Christmas is known as the season of goodwill. By serving others Berkhamsted School have been bringing joy to the community throughout the School…
We are one of Britain’s leading independent school communities, based on five sites. Four are situated in the historic and prosperous town of Berkhamsted and one in the sought-after town of Amersham in Buckinghamshire
Both Berkhamsted and Amersham are prosperous communities surrounded by beautiful Chiltern countryside, and within easy reach of London by road or public transport.
Our family of six schools combines both single-sex and co-educational teaching.
At the Pre-Prep and Prep, boys and girls are taught together until the age of 11, separately from 11-16 (Berkhamsted Boys and Berkhamsted Girls), before coming back together again in a joint Sixth Form. Heatherton provides a co-educational nursery class (3-4) and single-sex education for girls aged 4 to 11.
“Combining excellence and breadth, tradition and a pioneering spirit, a Berkhamsted Schools experience is an outstanding one”
By structuring ourselves as a family of six Schools (Pre-Prep, Prep, Heatherton, Girls, Boys and Sixth) on five sites, we are able to combine huge economies of scale, outstanding facilities and excellence of achievement with first-class pastoral care and knowledge of each pupil as an individual – enjoying the advantages normally gained by both large and small schools.
This is a learning community in which all teachers, pupils and support staff are aiming high. Learning is a high priority for staff as well as pupils – we are all seeking the very best every day.
Character is tremendously important for all our Schools, and we value and instil integrity in our students, which is reflective of an establishment founded over 475 years ago by the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral.
We also foster a spirit of adventure in our pupils from the time they join our family of Schools and in all areas of School life. This is seen most obviously on our high-ropes course on the Haresfoot campus, and in our hugely successful outdoor education programme, but also in the theatre, the classroom and on the sports pitch.
We are a community that understands the importance of service. We recorded over 2,600 hours of voluntary work from just a single year group last year, and our family of Schools are committed to a rich programme of community service.
The dynamism of the learning across our group is illustrated by the pioneering work we have invested in to develop a mini-MBA course for Berkhamsted Sixth Form staff and students in collaboration with Ashridge Business School and the Oxford University Careers Service.
We are also at the forefront of the implementation of Professor Guy Claxton’s work in helping students to develop as learners throughout their time at our Schools.
Combining excellence and breadth, tradition and a pioneering spirit, a Berkhamsted Schools experience is an outstanding one.
I hope you will come to visit us soon to witness this outstanding family of Schools in action.
Our values and aims are shared by the Berkhamsted family of schools – Berkhamsted Day Nursery, Pre-Prep, Prep, Heatherton, Girls, Boys and Sixth.
Aim high with integrity
Berkhamsted is a learning community in which all teachers, pupils and support staff strive to be the best they can be.
We all belong to a community of learning where we work towards being better tomorrow than we have been today. How we succeed is equally as important, as we want to be successful without sharp elbows.
We proudly include integrity as a crucial ingredient of our ambition, as befits a school founded over 475 years ago by the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral.
We also foster a spirit of adventure and ambition in our pupils from the time they join our family of schools, within and beyond the classroom.
Whilst this most definitely includes physical challenge – perhaps most visibly on our high ropes course and our hugely successful outdoor education, sport, drama and music programmes – we also foster an adventurous, resilient mindset in our students, who are encouraged to try, fail and learn in everything they do.
We are a community that understands the importance of service. We celebrate and encourage the work of our students as volunteers in the local community, as those who engineer change for good, both inside and outside the school.
Our expectation is that Berkhamstedians will not just go on and do well, although of course we expect that they will. We also expect that they will go on and do good, with compassion. Last year, our students undertook over 5,000 hours of voluntary work across the senior schools.
Flowing from our school values, our aim is for every Berkhamsted pupil to:
The Berkhamsted Schools Group promotes British Values through our spiritual, moral, social and cultural education, which permeates the school’s curriculum.
We believe British Values support the development of remarkable, resilient young people who are motivated, adventurous and compassionate.
British Values (defined by the DfE document ‘Promoting fundamental British values through SMSC in schools’) are:
We recognise that pupil development is most successful when those values and attitudes are promoted by every member of our staff, who provide a model of behaviour for our pupils.
In actively promoting British Values, we also focus on showing how our work with students is effective in embedding fundamental British values.
Actively promoting British Values also means challenging any Berkhamsted student, member of staff, parent or carer who may express opinions contrary to fundamental British Values, including extremist views.
Richard Backhouse has been Principal of Berkhamsted Schools Group since January 2016. He was a boarder both at Cheam School, and Marlborough College, where he won an Exhibition. After a year working on a kibbutz in Israel, in a hotel in the French Alps, and running a bar in his home town, he read Economics at Cambridge, expecting to go on to be a journalist. Experience acting as a ski guide for school children and teaching sailing in the summers for a charity gave him a sense of the value of teaching, and so he went to Oundle School in 1990, expecting to teach only briefly before returning to university to do a PhD, but stayed for six years before moving to Bradfield College. At these schools he variously taught Economics, coached rowing and football, ran a Christian Union, and acquired managerial and leadership experience both running a boarding house and as Director of Pastoral and Extra-curricular activities. In 2005, he was appointed Principal at Monkton Combe School – an all through group of Pre-prep, Prep and Senior Schools – where he developed the scope and depth of the pupils’ opportunities and achievements. Richard and his wife Debbie have two children and he retains interests in skiing, plays golf badly, reads, and enjoys gadgets.
Michael Bond joined Berkhamsted as Headteacher of Berkhamsted Sixth in September 2012 before moving into the role of Vice Principal, Education. Michael completed his PGCE at the University of Newcastle in 1994, having achieved a 1st Class Honours degree at the University of Liverpool the previous year. His teaching career began in his native North East, where he worked for seven years at RGS Newcastle. Michael joined us from Merchant Taylors’ School, where he had been Head of Sixth Form for five years, before which he had been Head of History and Housemaster of a senior Boys’ Boarding House at Christ College Brecon. Since joining Berkhamsted, he has been involved in setting up a 16-19 Free School in South Yorkshire and is currently a Governor at The Beacon School in Chesham Bois. Married to Suzanne, Michael has two sons and is a keen sportsman with an interest in football (he is a long-suffering supporter of Newcastle United), skiing and fitness.
Julian Anthony was appointed as Chief Operating Officer (COO) in 2018. Julian was previously the Chief Financial and Operating Officer at Norwood – one of the UK’s oldest charities employing over 1,000 people, assisted by hundreds of volunteers, supporting vulnerable children and their families, children with special educational needs and people with learning disabilities. As a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales he has held a variety of senior finance positions including those at BT, T-Mobile and Premier Foods. Julian graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Accounting and Computing, and is a former pupil of The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys School. Julian, who is married to Wendy, an Educational Psychologist, is an avid Arsenal supporter and keeps fit by either running, swimming or going to the gym most days which he claims is essential just to keep pace with his three energetic children.
Tracey Evans is the Chief People Officer (CPO) at Berkhamsted Schools Group. With a wealth of experience in Industry Tracey joined Berkhamsted School in 2007. She spent 16 years in Banking, where she studied and attained her CIPD qualification during her role as an HR Specialist and Management trainer. Before leaving the bank Tracey held the position of Bank Manager for two years. Spending the next five years in an engineering company Tracey developed their HR portfolio before diversifying once more into the world of Education. With 580 staff, a Group of Schools which includes a Day Nursery, and an annual turnover of £28m, the challenges of managing the HR and Payroll for the Group are varied and require her to be up to date with the ever changing employment law and best practice. In this role Tracey offers professional advice to other smaller independent schools who have benefited from Berkhamsted’s pioneering initiatives. Tracey has two daughters who are Old Berkhamstedians. She enjoys travel, horse-riding, getting out and about in the countryside and spending time with her family.
Martin Walker joined Berkhamsted as the Headteacher of Berkhamsted Sixth in September 2017. He was educated at Barnard Castle School where he was Head of School. He studied French and German at Nottingham University and enjoyed gap years in France, Germany and Austria where he taught English, skied and played rugby. He completed a PGCE at Cambridge University before taking up his first teaching post at the Perse School where he became Deputy Head of the Lower School. He then moved to Harrow School where he spent seven years as Head of Department and four years as the House Master of West Acre House. He has coached rugby, hockey and cricket and led Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. He has volunteered for charities to help underprivileged children. He is married to Liz with whom he has two daughters who go to Berkhamsted School. Martin enjoys all sports, mindfulness, psychology and reading.
Mary-Clare Startin started as Headteacher of Berkhamsted Boys in September 2018. Mrs Startin was educated at Queenswood and Haileybury (where her father was variously Chaplain, boarding housemaster and Deputy Head). She read English at Warwick, trained as a teacher at Cambridge University, and has just completed an MA in Educational Leadership and Management. She has taught English, Latin, Classical Civilisation and Drama, during her career which has included spells at Brighton College, Christ College Brecon (where she was Head of English), King’s Bruton (as Director of Teaching and Learning), and most recently Berkhamsted Sixth – as Deputy Head. Mary-Clare is a fan of West Ham United, and of Worcestershire Cricket team. She was a county hockey player, a sport she has also coached, a keen reader (particularly of political biography and world affairs), an enthusiastic (but declares herself inexpert) skier, and a francophile. She and her husband own a property in France and often holiday there. Mary-Clare has a daughter who is currently in Year 8 at Berkhamsted Girls.
Liz Richardson is Headteacher of Berkhamsted Girls. After leaving Watford Grammar School for Girls, she went on to study for a degree in English and American Literature and complete a PGCE at Exeter University. She moved from teaching in the state sector to Berkhamsted School for Girls in 1988 and has held the posts of Head of Russell House, Head of English and Deputy Head of Berkhamsted Girls. She has been involved with many aspects of school life including organising debating teams and clubs, assisting with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and editing the Berkhamstedian. She was a director of an English Language School and has published English Language resources for pupils and teachers. Liz is married to David who is one of the Deputy Heads of the Sixth Form. They have a son and daughter who are Old Berkhamstedians. Liz enjoys swimming, pilates, travel and reading as much as possible in her spare time.
Debbie Isaachsen joined as Headteacher of Heatherton School in January 2016. Raised in Buckinghamshire and educated at Beaconsfield High School, Debbie returned to the area to take up the position after completing her BEd in Primary Education at the University of St Mark and St John in Plymouth. She has extensive teaching and leadership experience from both the independent and maintained sectors, having taught in all year groups and across all disciplines in both Prep and Pre-Prep. She joined Heatherton from Cheltenham College Preparatory School, where she was Head of Lower School since 2010 and previously Deputy Head of the Pre-Prep Department. A willingness to innovate and develop the curriculum has been a hallmark of her leadership at Cheltenham College Prep School. Debbie has recently been awarded a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership, where her study choices were directed towards teacher performance and teaching and learning. She is married to Alex, Head of Computing and ICT at Beaconsfield High School and IT Co-ordinator at Heatherton, and they have two children aged 11 and 13. She is a keen sportswoman and enjoys skiing, netball and walking.
Jamie Hornshaw is the Headteacher of Berkhamsted Preparatory School. After attending Borden Grammar School in Kent, Jamie completed his Bachelors degree at the University of Plymouth and attained his Masters at the University of Buckingham. He has spent his entire career in the Independent Sector and was Deputy Headmaster at Brentwood Preparatory School before moving to live abroad when he took up the post of Headmaster of The British School of Paris Junior School in France. This is a large British Overseas school at which Jamie was responsible for opening a £16m purpose-built campus having merged two junior schools together. He has served on the membership committee of the Independent Association of Preparatory Schools (IAPS), has experience as a Governor of a large Independent School Foundation and as an Executive Coach. Jamie is especially passionate about hockey and has umpired at National Level.
Karen O’Connor is the Headteacher of Berkhamsted Pre-Preparatory School and Berkhamsted Day Nursery. She attended Saint Michael’s Grammar school in North London, prior to the University of Southampton, completing her degree in English and History, followed by a PGCE. Her teaching career began in London where she taught across the primary age range before very quickly taking up her first Deputy Head post in a Hertfordshire primary school. Following a period of Acting Headship, Karen chose to move to a second Deputy Head post in the Inner London borough of Camden, which is recognised for outstanding primary school education. Here she was able to further develop as an educationalist and school leader. Karen is married to Richard and they have a daughter who attends Berkhamsted Prep School. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, playing tennis, travel and joining her daughter on horse riding hacks.
Richard Thompson is Assistant Vice Principal (External Relations). His early years were spent in Stratford-upon-Avon where he attended King Edward VI School. After graduating in Sports Science at Cardiff, he completed his PGCE at the University of Birmingham before taking up a scholarship at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. His teaching career began in Queen Elizabeth’s School, Barnet. Richard has worked at Berkhamsted School since September 1998 and, since then, has been a Head of Department, a Head of House and Deputy Head of Boys before becoming Head in September 2013, a position he held for five years. He is married to Laura who teaches at Berkhamsted Pre-Prep and has a son who attends Berkhamsted Boys. As well as having a career in education, Richard has played rugby for Moseley, Ebbw Vale and Saracens, and maintains a keen interest in sport.
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Principal, Richard Backhouse, is proud to share our recent inspection reports
“These wonderful comments acknowledge how well pupils across our entire family of Schools have embraced our implementation of Guy Claxton’s learning power principles in every aspect of our School life. The Berkhamsted Schools Group is committed to providing our pupils with an exemplary all-round education, instilling in our children life-long learning skills in addition to excellent academic, sporting and creative achievements.”