Meet the team

We’re proud to have assembled a team of some of the best oracy experts in the UK – and our successes and experiences rank highly on the world stage too, with a team featuring World Champion debate coaches and BAFTA-nominated filmmakers.

Core team members

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    Debbie Newman

    The Noisy Classroom’s founder and lead trainer is Debbie Newman. Debbie has experience of coaching speech and debate around the world at all levels. She is a previous English national debating champion, president of the Cambridge Union Society and world champion schools debate coach. She has been on the faculty of the World Debate Institute, the International Debate Academy (IDAS) and the UK Debate Academy and is a former Head of the Centre for Speech and Debate at the English-Speaking Union in London.

    Debbie is a qualified secondary teacher and her focus is on speaking and listening in schools: both working with children, from 8-18, and also working with teachers to help build their skills and confidence. She has been a trustee of the English Speaking Board, a City Lit tutor, a primary school governor and a Speech and Debate committee member at the English-Speaking Union.

    Debbie has brought together a group of expert teachers and facilitators to produce resources and offer bespoke training to schools.


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    Alison Coates, Learning and Development Manager

    Alison is passionate about oracy and communication, in all its forms, and has worked in this area for over 25 years. A graduate of the University of Lancaster, with Joint Honours in English and Drama, she ran her own Speech and Drama business for 17 years, preparing students for examinations, festivals and drama school. Alison has worked in several schools teaching Speech and Drama and spent ten years as the Business Development Advisor for Speech with the English Speaking Board, also writing their three accredited debating qualifications during her time with the awarding organisation. As well as the above, Alison has been lucky enough to travel across the UK and internationally as a trainer, assessor and judge for ESB, PiXL Up4Debate, The BPW and others. Highlights have included time spent working in The Channel Islands, Belgium, Malta, Poland, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Shanghai and Trinidad and Tobago.


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    Harold Raitt, Curriculum, Digital and Communications Consultant

    Harold was a member of the Centre for Speech and Debate at the English-Speaking Union, working on the London Debate Challenge from 2004-7, before joining the National Theatre, where he was nominated for a BAFTA for his online educational filmmaking. He’s worked with the Noisy Classroom for over 10 years. He’s particularly proud of his work on our Up for Debate programme with the PiXL Club, where he wrote and design the original scheme of work and handbooks for teachers, and created several hours of high-quality video content. This includes his starring roles as opinionated academic ‘Professor Ivan O’Pinion’ and matter-of-fact journalist ‘Hugh de Syde’ in the programme’s introduction to debating for Key Stage 3 pupils.


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    Richard Stupart

    Richard has trained and coached schools debating for over eight years, across a wide range of schools and styles. This has included work with a number of provincial and national teams in South Africa, and the development of one of the world’s most advanced multi-format tournament management (tab) systems. He previously won the South African Universities’ Championships and represented the country twice at the World Universities Debating Championships. Richard has Masters degrees in Media Studies and Public Policy & Conflict, and is a fellow of the African Good Governance Network in Germany and a former DAAD scholar.

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    Cerys Bradley

    Dr Cerys Bradley has a PhD in cybercrime from UCL and undergraduate degree in Mathematics from King’s College, London. Cerys now works as a science communicator, podcaster and comedian. They have written and performed talks and shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, for the BBC and worked at festivals and in schools across the UK. They teach debating, public speaking, podcasting and stand up comedy and can help with improv and oracy based lesson starters, building debate and critical thinking activities into lessons (particularly STEM lessons) and LGBT History Month Projects.

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    Heather Robinson has over ten years experience of competing in and coaching debating and public speaking. She has reached the Finals and Semi-Finals of numerous UK debating competitions.

    Heather has provided debate and public speaking training workshops for King’s College London (KCL), the London Business School, and several schools across the UK. In 2020, she was the lead coach on a debate tour of schools in Kolkata and Patna, India and also provided online train-the-trainer workshops for IDebate Rwanda. Heather is currently the UK Director for Debate Camp Canada, teaching as part of their online programme and working to bring the camp experience to the UK.

    Heather also uses her public speaking experience to facilitate workshops on Consent in schools and universities.


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    Charlie Barnett

    Since January 2014 Charlie hass worked at the Wensleydale School, initially as an Associate Assistant Headteacher and then as Assistant Headteacher responsible for Academic Progress from May 2016. His main responsibilities are for staff development and CPD, Assessment, CIAG and Student voice. The role means he works with the Deputy Head to deliver the PiXL methodology across the school.

    He has been a history teacher since 2008. Completed his History Degree at Birmingham University in 2004 and PGCE at Oxford Unviversity in 2008 (worked in publishing before switching to teaching). He worked at his first school in Oxfordshire from 2008 to 2014, and moved through the roles of Gifted and Talented Coordinator, history PGCE student mentor, Lead teacher for delivering Assessment for Learning training across the school, Deputy Head of Year, Head of Year. During that time he also worked with Oxford University PGCE Department to deliver sessions to the history interns on Planning for Progress, and was part of their interview panels for prospective history PGCE students.

    Charlie says, “As a result of Noisy Classroom methods and then the competition based my History AS level teaching around debate with the result that all students got at least their expected grade, with most getting target grade (some had not done GCSE history). The ALPs score for the class was a ‘2’ (top 10% of A level providers). I was trying to build an evidence base for the impact of debate in the classroom, as I needed to show it worked. As a result I have now ensured it is a key element of the KS3 English curriculum, every Faculty across the school now has a ‘Debate Champion’ who will be coaching other staff on how to use debate at all key stages, and our first student led Debate Society is preparing for their first debate of the new league season.”

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    Sarah Spikeseley

    Sarah Spikesley is currently Head of English at Hinchingbrooke school but has been an avid believer in the power of oracy in educational settings for far longer.
    She is a triple graduate of Durham University, studying English as an undergraduate and then completing both a PGCE and MEd. She remains a member of the Durham Union Society. Alongside teaching at St Leonard’s Catholic School she also worked as a professional tutor at St John’s College, Durham working closely with students in both a Secondary and University setting. Sarah also contributed as a guest lecturer on Durham University’s Education Studies undergraduate course exploring the value of Literature in teaching. She then began to establish links between the Durham Union Society and her school and began competitive schools debating there.
    Since leaving the North East, Sarah has been teaching at Hinchingbrooke School in Cambridgeshire. She began delivering CPD on Most Able and Talented students and has since held several leadership roles first as a whole School Literacy lead, then as an English Leader and A Level lead, and most recently as Head of English. Sarah is an active member of her school’s Teaching and Learning committee, Assessment Committee and Staff Well-being committee but specialises in Oracy in the classroom, a subject on which she routinely delivers CPD.
    Since relocating to Cambridgeshire, Sarah has been part of a group of Durham scholars who still lecture in a variety of settings- from literary festivals to conventions. One of her more recent public lectures is entitled ‘Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic; the power of Oracy in British culture’ which explores the rich tradition of Oracy in our country.
     Outside of the classroom, she champions competitive debating and the rewards that it brings both students and practitioners and has worked with several teams to a high competitive standard. Sarah believes strongly in the power of the peer and the benefits debate offers in bolstering communication and team building skills with veteran student debaters leading on the coaching of younger students in the HBK debate society. She feels very fortunate to have worked with the wonderful team at Noisy Classroom who champion and embody these principles.
    Despite the success of her debate teams, she considers her day to day work with young people and like-minded colleagues a privilege and chief among her achievements.


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    PiXL and the PiXL Edge

    Over the past two years we’ve become great friends with the PiXL Schools group, and particularly their PiXL Edge programme, with whom we run Up for Debate.

    PiXL Edge is a framework for secondary schools and sixth form providers to develop and accredit in students attitudes, attributes and skills essential for employability and life.

    Through a series of accredited tasks and activities (including target-setting and self-reflection) PiXL Edge enables students to systematically enhance their skills.

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