Outgoing University College School headteacher will miss pupils when he retires

UCS headteacher Kenneth Durham with sixth form students outside the school entrance. Picture: Nigel

UCS headteacher Kenneth Durham with sixth form students outside the school entrance. Picture: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A highly-respected headteacher set to retire after 17 years at the helm of a top Hampstead secondary school says he will miss the company of young people when he leaves.

Kenneth Durham will step down from University College School (UCS), in Frognal, this summer having joined as headteacher in 1996.

From September, the independent secondary will be led by Mark Beard, 41, who will leave his current role as deputy headteacher at exclusive independent secondary Brighton College, in Brighton, East Sussex, to join UCS.

Looking ahead to his departure, Mr Durham said: “I will miss the contact with bright and sassy teenagers. I do genuinely enjoy the company of young people.

“I think they are great people to be around, it’s constantly stimulating. They also have a great sense of humour.”

Upon his departure, Mr Durham will move out of his six-bedroom Hampstead home in Redington Road - a UCS property given to every headteacher during their tenure – to make way for Mr Beard.

Along with his wife Vivienne, headteacher at Francis Holland School in Regent’s Park, Mr Durham will split his retired life between Sussex and London, with a house in Chichester and a flat in Belsize Park.

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The 59-year-old, currently vice-chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), plans to retain his links with education despite his retirement.

“I will be retiring but I will have a few interests in education which I will be pursuing,” he said.

“I am governor at a few schools and I’ll continue my interest at HMC. But I won’t be working as hard as I have been for the last 17 years. If I am, I’ll be doing something wrong!”

During his time at UCS, which charges £5,525-per-term, Mr Durham has overseen a number of key developments, including the construction of a new arts centre and sports facilities, as well as an expansion to the sixth form to accommodate girls for the first time in the secondary school’s history.

He said: “I’ve done quite a lot at the school in those 17 years. I tend to see it all as a natural progression. I’m very proud of it.

“The thing I’m most proud of is that through all that natural progression we’ve retained the distinctive character of the school.”

Having studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford University’s Brasenose College, which counts comedian Michael Palin and Prime Minister David Cameron as alumni, Mr Durham began his career as an economics teacher at St Albans School, in Hertfordshire.

He then became head of economics and later academic deputy head at King’s College School, in Wimbledon, before joining UCS as headteacher in 1996.

It is a decision he does not regret.

“UCS is a very good school and it’s a privilege to be its head,” said Mr Durham.

“It’s also quite a distinctive school and unusual in its liberal and informal atmosphere.

“If you’re very happy and settled at UCS it’s hard to imagine what you might go onto because there aren’t any schools like it and there aren’t many schools that are as good as it.”