Background and History

Thomas Slingsby Duncombe

Our school is named after Thomas Slingsby Duncombe (1796-1861) who was MP for Hertford 1826-32 and for Finsbury in 1834-1861. He was described as ‘probably the most radical Member’ of his period, perhaps a role model for the current MP for Islington North, Jeremy Corbyn. However, unlike him, he was from an aristocratic background and was said to have ‘pursued the habits of a dandy’.

Thomas Duncombe was unwavering in his support for popular causes. In 1842 he presented the second Chartist petition to Parliament calling for universal male suffrage and other democratic reforms. He also strongly supported the rights of trade unions at a time when their legal status was in doubt. He was President of a National Federation of Trades in the 1840s, which tried to unite trade union organisations in the way that the TUC eventually did. Thomas Duncombe also strongly supported the movements for shorter working hours and helped to bring in the first important measure in the Ten Hours Act of 1848. He attacked the use of ships to house prisoners and was a member of the Committee for the setting up of Finsbury Park as a public open space.

Duncombe Road was built in 1866 and named after the late MP. The Duncombe Road Board School was opened in 1878, with the top floor added in 1905.

Our school

The school building occupies a site set back and screened from the main roads. It is an attractive well-constructed building originating from the late nineteenth century of which we are very proud and consistently seeking to maintain and develop to meet our changing needs. The school occupies three floors with additional mezzanine floors we use to meet our special requirements. We have two large halls and up to six classes on each floor. In addition there are specialist rooms for Art, PE, ICT, SEN and Music. There is also an excellent library with a constantly improving stock of books, computer and video resources. Our ICT room has the latest computers and technology with excellent resources.

Playgrounds, which are allocated to different age ranges and activities surround the school. Our children have space to run and play freely, to play team games or just to sit in a reasonably calm area. The children are very well supervised with never less than two adults in each playground monitoring play times. The playgrounds are supplemented by a superb urban park, which we share with our local community. Following a joint development with Islington Parks & Garden, the school commissioned a local artist Magnus Irwin to work with us in partnership to design and paint our stunning rain forest mural on the main park wall adjoining the Premises Managers house.

The school is well served by public transport with a variety of buses passing along the Hornsey or Holloway Road, Finsbury Park and Archway Underground Stations are within easy walking distance and Upper Holloway British Rail Station is also nearby.

Duncombe Primary School occupies a site and building that has previously gone under the name of two other individual schools: Cottenham Road School, a technical school and Duncombe Road School, an elementary school. The school was a relief station for the emergency services during the Second World War, when teachers would fire watch on the roof during the blitz and then endeavour to teach any children who hadn’t been evacuated the rest of the day.

Duncombe School has had a very difficult and challenging history. Since the infants and juniors merged in 1989 the school has undergone a remarkable transformation. Our present Headteacher and a dedicated staff have reclaimed the school’s reputation and given purpose and direction to both children and parents. Academic standards have risen from the lowest attaining school in the borough to well within and in some cases above the national averages. The school has increased dramatically in popularity more than doubling in size to 460 pupils with considerable waiting lists in some years.

The children’s self esteem is excellent. We have a conscientious, successful and forward looking staff who have much to be proud of for the success to which they have contributed. The school has often been asked to account for its remarkable recovery as an example of good practice. These enquiries have led to us contributing to conference’s on Behaviour and Discipline held by HMI in Birmingham, also those on school improvement held by the University of London, Institute of Education and many others involving fellow professionals and the media. We have also been invited to share our good practice with the USA and Europe promoting Duncombe's achievements.