Why I love Highgate - Channing School headteacher Barbara Elliott

Barbara Elliott, 54, is headteacher of Channing School, a private all-girls school in Highgate, established in 1885. The mother-of-four took charge of the school in 2005 and lives within the grounds of the junior school in Highgate High Street. This week, she features in the Ham&High’s Who’s Who section.

How does Highgate rate compared to other areas you have lived during your life?

I can’t think of a better place to live in London. I grew up on a farm in Lancashire and have also lived in Cambridge, Scotland and Hertfordshire. I’d be lost without the green space so enjoyed by residents of Highgate, especially Waterlow Park. For me, it is the best of all worlds - London at one’s fingertips and a rural retreat, all in one village.

How do you find living where you work?

When I moved to Highgate, I bought myself an extra two hours a day. Who wouldn’t be glad of that! No commuting, just a two minute stroll to the office.


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What would your perfect day consist of?

A good cup of coffee (my deputy greets me each day with a freshly roasted blend!), the company of inspiring colleagues and the privilege of guiding young people to success. I love my work, so a working day suits me perfectly. I am, however, seriously considering getting a dog. That is the one thing I really miss, so add ‘a walk in the park with my dog’ to that list.

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If you had not gone into teaching, what would you have chosen to do instead?

I would have been a journalist. It’s still on my “to do” list.

If you could choose anyone in the world to come into Channing School to speak to the girls, who would you invite and why?

Baroness Caroline Cox, activist and campaigner, Carly Fiorina, ex-chairwoman of Hewlett Packard, and HRH Princess Sarvath el Hassan of Jordan. They are all former Channing pupils who, amongst many others, have gone on to achieve great things. Caroline Cox is a truly inspirational role model who has already visited us several times.

What has been your proudest moment at the school so far?

In amongst the more obvious successes of public examinations and university places, it is the stories of individual triumphs that make me most proud. Sometimes girls have to face huge challenges, but we work together to help each one fulfil her potential.

A film is set to be made about your life, who would you choose to play you and why?

Emma Thompson. She is a great actress - intelligent, principled and gorgeous. I’d like to think I’m principled, but I’ll leave the acting, looks and intelligence to her!

Barbara Elliott was in conversation with Tim Lamden.

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