A “visionary” headteacher left an "indelible mark" on generations of children in Brent and around the world.

Karen Giles, who has been the headteacher at Barham Primary School in Wembley for more than 20 years, died on March 22 surrounded by her family and friends.

Ms Giles had spent some time away from her role after falling ill with brain cancer in February 2023.

She had led the school of 930 pupils and 150 staff since 2003, helping shape the lives of thousands of children at the school, which has maintained a ‘good’ Ofsted rating since 2011.

A spokesperson for the school said: “Karen’s presence had an extraordinary ability to uplift spirits and foster a sense of belonging among all who knew her.

“Throughout her time as headteacher, Karen exemplified selflessness, always putting the needs of others before her own.

"Whether it was offering a comforting word, lending a listening ear, or simply sharing a smile - she left an indelible mark on the hearts of children, colleagues, and families alike.

“Karen’s grace, kindness, and dedication to the children will always be remembered as she touched the lives of so many.”

Before Barham, Ms Giles spent more than three decades teaching and leading in urban primary schools, spending five years as deputy head at Fryent Primary School.

She was also active in education overseas, such as working for GEMS Education, a private school operator operating in the Middle East, North Africa and other parts of the world, and as a trustee for school leadership group the Varkey Foundation Argentina.

Brent & Kilburn Times: SEND coordinator Tina Murray (left), with headteacher Karen Giles in 2022SEND coordinator Tina Murray (left), with headteacher Karen Giles in 2022 (Image: Barham)

During her time as a consultant with GEMS, she looked into the feasibility of an affordable UK independent schools model.

Ms Giles also took on other roles, such as Ofsted team inspector, working as an advisor helping education programmes in Africa and working for Brent Council as a school effectiveness lead professional.

She wanted every child to leave primary school equipped with the skills to take full advantage of every opportunity.

After her diagnosis, she was receiving care at home.

Brent & Kilburn Times: David Cameron presenting an award to Karen Giles (left) and Gidea Heaton (right), music teacher, in 2014David Cameron presenting an award to Karen Giles (left) and Gidea Heaton (right), music teacher, in 2014 (Image: Archant)

Cllr Gwen Grahl, cabinet member for children, young people & schools, said: “Karen was an inspirational school leader.

“She was the dynamic and visionary head teacher of Barham Primary School for 20 years.

“In that time, she made a huge difference to the lives of a generation of children and inspired staff to be the best they could be, as she would accept no less for Brent children.

“On behalf of Brent councillors, officers and schools I offer the council’s sincerest condolences to Karen’s family and everyone at Barham Primary School community.”

Brent & Kilburn Times: Barham Owl Wing Learning CentreBarham Owl Wing Learning Centre (Image: Barham)

Councillor Ketan Sheth, who represents Wembley Central, said: “Much saddened to hear that Karen Giles, head of Barham Primary School, has passed away.

“[She was] fiercely intelligent, yet kind and generous, she served as headteacher and Brent children with pride: she advocated for them with an energy that few others could match. She will be sorely missed.”

The school will hold a memorial service to celebrate her life and commitment.