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News > School > Remembering Dr Ruth Catchpole - Biology Teacher 2000-2016

Remembering Dr Ruth Catchpole - Biology Teacher 2000-2016

We are saddened to report the death of Dr Ruth Catchpole, Biology teacher at Habs 2000-2016.
6 Apr 2023
Written by Shalaka Karlekar
Dr Ruth Catchpole 2018
Dr Ruth Catchpole 2018

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Dr Ruth Catchpole who taught Biology at Habs from 2000 to 2016 has passed away. All those students lucky enough to have spent time with Dr Catchpole, both in and out of the classroom, will remember her as a wonderful, encouraging and inspirational teacher, with an enormous sense of fun.   This was amply shown when she affirmed that one of her favourite memories of Habs was winning the staff dance competition in the final Action Week ! To colleagues, she was always a great source of support and she will be sorely missed by her many friends , not least the Habs Girls community both here at Elstree and far beyond. Our thoughts are with Ruth's husband Prof Mike Catchpole and their family. Please get in touch with us at if you would like to have contact details for Mike Catchpole.

Here is a snippet from Dr Catchpole's leaving 'interview' for Greenhouse magazine in 2016:-

What will you miss most? The great atmosphere and friendly pupils.
What is your favourite memory of being at Habs? With other members of the Science department, winning the staff dance competition in the final Action Week.
One final piece of advice you would like to offer Habs girls? Two quotations (I don’t know who said them) seem to me to be worth thinking about: ‘You cannot always be the best but you can always do your best’ and ‘we make a life by what we give.’ 

Ruth Catchpole began her life in Oxford, where her father was an academic in the Botany Department of Oxford University. Her father’s fascination for plants engendered in Ruth a life-long interest in plants and gardens. She attended Oxford High School (Oxford’s oldest girls’ school) before studying Zoology at University College London. Following the completion of her first degree (BSc) in 1974 and a brief period of working in a research laboratory, Ruth studied medicine at University College Hospital London, where she received her medical degree in 1980. She then worked in hospital and general practice in London and Oxford as part of her training to become a GP, which she completed successfully in 1985. She soon decided, however, that in medicine, as in so many other walks of life, prevention is better than cure, and this drew her first to working in health education, which sparked an enduring passion for teaching, and subsequently led her to enrol in a training programme in Public Health Medicine.

Ruth added an MSc in Public Health to her growing list of qualifications in 1987, which she was awarded following her studies at the prestigious London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). It was while studying at LSHTM that Ruth met her future husband, Mike, who was also studying for the MSc in Public Health. Ruth and Mike were married in 1990, at which time Ruth was working in the Public Health Department in Watford. Following the birth of her two children, Ruth decided that she wanted to pursue her passion for teaching and therefore made a career change to secondary school teaching, after obtaining a Postgraduate Certificate in Education from the University of Hertfordshire. Her first teaching post was at the Marlborough School (now Marlborough Science Academy) in St Albans, teaching biology. Ruth moved join the staff of the Biology Department of Haberdashers’ Girls’ School in 2000. 

Following her retirement in 2016, Ruth divided her time between the UK and Sweden, where her husband is the Chief Scientist at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. She kept up her passion for gardens and gardening, and enjoyed visiting gardens in the UK and abroad. She leaves behind her husband and two children, both of whom were pupils at Haberdashers’ Schools for Girls and Boys respectively.

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