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 Headmaster 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.
Peter Nicholls is the Vice Principal (Business Operations), a position he has held since joining the School in 2010. He also teaches the School’s Mini-MBA programme. He was educated at Felsted School, then read Economics at Cambridge University, before joining Coopers and Lybrand’s management consultancy practice, where he qualified as a chartered accountant. Peter spent 20 years in telecoms, initially at Coopers and Lybrand (now part of PWC), then with Mercury Communications, followed by 15 years at British Telecom. At BT he worked mostly in its global business, in a variety of Finance Director and Commercial Director roles in the UK and overseas, including living in Italy. Peter and his wife Harriet have three children, two of whom attend Berkhamsted School and one is a recent leaver. Peter is a keen follower of cricket and enjoys golf, skiing, scuba diving and travel in his spare time.
Tracey Evans is the Director of Human Resources 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 Headmaster 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.
Richard Thompson is Head of Berkhamsted Boys. 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. 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.
Liz Richardson is Head 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 is currently serving on the membership committee of the Independent Association of Preparatory Schools (IAPS). He also has experience as a Governor of a Primary School and as a mentor to other Head Teachers. Jamie is especially passionate about hockey and has umpired at National Level. His wife is teacher/counsellor at a different school and he has two daughters currently at Berkhamsted – one at the Prep School and one at Berkhamsted Girls.
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.