New president advocates donkey therapy

CHRISTINE Davies is clearly a woman of action - prepared not just to speak out against injustice but to do something about it.

Friends of the new president of the Association of Chief Education Officers talk about her tenacity, stickability and enormous ability to get things done.

"She isn't frightened of difficult things," said Carol Adams, chief executive of England's General Teaching Council, who has worked with Mrs Davies.

"Difficult things" might include sharing an office for a year with Chris Woodhead in the mid-Eighties when she was senior adviser for Shropshire County Council.

"My only comment is that it was always interesting, and always entertaining. People can draw their own conclusions," said Mrs Davies, director of education and training at Telford and Wrekin Council.

"I am most definitely not a mountaineer and the most I ever did to share his hobby was hold the end of a rope for him on an outdoor pursuits venture in Wales.

"Whether colleagues wish that I had let the rope go or not is up to them to decide."

Other difficult things might also include rescuing donkeys Ben and Wogey, who came via the Donkey Sanctuary to live in a paddock attached to her family home on the outskirts of Shrewsbury.

"There's something very therapeutic about donkeys," said Mrs Davies. "They are beasts of burden, and often abused - just like local authority officers.

"They are consistently friendly - just like local authority officers. I don't like to see anything abused and that's why we have them."

She and husband, John, a careers officer, have two children, Simon, 16, and Katie, who is 11 - both attend state schools.

Mrs Davies, 50, is clearly highly thought of by other education directors. "She has the highest integrity, values and moral standards, and is prepared to speak up for them," said Christine Whatford, education director for the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. "She is very direct and communicates clearly."

Mrs Davies expects her unpaid appointment as president to take up one or two days a fortnight, and plans to pack five or six meetings into a day.

Goals she has set herself for her year in office include looking at how technology has the potential to transform teaching and learning and widening the debate about 14 to 19 education to ages 11 to 21.

"We must work in a truly joined- up way with the NHS and social services, and at local level ensure that we get things right for children," she said.

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