New Henrietta Barnett headteacher reveals vision for top school

Del Cooke, headteacher of Henrietta Barnett School. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Del Cooke, headteacher of Henrietta Barnett School. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

As a teenager, headteacher Del Cooke travelled two hours across the capital to attend music classes at one of the country’s top-performing secondary schools.

And now after 30 years in teaching, she has returned to all-girls Henrietta Barnett School in Hampstead Garden Suburb to take the reins at the selective academy school.

The mother-of-three took over last September after leaving her role as head of top independent girls school Sir William Perkins’s in Surrey.

Despite the transition from private to state sector, she said her new school feels much the same as her last.

Mrs Cooke, of Muswell Hill, said: “They are very, very similar. It was a lovely school, though the main difference is the challenge of managing state school funding.”

She added: “I started out teaching in the state sector many years ago.

“I ended up teaching in the independent sector and I’m grateful for the opportunities but in my heart of hearts, I always hoped to go back to the state sector. It’s a school I’ve been very attached to my whole life. It was a lovely opportunity.”

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Her vision for the school is simple: inspire and empower her pupils to go on to achieve extraordinary things.

Mrs Cooke, of Muswell Hill, said: “These students are so talented, interested and motivated; there’s really no barrier to what they can achieve.

“I hope I can add to that mix, as it’s a very unusual school in that it is so high achieving and yet has such a strong sense of family and community.

“That’s a very rare combination and something that very much needs nurturing, so it’s a great privilege to be here.”

One of the first projects she will be taking on as leader of the prestigious former grammar school is to fundraise for a state-of-the-art new library.

Governors have approved plans to internally extend and refurbish the existing library, which they say is not big enough for the number of pupils clamouring to use it.

A school-wide project to fundraise for the library began last month, and Mrs Cooke has urged the community to help them turn their dream into reality by donating.

The mother-of-three said: “Our library is not really fit for purpose, it’s not big enough for the number of students that want to be in it.”

Mrs Cooke, of Muswell Hill, added: “We just about have enough funding to get the books but we couldn’t possibly do it on our normal funding.”

The school has planning permission for the project but expects works to begin over the summer holidays.