Berkhamsted School in Hertfordshire was founded in 1541 and is a leading independent school with a diamond structure comprising a co-ed Prep, single sex Boys and Girls Schools and a co-ed Sixth.
About the school
Berkhamsted is a Day and Boarding school offering both single sex (from age 11 – 16) and co-educational teaching for boys and girls aged 3 – 18. The School is situated in the centre of the historic town of Berkhamsted, surrounded by Chiltern countryside, and within easy reach of London. The School is affiliated to the HMC, GSA and IAPS.
Leading student initiative gains national recognition
Tes has shortlisted Berkhamsted for the Independent School awards 2021. Berkhamsted’s highly impactful Learning Leaders programme has earned national recognition in the category of ‘student initiative of the year.’
11th May 2021 — Tes has shortlisted Berkhamsted for the Independent School awards 2021. Berkhamsted’s highly impactful Learning Leaders programme has earned national recognition in the category of ‘student initiative of the year.’
Tes are a leading education publisher and advocate excellence and innovation in teaching and learning. Their celebration of remarkable schools is a highly prestigious annual award ceremony. This year’s ceremony will be held virtually on Friday 30 April.
Berkhamsted’s Learning Leaders Programme was established in 2019/20, with the first cohort serving until January 2021 before handing over the reigns of this prestigious programme to a new group of Sixth Form students.
As well as for my own personal development, my primary motivation was to contribute to making the school a better place to learn.
Acting as academic ambassadors, the Learning Leaders influence school strategy and teaching and learning policy. They communicate with students from Y7-13 enhancing the impact of their learning. This student led initiative breaks educational traditions and enables students to excel their learning skills. This empowerment is expected to benefit Berkhamsted students, not just in the classroom but far beyond wherever their future takes them. Berkhamsted students aim to refine the leadership and metacognition skills that will not only guide them to their first employed role but propel them to their first promotion.
Orlando Alexander, a current learning leader said “I really like getting involved in as many things as possible, whether that is music, debating or a physics club, so the Learning Leaders programme felt like a brilliant opportunity to broaden my horizons whilst also helping younger pupils to develop their learning skills.
“I would like to use the knowledge and skills I have gained throughout the programme to support the learning of younger pupils at Berkhamsted through workshops, presentations and revision advice booklets. As part of this, I hope to be able to visit Senior School lessons to pass on some tips in-person and answer any questions they may have about how to learn and revise effectively.
“I have found it really interesting to learn, from a scientific point of view, why certain learning techniques work better than others; in fact, once I became aware of this, I really started to notice that different learning approaches yielded tangibly different outcomes.“
The Learning Leaders initiative has been at the heart of Berkhamsted’s successful Digital Learning strategy.
The cancellation of GCSE and A Level exams and the uncertainty caused by the COVID pandemic placed an extra challenge upon the Learning Leaders. Enhanced motivation, direction and reassurance provided by the Learning Leaders helped senior school students to thrive throughout the school closures.
Learning Leader Hugo Lindsey said “As Year 12s, we experienced our GCSEs being cancelled last summer, as have the current Year 11s. We have shared strategies for revising effectively as well as maintaining a healthy approach to revision throughout the uncertainty.
“One of our current projects is to provide revision tutorials to aid younger pupils in their approach to preparing for exams. Many of us feel that this is something that could be improved at the school, and we are grateful to the school for empowering us to make the changes we feel are necessary.
“From past experiences, we believe younger students can benefit from support with exams much earlier, and so we highlighted this is an area we want to particularly focus on. We also feel that it would be most effective coming from older students, and we hope we can offer advice to best prepare them for exams, which are a necessary and important aspect of education.”
The Learning Leaders recognise how crucial learning is beyond the educational setting. They have explored the professional world and discovered the critical skills that may be required for their future in an ever-changing world.
Joo Wei Yeap was a Learning Leader for 12 months until January. She said “The opportunities of the Learning Leaders programme offered a plethora of vocational activities, which I perceive as incredibly useful for any professional prospective endeavours. This was a great chance for me to challenge myself by adapting to different leadership roles.
“I was able to hone my soft skills by engaging with professionals and diversify my knowledge about different work environments. The most important skill that I was able to hone in the programme was my interpersonal skill. Working with other students of similar work ethic encouraged many intellectually stimulating discourses and collaborative initiatives.”
“Having been in similar positions as students of our age or younger, we were able to offer applicable advice in our presentations. Our empathetic perspective allowed us to create a more inclusive learning community. As learning leaders, we aimed to alleviate the academic pressure that weighs on students and motivate them from a more accessible standpoint.”
The Learning Leaders have embodied the School’s values – Aim High with Integrity, Be Adventurous, and Serve Others. They have shown exemplary levels of trustworthiness, commitment, enthusiasm and energy. They have shown an ability to articulate the benefits of soft skills and a growth mindset to peers and younger pupils with Berkhamsted Boys and Berkhamsted Girls, and have a willingness to help others.
The result of this leadership excellence is cementing Berkhamsted’s growing reputation for developing remarkable people – enabling pupils to thrive not only academically but also in subjects such as music, drama, sport and outdoor education, before transitioning from students to leaders in the world of work.
New Headteacher welcomes Heatherton pupils back to school
Children at Heatherton School, Buckinghamshire are welcomed back by a new Headteacher, Nicola Nicoll Nicola was appointed as a successor to Debbie Isaachsen and officially started her role at the start of this month.
9th September 2020 — Children at Heatherton School in Amersham, Buckinghamshire are welcomed back by a new Headteacher - Mrs Nicola Nicoll. Mrs Nicoll was appointed as a successor to Debbie Isaachsen and officially started her role at the start of this month.
Immersing herself into the Heatherton community, Mrs Nicoll has worked with staff throughout the summer to oversee the safe reopening of the school.
Mrs Nicola Nicoll has worked in Independent Primary or Prep Schools for over 20 years. She started as a science teacher at Thomas’ Preparatory School in Clapham, after completing her BSc in Biomedical Sciences and Post-Graduate Certificate in Education from Liverpool University. From there she became Head of Science and Head of Middle School at Westminster Under School in London and more recently as the Deputy Head/Acting Head at Badminton Junior School in Bristol.
Her diverse career has included two years living and working in Zambia where Nicola helped in a local Government school and taught at an Independent Boarding school. More recently, Nicola attained a Master of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of Buckingham.
Mrs Nicoll said “I am delighted to be joining Heatherton School as Headteacher and to be part of the Berkhamsted Schools Group. I am aware of the outstanding reputation of the Berkhamsted Schools, and I see it as a privilege to be part of a group that genuinely puts pupils at the heart of everything. “
“Heatherton is a fantastic place where pupils feel valued within an impressive treasure trove of high academic standards, outstanding pastoral care and top-class opportunities, enabling each individual to fulfil their potential. I will maintain the excellent standards achieved and provide continuity for all the pupils to complete their high-quality educational journey here spring–boarding them into their chosen next steps. I am very much looking forward to getting to know all the pupils, parents and staff over the coming months.”
Principal of Berkhamsted Schools Group appointed HMC Chair for 2021-22
Berkhamsted Schools Group Principal Richard Backhouse has been named Chair of the HMC (Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference), which represents top independent schools, for 2021-22.
1st April 2020 — Berkhamsted Schools Group Principal Richard Backhouse has been named Chair of the HMC (Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference), which represents top independent schools, for 2021-22.
The HMC (the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference) is a professional Association of heads of the world's leading independent schools. HMC's schools are individual and distinctive offering parents a rich variety of options when choosing the right education for their child. HMC schools include St Albans Boys School, St Albans High School for Girls, Aldenham and more distant schools from Cornwall to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. International schools include the Kellett School in Hong Kong where the Principal is Mark Steed, formerly Principal of the Berkhamsted Schools Group. Members include Eton, Wellington College, Royal Grammar School Guildford, Winchester and Harrow.
Richard Backhouse has been Principal of Berkhamsted Schools Group since January 2016. His previous employment includes factory work on a kibbutz in Israel, bar work in a hotel in the French Alps, and running a bar in his hometown, he read Economics at Cambridge, expecting to go on to be a journalist. Experience coaching sport to children in summer holidays 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 Schools – where he developed the scope and depth of the pupils’ opportunities and achievements.
After his new appointment had been announced, Richard said: “I am honoured to have been chosen to lead this Association during what will be a very important year for the education sector following the unprecedented challenges the sector is currently facing. We will be adapting from what has been a period of change in teaching, with many schools in the independent sector delivering a remote learning environment and finding new stimulating ways to teach from a distance. I hope that the many lessons we have learnt as a sector during these past few weeks can help us drive forward in our educational partnerships to help pupils in a variety of situations.”
Berkhamsted Schools Group has a partnership with Denbigh High School, Luton and the Wren Academy Trust, London and local primary school, Hawridge and Cholesbury. Under Mr Backhouse’s leadership Berkhamsted Schools Group was recently highlighted as an example of best practice in a report to Parliament from the Social Mobility Commission (April 2019) for its state partnerships.
Richard said “100% of HMC Schools have partnerships with the state sector, and the benefit of the HMC to the educational sector as a whole is most obvious through these relationships. We have an opportunity to be at the forefront of the whole sector learning to digitise teaching – for remote learning where appropriate – while still securing the character education for which HMC schools are rightly famous all over the world. I look forward to serving the HMC, as it serves the sector, in 2021/22.”
Berkhamsted School named as one of the best in the country for sport
Berkhamsted School have been named as the third best independent school by School Sport Magazine. The national publication ranked each school based on 20 different sports and 120 national competitions throughout 2019.
12th February 2020 — Berkhamsted School have been named as the third best independent school by School Sport Magazine. The national publication ranked each school based on 20 different sports and 120 national competitions throughout 2019.
It was a memorable year, with Berkhamsted qualifying for the national finals in three age groups for Netball, well as being crowned National 1st XII Lacrosse Champions for 2019. Six other age groups also competed at the National Lacrosse finals with four reaching the semi-finals and beyond.
There was further success on the Rugby and Football pitches with the 1st XV reaching the later stages of the National Champions Trophy and the U11 Football side being crowned IAPS National champions for the first time in the school’s history.
Of all the school’s named by School Sport Magazine, from Sedbergh in Cumbria to Millfield in the South West, Berkhamsted are the only Hertfordshire based school in the top 30.
Berkhamsted fielded in excess of 220 teams in 2019 across 19 different sports ranging from Cricket to Cross Country, Gymnastics to Golf. Every pupil has the opportunity to represent the school at sport and participation rates across all age groups are extremely pleasing.
While studying A Level maths, economics and psychology Maddie Beckworth captains the title winning Lacrosse team and plays Netball for the first XII.
She said “2019 was a fantastic year of sport for Berkhamsted, I believe the main reason for this was the incredible sportsmanship which all pupils showed at all levels of sport throughout the year making school sport incredibly enjoyable as well as rewarding. This allowed all pupils, regardless of their ability, the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of sport.
“Netball and Lacrosse has had a great year and I think the reason for this is the staff, who dedicate their passion and expertise throughout the year, providing all pupils with the determination and drive to reach their team and personal goals. Being a part of this motivated culture has meant success is truly apricated and provides everlasting memories.”
Maddie is also one of 124 Sixth Form students to complete Gold Duke of Edinburgh and participated in a programme to learn business consultancy skills. These experiences, together with her academic achievements give her a great chance of success in her university applications to Exeter and Bath.
Director of Sport David Gibson said “We are absolutely delighted to feature in the top three of the rankings following such an amazing year of sport at Berkhamsted. This has been a real team effort and great credit should go to all the dedicated pupils, staff, coaches and ground staff.”
“We aim to provide every pupil with a positive experience of sport and physical activity during their time at Berkhamsted and hope that they enjoy in participating in the sports that they love.”
Record breaking charity marshmallow has unheralded impact on the community
When Joshua Nunn (Year 8) came up with the idea of supporting Children In Need and creating a Pudsey Bear shaped marshmallow, he could only begin to imagine the full impact of the project.
12th December 2019 — When Joshua Nunn (Year 8) came up with the idea of supporting Children In Need and creating a Pudsey Bear shaped marshmallow, he could only begin to imagine the full impact of the project.
Contributing to his mum’s discussion with her client Belinda Clark, Joshua suggested they make their world record attempt as beneficial as possible. The Pudsey marshmallow idea was born.
Fundraising has been a great success. The winning bid for the mammoth marshmallow was £550. The interest in the challenge sparked a further £1,050 Children In Need donations from the Berkhamsted community.
During Children In Need in November Joshua represented the Berkhamsted School record attempt on the 18:30 BBC News. He said “The result was beyond my wildest dream. But what has made it even better is the fact the winning bidder was this year’s MasterChef Winner – Irini Tzortzoglou – who had it all cut up and sold to raise even more money this time for The Jigsaw Children’s Hospice in Carlisle, Cumbria. My mum and I are going to go and visit the children during the Christmas holiday”
The creation of the marshmallow turned into a community event in Berkhamsted and beyond.
Berkhamsted’s school caterers (Aramark) worked with gourmet confectionary specialist Belinda Clark. The team gained the support of Silver Spoon, Waitrose, Jewsons and organisations such as Berkhamsted Chamber of Commerce, British Legion, Berkofest and The Hospice of St Francis.
Belinda, who normally specialises in traditionally shaped gourmet marshmallows was able to transform her design thanks to the Pudsey shaped mould donated by Talbot designs.
Richard Thompson, the school’s lead for external relations said “The Berkhamsted Society ties together Berkhamsted School’s interactions with local groups and charities. Such links with the local community are perhaps, ever increasingly important. The Berkhamsted Society enables the School to participate fully in local life, with good relationships established and strengthened with local groups so that opportunities for the School’s resources and volunteering may be used well for events and activities. We are delighted to support this exciting fundraising event and showcase our school value ‘serving others.’
Verification from the Guinness World Records is shortly expected to confirm Berkhamsted School as the holders of the World’s Largest Marshmallow title.
Community gardening project with Sunnyside Rural Trust is the start of a blossom
Berkhamsted School has benefited from a horticultural makeover with help from young people and adults supported by a local charity.
2nd October 2019 — By offering training and work experience opportunities, Berkhamsted have teamed-up with Sunnyside Rural Trust –a local charity who empower people with learning disabilities.
Sunnyside already grow an impressive 90,000 bedding plants for Dacorum Council every year. Similarly, this project with Berkhamsted School’s Estates Department will bring more success that everyone is rooting for.
With the support from Berkhamsted’s industry professionals, the team of six trainees from Sunnyside have already transformed an area of the Prep School seen by everyone who enters from the main gate on Doctors Common Road. They have successfully replanted the raised beds, and the next stage is to plant garlic, onions and broad beans – which could eventually end up as the ingredients in the Prep school lunches!
Russell Hatt, the Maintenance Supervisor within the School’s Estates Department has led the project with Estates team member Steve Hammond.
Steve said “My relationship with Sunnyside Rural Trust began in 2012 through my son, Henry, who was 16 at the time. Henry was born with major heart problems and suffered a stroke after corrective surgery leading to him having learning difficulties.
“Sunnyside helps young adults like Henry to gain confidence and self-esteem while introducing them to a working environment. It was the start of a new chapter in Henry’s life when he began at Sunnyside.
“It was a proud day for me to see Henry as a part of the first team from Sunnyside to work on the school grounds, the joy in their faces as they began the task and their pride upon completion was a delight to see. This looks like being a mutually beneficial partnership which can only blossom along with all the wonderful plants they will be planting around the school.”
“Since the moment they arrived, the Sunnyside trainees were enthusiastic, full of fun and laughter and couldn’t wait to get started. Armed with their own school badges and trowels they set straight to work.
“Knowing that our school works hard in the community, a joint project with Sunnyside seemed like a good idea. The school Senior Management team and my own department have been unanimously supportive. They understand the great benefit to all, and how it reflects Berkhamsted School’s values.”
Finding out more
133 High Street, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, HP4 2DJ