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Emotional farewell for head who saved Islington school

67-year-old helped to transform fortunes of primary that was due to be closed

19 July, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Headteacher Barrie O’Shea got a special retirement assembly in the playground with pupils at Duncombe Primary School

TEARS were shed as pupils, parents, politicians and teachers bid an emotional farewell to a veteran headteacher who helped to transform the fortunes of a school that was once notorious for bad behaviour.

Barrie O’Shea, 67, was led into the Duncombe Primary School playground on Friday where staff, pupils and parents jumped out and gave him a surprise retirement assembly.

Pupils performed a sketch they had rehearsed telling the ­story of Mr O’Shea’s time at the Sussex Way school from the day he arrived in 1989 – months before it was due to close – through to now.

He is leaving behind a school that is celebrated for its work within the community.

Mr O’Shea said: “The children imitated me really well and there was a great impression of Jeremy ­Corbyn as well.

“It was an exciting day, but there was a moment where it got emotional. There were quite a lot of tears.”

Islington North MP ­Jeremy Corbyn was in attendance to see pupils perform song and dance routines and hear speeches testifying to the impact Mr O’Shea has had on generations of children.

Mr O’Shea at Duncombe

Later in the evening, teachers from schools across the borough, as well as the Town Hall’s education chief Mark Taylor, joined Mr O’Shea to celebrate his career.

Today (Friday) is his last day as a headteacher in the borough. He will be around for a little longer to oversee the football pitch that is being installed at the school and to meet with incoming headteacher Helen Ryan.

Mr O’Shea said: “It feels like the perfect time to go. I might be a bit puzzled when it comes round to September and I’m not going back to Duncombe, but I think I’ll be able to ­handle that.

“I’m ready to take on new challenges, though, and I’m ready to do more work in the community.

“I am not going to sit around on my allotment and grow potatoes for the rest of my life.”

Duncombe deputy headteacher Jacqueline Doherty, who has worked with Mr O’Shea for around 11 years, said: “The Duncombe children, parents and staff are all so grateful to Mr O’Shea because he has established a fantastic school with a strong community spirit and an ethos of caring for each other that will just continue to grow.

“It’s a wonderful ­legacy to leave us with.”

The Tribune has consulted Mr O’Shea on many occasions over the years. He has always given frank and insightful comments on the education issues of the day.

We would like to give our sincere thanks for this and wish him all the best for his retirement.

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