grove Tutors. He also worked as a Research Associate on a UK Research Institute-funded project for the internationally renowned theatre, campaigning and advocacy organisation Clean Break. In this role, working with three universities, he worked on the project’s media campaigns, as well as organising exhibitions and conferences around the UK.

 

Dan is passionate about the role of education for people of all ages, particularly in the possibility of the arts to direct people’s learning and ignite their passion for knowledge.