History of the School

North London Collegiate School was founded in April 1850 by Frances Mary Buss in the family home at 46 Camden Street, Camden Town.

All the family assisted with the school including her brother Septimus and her father, R.W. Buss, who illustrated Dickens' novels and whose paintings now hang in the Buss Room, in the Old House at Canons.

In 1871, Miss Buss also founded Camden School for Girls for families with more modest incomes. You can find out more about her and the headmistresses who followed her in the dedicated sections below.

The school, as it grew bigger, moved to Camden Road and then to Sandall Road. The site at Canons in Edgware was bought in 1929 but the school did not move there fully until May 1940. You can find out more about the Canons site in its dedicated page.

Miss Frances Mary Buss (Headmistress 1850–1894)

Miss Buss is recognised as a pioneer in girls’ education and in teacher training. Her pupils were amongst the first girls to take public examinations and to go to university, and many went on to become pioneers themselves. The school itself, as was said in the Fleming Report in 1944, became the model for girls’ schools throughout the country and indeed the world.  

As the school grew larger it moved to new sites within Camden and then to Canons, its current home in Stanmore. The original house was adapted and extended by Sir Albert Richardson, and the school moved fully into the new building in 1940.

Dr Sophie Bryant (Headmistress 1895–1918)

Miss Buss was succeeded as Headmistress by Dr Sophie Bryant, the first woman in England to be awarded a Doctorate of Science. Appointed by Miss Buss to teach German and mathematics, Dr Bryant became eminent also in psychology, wrote books on educational theory and Irish history, and revolutionised the school’s science curriculum. Like Miss Buss she was instrumental in the campaign for female higher education. She was involved in setting up Henrietta Barnett School, and as a leading figure in the campaign for suffrage she took part in suffragist marches rather than suffragette causes. She supported Irish Home Rule and was a keen mountaineer and cyclist.

Miss Isabella Drummond (Headmistress 1918–1940)

Originally appointed by Dr Sophie Bryant as a Science Mistress at NLCS, Miss Drummond subsequently became Headmistress of Camden School and in 1918 succeeded Mrs Bryant as Headmistress of NLCS.  

Amongst many achievements was her role in devising, with teacher Rose Stern, a revolutionary science curriculum for the school.  She also “discovered” NLCS’ current home of Canons whilst on a country walk in Edgware and oversaw the school’s move there, which was accelerated by the outbreak of World War 2.

Miss Eileen Harold (Headmistress 1941–1944)

Miss Harold’s sound learning and courtesy, as well as her gentle firmness and sense of humour, guided the school as it settled into Canons during the difficult days of World War 2.

Dame Kitty Anderson (Headmistress 1945–1965)

Dame Kitty Anderson’s headship was characterised by her brilliant mind, by the warmth of her relationships with pupils and by tireless service to the school and to the wider world of education. NLCS became a Direct Grant grammar school in 1945, and shortly afterwards was one of the first schools in the post-war era to establish an exchange with a German school. The centenary was celebrated in 1950 and the Drawing School and an outdoor swimming pool were among the new buildings opened under Dr Anderson’s guidance.

Miss Madeline McLauchlan (Headmistress 1965–1985)

In 1965 Miss McLauchlan was appointed Headmistress, after serving as Headmistress of Henrietta Barnett School. As well as guiding the school in 1976 to become an independent school with charitable status, she fostered personal relationships and encouraged the development of music and drama. With a love of architecture, art and music and an eye for style and detail she was responsible for overseeing the construction of both the Music School and the McLauchlan Theatre, which later became the McLauchlan Library.

Mrs Joan Clanchy (Headmistress 1986–1997)

Mrs Clanchy preserved the traditions and values of NLCS in a period of social change and moved the school forward towards the future. Her vision, energy and determination enhanced the standing of the school and encouraged the growth of scholarship, the arts and care for the individual. GCSE examinations were introduced at this time, and both the Junior School and the First School were opened to enhance and enlarge the school community.

Mrs Bernice McCabe (Headmistress 1997–2017)

Mrs McCabe believed that subject rigour, depth of subject knowledge and the ability to communicate a love of subject to students are the fundamental requirements for effective teaching.

She had a passion for art and literature, and was responsible for building the Performing Arts Centre in 2007, which now hosts over 50 productions and concerts each year, and enables every girl to participate in performances.  

Mrs McCabe was Co-Director of the Princes Teaching Institute, and together with her NLCS teaching staff, has shared a commitment to subject based learning with over 1000 maintained schools and 3300 teachers. She served on a number of governing bodies and national education committees in the maintained and independent sectors, including the National Grammar Schools Association and the GSA/HMC Universities Committee. In 2010 she became a member of the Government's National Curriculum Review Advisory Committee and was named in the Evening Standard's Top 1000 Most Influential People in London.

Mrs McCabe encouraged students to be outward-looking and internationally minded, and set up overseas NLCS branches in Jeju and Dubai.

In the Summer of 2017, Mrs McCabe stepped down after 20 years as Headmistress and took up the position of NLCS Director of International Schools and Education Strategy. 

In June 2018, Mrs McCabe was made an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace for her services to education. Whilst serving as Headmistress, the School consistently maintained its position as one of the most academically successful schools in England.

In early 2018, Mrs McCabe was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer.  She faced the last twelve months of her life with remarkable courage and dignity. She died peacefully at home on 18 February 2019.

Bernice was an inspiring educationalist, whose interests and energies were manifold.  Her passion for the provision of a scholarly, and academically challenging education, led her to introduce the International Baccalaureate Diploma alongside A levels and the Pre-U at North London Collegiate School.  Her desire to enable future generations of teachers to be able to burnish and develop the love of their subjects was felt both here at NLCS, as well as in our sister schools in Jeju and Dubai, and also in her work with The Prince’s Teaching Institute. 

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 and The Bernice McCabe Bursary Fund was set up in her name to honour this.