'The world has lost a bright light' – leading head Bernice McCabe dies

Tributes pour in for the former head of North London Collegiate School, who died after a struggle with brain cancer

Caroline Henshaw

Bernice McCabe

Educators have paid tribute to leading head Bernice McCabe, who has died following a year-long battle with brain cancer.

Ms McCabe, who led North London Collegiate School (NLCS) for two decades, died on Monday, having been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour shortly after stepping down from her role.

She was also instrumental in setting up the Prince’s Teaching Institute, now known as the PTI, and was made an OBE for her services to education last year.

“Bernice was an inspiring educationalist, whose interests and energies were manifold,” said Sarah Clark, the current head of NLCS, a private school in Edgware in the capital.

“Bernice’s legacy will continue at the school. She was committed to providing educational opportunities for children who otherwise would not have been able to afford them here at school.

“Bernice McCabe was an extraordinary leader, and a wonderful friend and colleague. She will be deeply missed.”

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Chris Pope, who co-directed the PTI with Ms McCabe, said “the country has lost one of its greatest educationalists”.

“She believed passionately that every child, whatever their background or ability, deserved an excellent education,” he said.

“From her long experience in teaching, she came to understand that this means having schools where every teacher is passionate and knowledgeable about the subject they teach, and that through their skill as empowered professionals. they would pass on this love of subject to their students.”

PTI chairman Keith Breslauer added: "The world has lost a bright light."


Ms McCabe started her career in her hometown of Bristol, before becoming headteacher of Chelmsford County High School in 1990 and then joining NLCS seven years later.

There, she strove to enrich the school’s curriculum and instil her pupils with a love for their subjects. She also oversaw the school’s international expansion, opening a campus in South Korea in 2011 and another in Dubai in 2017.

In 2002, Ms McCabe led the first Prince of Wales Education Summer School, which offers state school teachers the chance to hear from world-renowned experts in their fields.

Four years later, this grew into the Prince’s Teaching Institute and, by 2016, 14 per cent of all secondaries in England and Wales had sent a teachers on its course.

Ms McCabe spoke openly of her struggle against grade 4 glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive type of brain tumour, after she was diagnosed last year.

She was made an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list and was well enough to receive it from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace last June. 

“I have never shed a tear or felt the slightest bit of anger about what has happened to me. What is the point? These few months that I have had are priceless,” she said in an interview shortly after.

“I want to show them that it’s possible to fight a good battle against cancer. A lot of people feel that the treatment is utterly terrifying and appalling. I have not found that to be so.”

NLCS is starting an online book of condolences. Anyone wanting to contribute can fill in the form found here.



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Caroline Henshaw

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