Schools expert Tony appointed as our new Director of Education

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An experienced headteacher who has worked both nationally and internationally successfully turning around several schools has been appointed as the new Diocesan Director of Education.

Tony Wilson is looking forward to starting his new job leading the team to serve our 283 Church of England schools across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire in January when he takes over the role from the current DDE, Fiona Craig.

“After three interim headships and having spent time in Bahrain I felt my calling was to take on a leadership role working with a large number of schools. The DDE role is unique as it is not only a very challenging and influential position in terms of the number of schools in the diocese but also has the vital dimension of Christian leadership in education.  It’s an exceptional opportunity to really make a difference to the lives of thousands of young people in our schools and multi-academy trusts.

“I am humbled and honoured to take on this role. I’ll be drawing on school leadership in several contexts and in some challenging circumstances.

“I hope to build and strengthen links between the Board of Education, church schools, parishes and the wider community,” says Tony, who was preparing for a trip to Mexico, in his current role as an education consultant, when we spoke.

Tony lives in Axbridge, Somerset. He grew up in rural Worcestershire in a traditional Anglican environment, making a personal commitment to Jesus as an 18-year-old Bangor University student. There he joined the Christian Union and he says his faith became the most important part of his life.

He met his wife Jo when they were both newly qualified teachers in Peterborough. Jo is the head of business studies and economics at Kings Academy a Church of England School in Cheddar, where Tony was assistant head before he moved to his first headship at Whitstone Academy, Shepton Mallet.

“I was there for four years, during which I was approached to go and work overseas. I was 40 and it was a unique opportunity. Having deeply contemplated what it would mean for me and my family, I took the decision to embark on the exciting challenge of working in Bahrain.”

There he led school improvement, for the Economic Development Board, delivering education reform and gaining experience that would see him coming back to the UK to, among other things, take on interim headships leading schools out of special measures.

The first was the Golden Hillock School, which is now the Ark Boulton Academy. Tony took over after Golden Hillock was part of the Trojan Horse investigation into schools thought to have been taken over by radical Islamists.

“I led it through Ofsted to ensure that it was ready for a new academy sponsor,” says Tony, who moved to the Small Heath School and Sixth Form Centre and then the City Academy, Birmingham. He was there until this year when he formed his own consultancy TJ Education Ltd.

Tony and Jo worship at St John the Baptist Church, Axbridge. “It’s a beautiful 14th-century church that’s mentioned in 1,000 Best English Churches by Simon Jenkins,” says Tony.  “My wife has been involved in Sunday School and I’ve had civic responsibilities. I’ve been town mayor although I’m no longer on the council because of my work commitments. I am still vice-captain of the cricket club and involved in the amateur dramatic society.”

Tony and Jo have two children, Chloe, 19, who is studying history at Manchester University and Jude, 17, who is an apprentice stone mason. 

The Rt Revd Alan Wilson is the Chair of the Diocesan Board of Education. Read his announcement Welcoming our new DDE.