Spreading faith at the double

23rd March 2007 at 00:00
New Church of England head of education to preside over expansion of church schools

the rev Jan Ainsworth will start her new job on Monday knowing that she has much to do. As the new head of education at the Church of England, she will be overseeing a rapid expansion in schools over the next four years.

In her first interview since accepting the job, Mrs Ainsworth revealed that senior church officials want to double the Church's previous target for new secondary schools to 200 by 2011.

Mrs Ainsworth, 55, who takes over from Canon John Hall, newly appointed Dean of Westminster, said that the Government was now pushing local authorities to open more church schools as part of their choice agenda.

"The DfES is pressing for local authorities to have CofE provision," she said. "They are raising the question with authorities that don't have church schools because they want parents to have choice."

Canon Hall was known to be a smooth operator, skilled at brokering deals with officials. He is also credited with leading the Church's school expansion programme.

The Rev Dr John Gay, the CofE's spokesman on RE, said that Mrs Ainsworth would bring a different style to the job. "I think she will be very good,"

he said. "She will bring an openness and engagement, and a realistic assessment of the issues. I have found her to be a very good operator. She is also an RE specialist, which is good from my point of view."

The Church's expansion plans build on recommendations made by Lord Dearing in 2001 that 100 more schools were needed to satisfy demand. So far, 54 have opened or have an opening date set.

Mrs Ainsworth, who was an RE teacher before she was ordained, said the Church was committed to becoming more involved in the academies programme.

"Academies represent an important part of what the CofE is here for. We are offering education to children of all faiths and none, in areas of social deprivation."

Mrs Ainsworth also supported calls for faith schools to account for how they are building bridges between religions. "We are very committed to promoting community cohesion," she said. "I am in favour of all schools publishing an annual audit of what they are doing to promote it.

"Most community schools are deeply uncomfortable about faith and don't know what to do with it. Growing up ignorant is the problem, and CofE schools have an important role to play in making sure that does not happen."


The Rev Jan Ainsworth started out as an RE teacher.

1986 She became an adviser and schools inspector for the Manchester diocesan board of education.

1998 Made director of education in the diocese.

2007 Promoted to chief education officer at the Church of England.

She is married with four children.

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