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Our Governing Body

The Role of the Governing Body

The governors work in strategic partnership with the senior leaders of the school, and they have a vital role to play in making sure every child gets the best possible education. The Governing Body is the school’s key strategic decision-making body. It has a collective, legal responsibility for the effective management of the school, acting within a framework established by national legislation and the school’s agreed policies, and ensuring all statutory duties are met.

The governing board provides strategic leadership and accountability in schools. It has three key functions:

  • Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent.
  • Holding the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils.
  • Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos, and strategic direction.

Governors are not expected to take detailed decisions about the day-to-day running of the school. That is the responsibility of the headteacher - although the headteacher will discuss most aspects of school life with the governors. The partnership between the headteacher, staff, governors, parents, pupils, and the wider community determines how well the school functions. Governors with the headteacher set the aims and objectives for the school and set the policies and targets for achieving those aims and objectives. They monitor and evaluate the progress the school is making and function as a source of challenge and support to the headteacher.

The Governors

The governors are volunteers who bring knowledge, skills and different perspectives from their work and life experiences. Many of them have full-time jobs and all have other commitments. They sometimes take time off from their work to visit the school or attend meetings, 

Governors must be prepared to adopt the Nolan Principles of Public Life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership. 

There are twelve governors, and each was appointed in June 2021.

  • 2 Parent Governors — elected by the parents.
  • 7 Co-opted Governors — appointed by other members of the Governing Body (Co‑opted Governors are made up of members of the local community).
  • 2 Staff Governors, comprising the Head Teacher, and one staff governor elected by the staff.
  • 1 Local Authority (LA) Governor — nominated by Islington Council.


Sophie Bridge: Chair of Governors

Sophie lives in Islington and has two grown up children who also live in the borough. Sophie is a 30 year veteran of COO roles in financial services firms across Asia and Europe. She is currently the CFO of a litigation financing company and she hopes that her experience in the practical financial management of successful businesses will be useful for Duncombe.

Sophie is the Chair of the Governing Body, the Chair of the Resources committee.

David Carter

David lives in Barnet with his wife, and occasionally one, two or three of their sons. David works in a city law firm (Ashurst LLP) as a corporate lawyer.  He was formerly head of graduate recruitment for the firm. Loves sport and lunch.

David acts as link governor for Humanities. 

Rachel Kinnock Bentham


Rachel acts as the link governor for Literacy.

Paul Tonkinson

Paul lives in Crouch End, and has three grown up children who have come through the state secondary school system in North London. He is a stand up comedian, writer and broadcaster. During the pandemic Paul established links with Duncombe helping with food drop offs, he is passionate about addressing educational/social inequalities compounded by the pandemic and is assisting with the safeguarding of children at Duncombe.

Paul is the link governor for Safeguarding of children at Duncombe.

Juliet Benis

Juliet is the Head Teacher at Ambler Primary School, having worked there for 28 years since joining as an NQT. She loves Ambler - the children, the staff and the families. Working tirelessly and on everything from the fabric to culture and ethos and expectations. She understands the importance of building a team - putting the right people in the right places.

Juliet is the chair of the "Achievement, Behaviour & Curriculum" (ABC) committee,

Richard Watts 

Richard lives close to Duncombe and represented this area on Islington Council for 15 years, including eight as Leader of the Council. He now works for the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. 

Richard is the local authority governor, and acts as the link governor for Health and Safety, and Premises. 

Dapo Ogunbiyi

Dapo lives in Crouch End with his partner. He works for an investment management firm (LGIM) investing in infrastructure projects and companies. At work, he has been involved in diversity and inclusion initiatives, and is passionate about ensuring that there are equal opportunities available for all. Dapo loves sports and baking.

Dapo is the link governor for Maths.

Nicki Longfoot

Nicki lives in Holloway and has three older children who have attended local state primary and secondaries. She’s a writer and professional fundraiser, and has played an active PTA role at all three schools, helping to raise both money and engagement in the school communities..

Nicki is the link governor for Music.

Natalie Fiawoo

Natalie Fiawoo is a Producer, Project Manager and Curator of mixed Ghanaian and British heritage. With a focus on telling stories of the African Diaspora, Natalie works mostly in theatre, poetry and heritage with organisations such as Apples and Snakes, Black Cultural Archives, Bloomberg, Camden Roundhouse and The Southbank Centre. She is developing a series of workshops alongside the team at Alleyne& focusing on helping organisations create sustainable, brilliant and inclusive teams.

Natalie is a parent governor, and acts as link governor for Pupil Premium attainment.

Laila Naana

Laila is the mother of three children, one of them with ASC, and has lived in Islington for six years. Laila has an education degree from Syria, she has three years experience working with UNICEF in a Turkish camp and three years working in a complimentary school.

Laila is a parent governor and acts as the link governor for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND).

Katija Ali

Katija is the deputy head of the school and the staff governor.

Helen Ryan

Helen qualified as an English teacher (secondary) in 1997 and began her career at Central Foundation Boys’ School in Islington.  Her interest in primary developed in 2002, when she worked for Tower Hamlets LEA implementing Ruth Miskin Phonics in schools across the borough.

Helen moved to primary education in 2013, where she was appointed as deputy head teacher at Ambler Primary School. Leading on literacy, phonics, curriculum and pupil premium she was part of the SLT that moved the school from ‘good’ to ‘outstanding' in May 2017. Helen’s experience in secondary education gives her an in-depth understanding of the standards needed to be achieved at primary. She is passionate about closing the gap between attainment of disadvantaged pupils and non.

Helen is the Head Teacher at Duncombe Primary School.

The Committees

The governing body has two Committees:

  • Achievement Behaviour and Curriculum (ABC): focuses on pupil progress, attainment, behaviour, needs and the school curriculum.
    • Juliet Benis (chair)
    • Rachel Kinnock Bentham
    • Laila Naanaa
    • Helen Ryan
    • Paul Tonkinson
    • Nicki Longfoot
  • Resources: deals with finance, staffing, the building, health and safety.
    • Sophie Bridge (chair)
    • David Carter
    • Natalie Fiawoo
    • Helen Ryan
    • Richard Watts
    • Dapo Ogunbiyi

Meeting Attendance

Full Governing Body Meeting Minutes