"Much loved" Yavneh College headteacher has died


The staff and pupils at Yavneh College were in shock today after the sudden death of founding headteacher, Dena Coleman.

Dr Coleman, 60, died on Tuesday after contracting bacterial meningitis.

The highly respected educator was headteacher at the school in Borehamwood since it opened six years ago and was expected to retire at the end of the academic year. The “much loved” Dr Coleman had dedicated more than 30 years to the field of education.

Chair of Governors Sue Nyman said: “Dena was dearly loved and will be terribly missed by all students, parents, staff, governors and trustees. Our thoughts and prayers at this sad time go out to her family.”

The school released the statement: "Our community was devastated to hear today that our much loved and respected headteacher has passed away."

"Her outstanding leadership made Yavneh into one of the most successful schools in the country."

In an interview with the JC in September 2012 Dr Coleman said: “It has been a great privilege to set up Yavneh College and to see it grow into a successful, well-established school. I am very proud of what has been achieved and look forward to watching the school flourish still further over the coming years.”

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks made a statement: "Dena Coleman was one of the truly great Jewish educators of our time. Wherever she went, she brought blessing, whatever she did, she brought success. That in no small measure was due to her outstanding character and personality, strong but gentle, driven yet compassionate, modest for herself, fiercely ambitious for her pupils. Quiet and sometimes reserved, she believed that actions spoke louder than words. Nowhere was this more evident than as the first headteacher of Yavneh College where she oversaw the building of the school and set new standards of excellence in Jewish and secular education in Anglo Jewry. Elaine and I will miss her deeply, and our hearts and prayers go out to her family."

Students and parents have shared their condolences on a Facebook tribute page. Student Alexander Grabiner wrote: "You were an amazing woman, the most inspirational and caring woman i have ever met. Without you I wouldn't of been able to move to Yavneh and meet all the amazing people and make all new friends. Without you Yavneh wouldn't be here and i want to thank you for all your hard work and determination. Why do bad things happen to incredible people. You will be truly missed and i wish the whole family a long healthy life."

School parent Shoshana Manning wrote: "You inspired my children to have enough determination to make every day better than yesterday. It was a lesson well learned and will change our futures. Wishing your dear family a long life."

Partnership for Jewish Schools made the statement: "Partnerships for Jewish Schools and the Jewish Leadership Council were devastated to hear the tragic news about Dr Dena Coleman z'l. Dena was an inspirational headteacher and a role model for teachers and pupils alike. She was a hugely respected colleague whose passion for Jewish education was matched by wisdom, warmth and a willingness always to offer helpful advice and support. Yavneh College will always stand as her most impressive legacy but she will be remembered with deep gratitude also by countless pupils from all the schools she led, by headteachers whom she mentored and by all those who benefited from her professional advice and personal friendship. We extend our deepest condolences to all her family on this tragic loss. May her memory always be an inspiration and a blessing."

If you would like to share your memories or tributes of Dr Coleman please email us at

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