Campaign to change Hendon School's name to Kevin McKellar School, in honour of late headteacher

Photo from the Japanese Foundation London

He has been described as a teacher who 'never gave up' on his students

First published in News
Last updated
Times Series: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

Heartbroken students have started a petition to rename their school in memory of their headteacher.

The “one in a million” Kevin McKellar, who worked at Hendon School, in Golders Rise, died over the bank holiday weekend.

The Times Series has received tributes from former pupils from across the globe, which described him as a man “brimming with love and inspiration” for his students and work.

More than 360 people have now signed a petition on change.org calling on the board of governors to change Hendon School’s name to The Kevin McKellar School in his honour.

The petition reads: “He was known for the effort he put into ensuring everyone at the school was safe, happy and cared for. His humour and compassion will be forever remembered.

“This incredible man needs to be commemorated in a way that is permanent and recognises the extensive and tireless work he did for the school.”

Hendon MP Matthew Offord said: “That would be a nice touch and I am impressed the students have reacted so quickly.

“It shows how he was held in high esteem – and let’s be frank, not all teachers are. The pupils really loved him.

“I often told him I wish I’d had a headteacher like him. I am really saddened by his death.”

Mr McKellar taught at schools across the country, including the Rokeby School in Canning Town and Cumberland School in Plaistow.

He joined Hendon School nine years ago and is credited with taking it out of special measures, before transforming it “beyond recognition”.

Under his leadership, by 2011, Ofsted inspectors gave it an 'outstanding' rating and named it one of the “best comprehensives in Barnet”.

Mr McKellar was also passionate about promoting the Japanese culture through teaching and exchange programmes.

His daughter, Lili McKellar, said: “My dad was an amazing man, father and headteacher. Words cannot express how much he will be missed.

“I want him to be remembered for moments like him running around Tesco’s singing and doing a spiritual dance.

“He helped so many students improve their English and get them up from Ds to A*s. Thank you for the support from all Hendon School pupils. He loved you and the school with all his heart.”

Hundreds have turned out to pay their respects at the school, leaving flowers and messages in tribute.

Times Series:

Catherine Reidy, who left the school two years ago, has fond memories of how he called the younger year groups his “babies” and forged close bonds with all pupils.

She recalled how he would come to the school on Saturdays with his dogs to give pupils extra English lessons before exams.

She said: “He never gave up on a student, no matter how troubled or badly behaved they were - he believed in us all and had faith in us.

“It’s hard to accept that somebody so vibrant and energetic could be gone. It’s a rare thing, to meet somebody with a heart as full to the brim with love and compassion as his.

“He thought everybody was a genius – but he was the genius. You leave the brightest light behind. Thank you endlessly.”

Blair Kandolo, whose two daughters attended the school, said: “He was a gentleman and a perfect teacher. When the kids did wrong, he corrected them in a way that reminded me of my own head back in Africa.

“He was firm and motivating. He loved his job and the school.”

Irfan Ashraf, who was taught by Mr McKellar at Hendon School, added: “He was an amazing teacher and taught me so much. He assisted me whenever I needed something.

“Hendon School will never be the same again.”

Another former pupil, Katie Osborne told the Times Series: “You will always be remembered as a funny and kind teacher to all your students at Cumberland.

“You gave everyone a chance - even the naughty kids that not many teachers had time for. The world has lost a great spark.”

To sign the petition, click here.

Do you remember Mr McKellar? Post a comment below.

Comments (7)

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9:13pm Tue 26 Aug 14

Cesco5873 says...

I entrusted the care and education of my children to Mr McKellar. From the moment he took them under his wing, he inspired them and took time ( like no other teacher I have ever known) to help them develop into young adults with a sense of decency, good manners, a thirsts for improvement and respect for fellow human being of all stripes. And he worked with a passion and level of energy well beyond that which might be expected of any head teacher,by a country mile. He was loved by all, like a latter day " Mr Chips" and you could not help but be caught up in his enthusiasm and optimism for life and education. His death has shocked and saddened me and my family in a way that would normally be reserved for the death of a close family member. The phrases " a one off ," an inspiration " or " one in a million " don't come close to describing the man that he was. He was small in stature but quite simply a giant of a human being. In the life of my family and the majority of children and parents who's lives he touched, the void left behind is impossible to fill. If keeping the memory of someone who has died close to mind is a form of immortality, then Mr McKellar will truly live for ever. Rest in well deserved peace. Francesco Reidy ( Cricklewood - London)
I entrusted the care and education of my children to Mr McKellar. From the moment he took them under his wing, he inspired them and took time ( like no other teacher I have ever known) to help them develop into young adults with a sense of decency, good manners, a thirsts for improvement and respect for fellow human being of all stripes. And he worked with a passion and level of energy well beyond that which might be expected of any head teacher,by a country mile. He was loved by all, like a latter day " Mr Chips" and you could not help but be caught up in his enthusiasm and optimism for life and education. His death has shocked and saddened me and my family in a way that would normally be reserved for the death of a close family member. The phrases " a one off ," an inspiration " or " one in a million " don't come close to describing the man that he was. He was small in stature but quite simply a giant of a human being. In the life of my family and the majority of children and parents who's lives he touched, the void left behind is impossible to fill. If keeping the memory of someone who has died close to mind is a form of immortality, then Mr McKellar will truly live for ever. Rest in well deserved peace. Francesco Reidy ( Cricklewood - London) Cesco5873
  • Score: 22

10:12pm Tue 26 Aug 14

MKhanc says...

Second to None - will be greatly missed - down to earth human with genuine feelings for his students and their parents. Cannot find the words to describe the loss. RIP.
Second to None - will be greatly missed - down to earth human with genuine feelings for his students and their parents. Cannot find the words to describe the loss. RIP. MKhanc
  • Score: 13

12:02am Fri 29 Aug 14

Edgar de Jarnac says...

If Mr McKellar was such a wonderful headteacher, there must be a better way of commemorating his achievements than the cheap option of renaming the school after him.

In my experience, a school that bears a person’s name has usually been given that name by the local council in honour of some forgettable political crony who had a council role related to education. So if I pass a school named Kevin McKellar School my immediate assumption would be that Mr McKellar was an unmemorable local politician rather than a heroic headteacher.

The name Hendon School is a good name, and should not be lost. It not only says that the school is in Hendon but also implies that it is THE school in Hendon. And from what I have read about Mr McKellar, it clearly had become THE local school.
If Mr McKellar was such a wonderful headteacher, there must be a better way of commemorating his achievements than the cheap option of renaming the school after him. In my experience, a school that bears a person’s name has usually been given that name by the local council in honour of some forgettable political crony who had a council role related to education. So if I pass a school named Kevin McKellar School my immediate assumption would be that Mr McKellar was an unmemorable local politician rather than a heroic headteacher. The name Hendon School is a good name, and should not be lost. It not only says that the school is in Hendon but also implies that it is THE school in Hendon. And from what I have read about Mr McKellar, it clearly had become THE local school. Edgar de Jarnac
  • Score: 5

12:51pm Fri 29 Aug 14

Judy S says...

Quite simply, he saved my son's education and to a large extent, his spirit. Mr McKellar (Kevin) was our neighbour and family friend before he became our son's head teacher. We were going through a very tough time as a family and Kevin convinced my son to re-enter full time education at Hendon. He passed his A levels, and grew into an inspiring young man. On the day Kevin died, my son landed in Vietnam to begin his year of work with disabled children. I would like to thank Kevin for what he did for us. But I know there were many, many others who were equally influenced by Kevin. I cannot help but think of the wonderful film "Dead Poet's Society" when I think of Kevin; the teacher in that film, wonderfully played by Robin Williams, had the same love of education and spirit, encouraging young people to think for themselves and accept who they are, albeit in a very different setting. "O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done." (Walt Whitman)
Quite simply, he saved my son's education and to a large extent, his spirit. Mr McKellar (Kevin) was our neighbour and family friend before he became our son's head teacher. We were going through a very tough time as a family and Kevin convinced my son to re-enter full time education at Hendon. He passed his A levels, and grew into an inspiring young man. On the day Kevin died, my son landed in Vietnam to begin his year of work with disabled children. I would like to thank Kevin for what he did for us. But I know there were many, many others who were equally influenced by Kevin. I cannot help but think of the wonderful film "Dead Poet's Society" when I think of Kevin; the teacher in that film, wonderfully played by Robin Williams, had the same love of education and spirit, encouraging young people to think for themselves and accept who they are, albeit in a very different setting. "O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done." (Walt Whitman) Judy S
  • Score: 6

2:34pm Sun 31 Aug 14

Jonty Stern says...

Earlier on this year an invitation went out to former pupils of Hendon School to discuss how to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Hendon School. Mr. McKellar chaired the meeting brilliantly. With him were some of the current staff of the museum and some other former pupils. The others represented the 1940s and the 1950s while I represented the 1980s.

I remember Alex, one of my fellow ex-pupils saying to Kevin that he needed to "bottle what he had and sell it". How very true!

His attention to detail was incredible: everything from how an oak sapling given by Adolf Hitler to a former pupil might appear to a modern audience to suggesting we research a teacher who left for the Western Front shortly after joining the school in 1914 to his policy on litter (each litterbug must prove they've attempted to find ten other pieces of litter and bin them) to his incredible support for multi-lingual education to his closure of the "bullying toilet" to his brightening up the place by encouraging staff at the local bank to volunteer with paint brushes!

I'm shocked he's gone so young.

Rest in peace, Kevin.
Earlier on this year an invitation went out to former pupils of Hendon School to discuss how to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Hendon School. Mr. McKellar chaired the meeting brilliantly. With him were some of the current staff of the museum and some other former pupils. The others represented the 1940s and the 1950s while I represented the 1980s. I remember Alex, one of my fellow ex-pupils saying to Kevin that he needed to "bottle what he had and sell it". How very true! His attention to detail was incredible: everything from how an oak sapling given by Adolf Hitler to a former pupil might appear to a modern audience to suggesting we research a teacher who left for the Western Front shortly after joining the school in 1914 to his policy on litter (each litterbug must prove they've attempted to find ten other pieces of litter and bin them) to his incredible support for multi-lingual education to his closure of the "bullying toilet" to his brightening up the place by encouraging staff at the local bank to volunteer with paint brushes! I'm shocked he's gone so young. Rest in peace, Kevin. Jonty Stern
  • Score: 4

11:35pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Chris Manor Park says...

My first memory of Kevin was scary. A boy was riding a moped along the pavement of our road, and suddenly this small, shaven headed middle-aged man in baggy jeans appeared and shouted "YOU! GET OFF THAT NOW! I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE!" It put the fear of God into me... then we got to know Kevin as our neighbour, and then as head teacher of Hendon. He was a wonderful bundle of energy and passion, who connected with our older son Tom with huge enthusiasm, mentored him in difficult times, and would occasionally burst into our home, spreading his unique brand of bonhomie. To see Kevin at a parents' evening was life-affirming - his complete lack of inhibition, his warmth, disregarding the alternate idea in our other son's school that head teachers should stand aloof. I don't think Kevin was capable of being detached. We are so sorry for his passing, and hope that his passion can live on in the renaming of Hendon school.
My first memory of Kevin was scary. A boy was riding a moped along the pavement of our road, and suddenly this small, shaven headed middle-aged man in baggy jeans appeared and shouted "YOU! GET OFF THAT NOW! I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE!" It put the fear of God into me... then we got to know Kevin as our neighbour, and then as head teacher of Hendon. He was a wonderful bundle of energy and passion, who connected with our older son Tom with huge enthusiasm, mentored him in difficult times, and would occasionally burst into our home, spreading his unique brand of bonhomie. To see Kevin at a parents' evening was life-affirming - his complete lack of inhibition, his warmth, disregarding the alternate idea in our other son's school that head teachers should stand aloof. I don't think Kevin was capable of being detached. We are so sorry for his passing, and hope that his passion can live on in the renaming of Hendon school. Chris Manor Park
  • Score: 4

8:45pm Mon 15 Sep 14

malcolmferguson says...

I had the honor of attending both primary and secondary school with Kevin, as we both grew up together.

What he went on to achieve and how much he was loved, comes as no surprise.

Rest in peace dear friend.

Aye yours
Malcolm
I had the honor of attending both primary and secondary school with Kevin, as we both grew up together. What he went on to achieve and how much he was loved, comes as no surprise. Rest in peace dear friend. Aye yours Malcolm malcolmferguson
  • Score: 0
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