History of the school

The present day Highbury Fields School exists as a result of the significant joining of Highbury Hill High School and Shelburne High School in 1981. Before this, however, there is an extensive history dating back to the early 19th Century which tells the individual stories of the two schools that would unite and make Highbury Fields School what it is today.

History of Highbury Hill High Schoolbook cover

In 1836, the Home and Colonial Society made their roots in London and served to train teachers to a standard fit for teaching both at home and abroad. Highbury Hill High School was founded eight years later as one of the society’s co-educational Model Schools. In 1863, the school found they were running out of space for the growing number of pupils and subsequently the boys were asked to leave. The girls school that survived was renamed “The Mayo School” after one of the society’s founding members, Elizabeth Mayo. Thirty-one years later, The Mayo School was moved from its residing place in Gray’s Inn Road, Camden to Highbury Hill House in neighbouring Islington.  Coinciding with this change of address, the name of the school was also changed to Highbury Hill High School for Girls. Just after the turn of the century, the running of the school was handed over to London County Council; this eventually led to the construction of a brand new school building on the Highbury Hill House site in 1928. The school operated happily for the next nine years until war time struck and students were evacuated to Huntingdon Grammar School (now Hinchingbrooke School) in Cambridgeshire, until 1943 when they returned home to Islington. Between 1965-1970, it was proposed by certain figures that Highbury Hill High School should become a comprehensive, this motion was defeated and the school remained the same until 1976 when it was formed into London’s first ever mini-comprehensive along with local boy’s school, Highbury Grove.

History of Shelburne High School

While the tale of Highbury Hill High School was unfolding so too was the story of another local educational institute, Shelburne High School, which started life in 1825 as a community Mission on the Holloway Road. The Holloway Free and Ragged School was established twenty-one years later by the Mission in nearby Hornsey Road and for just under the next three decades, charitably educated the deprived children of the community. In 1872, the Mission requested that the London School Board take over the educational and day-to-day running of the school. This transfer took place while still allowing the Mission to continue their philanthropic and religious work through the school and community. One of the initial tasks that the board set themselves was to demolish the old building and construct a brand new school in its place (this newly created school would be one of the buildings shared in the eventual amalgamation of Highbury Hill High and Shelburne High). The school was named The William Forster School after the London-born philanthropist.

As this brand new school was being built on Hornsey Road, a Church of England elementary school was established close by in Harvist Road and was eventually taken over by London County Council (just as Highbury Hill High School had been) in 1902. Eight years later, the council moved the elementary school to new premises on local Shelburne Road and it was merged with the previously mentioned William Forster School to form Shelburne Road School. On 9th September 1958, Shelburne became a girl’s school named Shelburne High School for Girls.

The joining of Highbury Hill and Shelburne High

In 1979 the Inner London Education Authority announced their intentions to integrate Highbury Hill and Shelburne High Schools over a remarkable period of six years. It was also proposed that Highbury Grove School, which was already a comprehensive partner of Highbury Hill High, was to be joined with The Sir Philip Magnus School. These announcements were met with fury from the schools in the community. 1979 was an active year for campaigners who first marched to the Department of Education and Science to protest, before delivering a 40,000 strong signed petition to the home of the Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher, herself.

The protest proved effective for Highbury Grove as they managed to defeat the proposal to join with the Sir Philip Magnus School. However for Highbury Hill High and Shelburne High, the efforts had been in vain as in 1981 the campaign against the merger was defeated and the two were joined, leading to the formation of the present day Highbury Fields School.

Highbury Fields School today

Set against the backdrop of an enriching, nearly 200 year old history of countless changes in name, location and leadership, Highbury Fields School is today one of London’s most unique and successful schools.  As a culturally rich environment with a positive ethos, strong values and a focused vision, the school works hard to optimise the academic achievements of each and every student.