Meet the speakers of our 2023 annual conference

Haleema Ahmed

Haleema is a former primary school teacher with 9 years experience in Birmingham and London. She is passionate about utilising rich media and film to deliver a more decolonized and diversified curriculum. Naturally, this drew her to the work of Lyfta where she now works as a schools partnership manager. Through this, Haleema supports schools in their quest to deepen their pupils’ understanding of the world and their place in it.

Dr Khawla Badwan

Dr Khawla Badwan is Reader in TESOL and Applied Linguistics at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is a member of the British Council’s English Language Advisory Group and has recently chaired the review of the Linguistics benchmark statement for the Quality Assurance Agency. Her research interests include language education, literacy debates, children’s sociolinguistics, social justice, sociolinguistics of mobility, identity, and intercultural communication. Her most recent publications is a book entitled ‘Language in a Globalised World: Social Justice Perspectives on Mobility and Contact’ (2021), published by Palgrave and nominated for the BAAL Book Prize Award (2022). Her most recent project is the Voices of the Future Project which explores children and young people’s engagement with trees and the natural environment. Twitter: @KhawlaBadwan.

Ruth Baker-Leask

An experienced consultant, leading successful English CPD for 20 years, and former primary Head Teacher, Ruth provides support to schools, academy trusts and other organisations within the education sector, both nationally and internationally. She is the chair of the National Association of Advisers in English (NAAE) and as such works regularly with the country’s leading researchers and experts in the fieldof Primary English. She is an associate teacher for the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE), an associate consultant with the National Literacy Trust, and is currently working with the British council in developing teaching resources for Sub-Saharan Africa. Ruth is amember of the United Kingdom Literacy AssociationAwards and Members Panel.

Challney High School for Girls

Joanne Mylles, Headteacher

Sheba George, Deputy Headteacher

Joanne Mylles joined Challney High School for Girls in September 2017, shortly after the school joined the Chiltern Learning Trust (CLT) in March 2017. The school achieved Ofsted outstanding in January 2020. Challney High School for Girls is a secondary school for girls, located in Luton, Bedfordshire. The school educates girls aged 11 – 16 and almost all students are from minority ethnic heritages.

The school believes and promotes the idea that there is “no ceiling on potential.”  The belief that all pupils can develop the skills and confidence to become ‘influential women of the future’ is threaded through every aspect of school life. This includes the many opportunities for talk that are built in for students across all year groups, and which are now underpinned by Voice 21 programme. 

Dr. Richard Courtney

Dr Richard Courtney is the Head of Business, Entrepreneurship, and Finance at the Royal Docks School of Business & Law, University of East London. Richard was a mature student at the University of Leicester where he studied Sociology and went onto study for a PhD with his research on Social Class, Ethnicity, and Identity in Thurrock, Essex.

Since then he has worked on a number of funded research projects exploring cultural identity, Englishness, social class and heritage.

Richard is a native of South East England, and is proud of his regional accent and identity and has recently written on his experiences in the Independent – Richard Courtney | The Independent. You can follow Richard on Twitter @courtneyist

Karl Cross

Karl is in his 8th year teaching at Barrowford School in Lancashire. During his time there he has been able to develop oracy practice and has spent the last two years working alongside Voice 21 and other colleagues across the Pendle area on the Voicing Vocabulary project. Empowering young people and giving them tools to be able to communicate effectively across a range of contexts is a huge part of his drive when working with them. 

Aside from teaching, cricket is a passion and Karl has been lucky enough to spend time in Australia playing and coaching, which is where his love for working with young people began.’

My twitter handle is: @bps_teacher 

Dr. Ian Cushing

Dr Ian Cushing is Senior Lecturer in English and Education at Edge Hill University, and from June, will be Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics at Manchester Metropolitan University. He has published widely on issues related to language, race, class and structural inequality in schools. His work is funded by the Spencer Foundation, the British Educational Research Association and the British Association of Applied Linguistics. 

Professor Alice Deignan

Alice Deignan is Professor of Applied Linguistics, University of Leeds. Her teaching background is in TESOL and EAL. She leads a research project. The linguistic challenge of the transition from primary to secondary school which collaborated with schools to identify the ways in which words and grammar differ between KS2 and KS3, using computational linguistic techniques. She has authored four academic books and a number of journal articles. Alice is especially interested in the academic vocabulary that school students need in order to access the curriculum.

Project website:
Twitter @alicedeignan

Vicki Duperouzel

Vicki dove straight into education after studying Cell Biology at the University of Manchester, having always wanted to be a teacher. Vicki has been teaching Secondary Science since 2009 at Pendle Vale College in Lancashire and has always been interested in developing her own teaching and learning. Having taken on responsibilities within the department for quite a few years, Vicki was recently given the opportunity to become Lead Practitioner. Through this role, Vicki has started working with Voice 21 and has loved spending time with other teachers discussing how student voice really matters. 

Charles Hewitt

Charles Hewitt is a Deputy Head Teacher and Specialist Leader in Education in Wirral. He is passionate about the power of oracy as a tool for social equity in disadvantaged communities, as well as placing spoken language at the heart of curriculum. 


Emily Kasriel

Emily Kasriel has developed the Deep Listening approach as a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College Policy Institute in London and previously as a Practitioner in Residence at the LSE.  She has also drawn on her decade long experience as an accredited Executive Coach and now mediator as well as the insights of practitioners and academics from many disciplines. Beyond recruiting 1000 people in 119 countries to train in Deep Listening with the British Council, she trains cohorts of leaders with the UK’s Forward Institute for responsible leadership. She is now writing a book on Deep Listening.

She has been a media executive at the BBC leading multiple high impact global projects as well as producing and reporting from five continents, Senior Adviser to the Skoll Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and a Visiting Fellow at Said Business School at the University of Oxford. She has written for a number of major publications and chairs a wide range of panels, events and interviews around the world.   

Follow on linkedin

Twitter : ekasriel

Website with more info on DL:

Ibraheem Khan & Zaeem Majeed

Ibraheem and Zaeem are Challney High School for Boys Head Boy and Deputy Head Boy. They, alongside their teacher, Mr Samir Richards and their (now retired) headteacher Mr Daniel Connor, worked hard to come up with a plan to combat the polluted and dangerous street in which their school lies. The boys surveyed, presented, and then lobbied to all stakeholders to convince them of their case. 

Wendy Lee

Wendy has worked as a speech and language therapist for over 35 years, in clinical practice, higher education and the third sector. She was Professional Director at The Communication Trust until 2015 where she authored Trust resources, led on strategic projects and inputted national policy and research.

Wendy is currently the Director of LINGO, a consultancy and therapy service which takes an outcome driven, evidence based approach to supporting speech, language and communication in children and young people. We work collaboratively to support speech, language and communication, directly into schools, local authorities, academy trusts and third sector organisations.

Wendy is part of the Oracy Cambridge management group and a Bye-fellow of Hughes Hall, with a particular interest in inclusive oracy practice. She sits on research advisory groups and has been involved in a recent research project on early language development led by University College London.

E mail
Tweet @Lingo_speech

Mary Mandefield

Mary Mandefield is a presenter and journalist who hosts on BBC Radio London and has presented shows on BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra. Alongside radio, Mary is a journalist at The News Movement, public speaker and writer of the Making Moves newsletter. She’s an advocate for finding power in your voice, using your platform for good and making a change in your own way. 

Ena Miller

Ena Miller is a Scottish journalist based in London. Her work focuses on women, under-represented communities and people living on the margin. She’s most comfortable interviewing Syrian refugees in Kos, sex workers in Amsterdam, travellers in Lincolnshire and recording victims of domestic abuse getting therapy through horses. Her radio features, long-form articles and TV reporting have been published across the BBC; Woman’s Hour, The World Service, Focus Africa, BBC Stories, BBC London, The News Channel and One O’clock news.  Titles include; Colourism in Children, Mental Health in Primary Schools, Girls World, The Future of  Selling Sex, How Fat Feels, Hidden Disfigurement, Runaway Mothers, Emotional Cost of Caring, Longing for ‘Home’, Journey of a Vintage Dress, Joy of Skating, The Politics of Afro Hair and Travellers who say they’ve faced discrimination from teachers. ‘Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder’ was nominated for a Mind Media Award.

Before journalism Ena spent nearly a decade working in ad agencies as a project manager.  She’s been an ITN News Trainee, BBC TV Correspondent and freelances at Channel 4 News.  She’s spoken about her work at the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women Conference.  She’s also travelled the world creating networks to support and champion female journalists.

Ena is mum to Bonnie. They spend a lot of time in the park pointing at dogs and chasing bubbles.

Dr. Rebecca Montacute 

Dr. Rebecca Montacute is Senior Research and Policy Manager at the Sutton Trust, which champions social mobility from birth to the workplace. Since Rebecca joined the Trust in 2017, she has authored reports on a variety of topics including internships, university access, highly able student from disadvantaged backgrounds, access to the professions and how parents use financial and cultural resources to boost their children’s educations.

Angela Schofield

Angela leads oracy for Excelsior Multi-Academy trust in Birmingham. Until recently, she was Deputy Headteacher at Parkfield Community School, one of the first accredited Oracy centres of Excellence. Now Programme Development Lead for the trust, she combines her passion for research, oracy, closing the gap and developing teacher expertise to drive improved outcomes for all pupils, especially the most disadvantaged. 

With high numbers of disadvantaged, EAL and SEND pupils, supporting all children to make their voice heard is her number one objective. Valuing every voice is central to her vision for oracy, with a mantra of “Every voice heard every day”, she has embedded a culture of oracy that is embedded in every aspect of school life.  

Yosra Soliman

Hi everyone! My name is Yosh and I am the Facilitation Lead at Bold Voices, a social enterprise on a mission to empower school communities to recognise and tackle issues of gender inequality and gender-based violence. With an academic background in linguistics and plenty of experience in facilitating discourse around tricky and often polarising topics with young people, I find myself championing the transformative power of conversation everyday – what a pleasure to be joining the conference!

Lavinya Stennett

Lavinya is a writer, activist, and Founder and CEO of social enterprise The Black Curriculum. 

The Black Curriculum was founded in 2019 and works to teach and support the teaching of Black history all year round, aiming to empower all students with a sense of identity and belonging and campaigning to bring about permanent change to the national curriculum ensuring it is truly inclusive.

Graduating with a first class from SOAS in 2019, she has most recently authored a paper exploring Maroon ecology in Jamaica and Brazil and has been named as one of the Sunday Times 50 Women of the Year, was awarded Trailblazer of The Year by Hello Magazine and featured in Vogue, and GQ for her activism. Lavinya is currently writing her debut book on Black History ‘Omitted’ due out for publication in Spring 2023.


Tom Wolstenholme 

Tom (AST, NPQH, SLE) has taught since 1993 and has led teaching at a senior level in a range of contexts. As an English specialist, language and oracy has always been central to his approach to teaching. Now working for The Halifax Academy, he is leading on ‘Voice’ and teaching in the Primary Phase of this through school. He has also led a Teaching School, ITT (SCITT and School Direct) and been involved in the development of the ECF. He delivers the new NPQs and mentors a range of colleagues. He is clear that the work of Voice 21 is the heart of education and continues to be excited by the possibilities…

© 2022 Voice 21. Voice 21 is a registered charity in England and Wales. Charity number 1152672 | Company no. 08165798