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21 October, 2014

Goodbye Jan Newton: citizenship education heavyweight, colleague and friend

It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to Jan Newton OBE, who passed away on 10 October. Jan had been ill since suffering a stroke in 2011. The world of citizenship education has lost one of its greatest advocates, and the Citizenship Foundation has lost a dear friend.

Jan NewtonJan Newton was our first Chief Executive, and an important figure in shaping the development of citizenship in schools. She was involved with Bernard Crick's advisory group, whose report paved the way for David Blunkett to introduce the subject into the national curriculum in 2002.

She later moved to the Department for Education and Skills as Adviser for Citizenship and headed the subject's first department, helping to define the practice and professional provision for citizenship. Jan was awarded the OBE in 2003, for her work in education.

'She probably did more than anybody else to smooth the passage of a new subject into the curriculum,' says Jan's successor, Tony Breslin, 'building support amongst sometimes sceptical colleagues, advising ministers and commissioning activities that were vital to the growth of citizenship in schools.'

Much of Jan's work was hidden behind the scenes, says David Kerr: 'I had the great pleasure of working with her as a fellow adviser at the DfE as we looked to shape the vision of the Crick Report into sound policies and practices.

'We achieved a lot in the "broom cupboard at Caxton House" (as we referred to our windowless office) thanks, in large part, to Jan's persistence in reminding ministers and senior civil servants of the commitments made to citizenship and badgering them to deliver on their promises.

'We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jan for all she did while at the Citizenship Foundation and then at DfE and beyond.'

But Jan was much more than a pioneer of citizenship education.

'What really marked Jan out was her kindness and concern for others,' says David. 'She embodied the true values of citizenship. She took a real interest not only in what you did at work but what you did beyond it with your family and other interests. Whether you still worked for the Foundation or whether you left, she went to considerable lengths to keep in touch with you, check on progress and make sure all was OK.

'That spirit has been carried on by the CEOs, Tony and Andy, who followed her.'

Tony Breslin took the Citizenship Foundation reins from Jan in 2001. 'She was a wonderful support to me in my early years,' he recalls, 'inviting me to join her on a trip to Northern Ireland to look at our work there a month before I took up the post, and then to a gathering of future colleagues at her home: all stars, but not least because she enabled them, and all around her, to shine.

'I will remember Jan's kindness, modesty, wisdom and sense of irony. An aside here, a comment there, a quiet compliment or a warning of a potential roadblock ahead; always positive and insightful, always cheerful in spirit.'

'She was a most brilliant, thoughtful and considerate woman,' says Andy Thornton, the Citizenship Foundation's current chief executive. 'We all owe her a huge debt of gratitude for pioneering our work: shaping up what we have inherited and continue to champion today.'

'Citizenship education has lost one of its most important founding patrons,' says Tony Breslin,' 'but it is incumbent on us all not to lose Jan's spirit. The wonderful soul of the organisation that I inherited from her was very much Jan's creation.

'Thanks Jan. You were remarkable in every way, and we shall miss you.'

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Other tributes to Jan:

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