The above painting was completed by the Dutch artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder in 1562 and is called ‘The Triumph of Death.’ It is a large, detailed painting and is also, clearly, quite disturbing. Not, therefore, the type of image that you would normally use to convey an uplifting message in the first assemblies of a new school year. Whilst being a ‘big picture’ it is built upon a series of smaller scenes. As part of our assemblies for years 8-11 I asked students to identify a series of actions within the painting and would encourage you to do the same. Which of the following is depicted?
A starving dog nibbling a child’s face?
A skeleton cutting a man’s throat?
A skeleton riding a horse, trampling a woman?
A skeleton executing a man. The man is praying?
Obviously, there are much bigger question missing from that list; why did Bruegel choose such dark subject material? What was he trying to say about Europe in the 1560s? It is a fascinating painting that provokes thought.
Students should always be exposed to great or important works of art, but my main purpose was to encourage each year group to think about the importance of both the big picture and the smaller details associated with their own lives. If we become too focused upon the end result, we sometimes fail to pay attention to the smaller details. Conversely, by obsessing over the small details, we sometimes fail to grasp our overall purpose. Therefore, it is important to keep things in perspective and to seek a balance between the two. Aspiring to achieve the highest grades possible is pointless if you forget to listen in class; getting upset about a poor test result if all others have been positive is equally unnecessary. Balance is key. As is accepting the reality of failure. We all fail. Bruegel reworked the ‘Triumph of Death’ a number of times and was, apparently, unhappy with the finished work. He viewed the inability to transfer his idea into a completed version deeply frustrating. That is not, however, the same as viewing the final work as a failure.
Our Year 11 and Year 13 students achieved fantastic results at GCSE and A Level in their summer exams. In comparative terms, their results were up there with the best achieved at the school, particularly at GCSE. Fantastic also in terms of getting the grades needed for the next stage in their lives and in terms of how they were rewarded for effort and hard work. It might seem slightly perverse, on that basis, to write about failure, but failure is an integral part of life. Most people will fail, in some capacity, a number of times during any given day; some failures can be felt very profoundly, others might be mundane and less important.
“We are all failures - at least the best of us are.” J.M. Barrie
When Aretha Franklin died in August most of the reporting associated with her death referenced her greatest songs and performances. Her obituaries often referenced the beauty of her voice and key songs, such as Respect, I Say A Little Prayer and Chain of Fools. All were recorded for Atlantic Records. What very few mentioned was that the early part of her career, at Columbia Records, was considered to be an abject failure. She had a strong voice, but not a distinct style. She recorded some minor hits, but a much greater number of flops. Columbia Records encouraged her to sing in a variety of genres; Country & Western, Jazz and Easy Listening, but none seemed to be a good fit with her obvious talent and they eventually ended her contract. Many people are unaware of her earlier songs, some of which, retrospectively, are the equal of her later work. (See below).
In 1965 she was signed by Atlantic Records and viewed as ‘a potential loss making risk.’ Reflecting on the great success she went on to achieve, she commented that each failure, in retrospect, prepared her for later success, because they made her realise that she needed to practise and hone her talent. Not everyone can be as talented as Aretha Franklin or Pieter Bruegel, but everyone can reflect in a similar way on their strengths and weaknesses. To recognise failure for what it is and to retain a sense of equilibrium, or balance. If our students do that, then they will learn from their mistakes and miscalculations, rather than being defined by them.
A J O’Sullivan
Please do not arrange to bring your child to school by car. This request was made very clearly in the Headteacher’s end of year letter and also referenced in the school information booklet given to all Year 7 parents and carers as part of the admissions process. .
Children need to develop the independence of getting themselves to school on time and need the exercise that walking or cycling gives. We do not have any parking or even drop-off space for parents on our site and we are instructed by the LA and police to prevent parents coming onto the site in cars as the car park is so congested that extra dropping-off vehicles constitute a serious safety hazard. This has been particularly concerning this week and has caused potential problems for some of our disabled children who are picked up by taxi at the end of the day.
From time to time we will do checks at the start and end of the school day and ask any parents on site in cars to leave. Parents sometimes are offended or angry about this so it is best to be clear: you may not park or drop off in our car park.
If you are bringing your child to school by car because there is no alternative, please arrange to drop them off and pick them up in the lay-bys to the north and south of school, or in Redhills Lane, being mindful of residents’ access.
Ms Charlton, Director of Resources
World Challenge 2018 Report
12 sixth form students completed the World Challenge 2018 Expedition to Nepal over the summer spending 4 weeks in the country. All students were exceptional and coped well with a variety of challenges.
Whilst in Nepal the students completed the Annapurna Sanctuary trek, covering 110km in 12 days reaching heights of 4100m.
The students completed a number of cultural activities visiting monasteries and temples and learned about Nepalese cultures and traditions.
A large part of their expedition was a community project where they lived and worked in a school which was badly affected by the 2015 earthquake.
During the community phase students sanded, primed and painted numerous classrooms, dug foundations for a retaining wall, taught local children and organised games to play with the community.
Throughout their time in country the students had to organise their accommodation, arrange transport around the country, manage their budget, risk assess each situation and take turns in leading the group. All students did the school proud and embraced each challenge.
The next World Challenge expedition will be launched to student in years 11 and 12 in the coming two weeks. The destination for 2020 will be revealed to students in an assembly on the 11th September.
Mrs Hardwick, Head of Year 7 and Mr Kennedy, Subject Leader for Guidance
With regard to the Common Annual Data Collection Form issued last term, if you have not yet returned this form to school could you please do so by Friday 14th September.
Where forms are not returned, we must assume that you do not consent to your child’s inclusion in photography, activities, excursions etc.
If you require a duplicate form, please do not hesitate to contact the school.
Ms Charlton, Data Protection Officer
We would like to ensure that we are providing all children with the best educational opportunities and support possible. Healthy school food has obvious benefits and can help pupils to establish good eating habits for life. Eating healithly can also improve pupils' readiness to learn and to be more successful at school.
We are very keen that all eligible parents and carers are aware of how to make application for a free school meal.
Please click on the link below for further information and guidance on how to register.
Mrs Coady, Attendance and Welfare Manager
May I remind students, parents and carers that for health and safety reasons jewellery, including earrings or retainers, is NOT permitted. As published in the Uniform Policy, we advise that new piercings should be done at the start of the summer holidays (allowing time to heal). Piercings must then be removed for the start of the autumn term. The wearing of false nails is NOT permitted.
Mrs Bell, Assistant Headteacher
We are pleased to inform you that we intend to trial a Breakfast Club at Durham Johnston School from Monday 10th September 2018. The club will initially be offered to Year 7 and 8 students and will run each morning from 7.55a.m. until 8.25 a.m. A small charge of £2.50 per session will be made to cover the cost of providing a healthy breakfast, staffing costs and the purchase of additional educational resources (children who are eligible to receive income based Free School Meals will not be charged).
A healthy breakfast will be served, which will include a selection of cereals, toast, pastries, fruit, yoghurt and juice. There will be the opportunity to complete learning activities, reading practise and educational games. Research suggests that eating a healthy breakfast can significantly improve the educational outcomes for pupils.
The Breakfast Club will take place in Languages Room 11 each morning.
Mrs Bell, Assistant Headteacher
A new term and new skills for the Y10 Creative iMedia students – this week we are focussing on different types of animation. We have explored flipbooks and stop motion so far. We have used both paper based resources and digital devices to support learning. The students really showed of their skills, allowing their imaginations to run wild – excellent work Y10!
Miss Forbes, Subject Leader for Computing and Business
This year we are going to issue a monthly newsletter to parents/carers offering advice about keeping your child safe online. If there are any new technologies that we become aware of that pose a danger to our young people, we will make sure that you are kept informed via our newsletters, as well as offering practice advice on how to manage the dangers. You will also find an archive of the letters on the online safety section of our website under “Information for Parents”.
Mr Garside, Strategic Leader for ITT
This week in Computer Science some of our classes have started the year by learning how to code our Micro:bit robots. The classes had to plan out their algorithms, write the code, debug and load the code onto the robots to be tested out. It was great to see the students working so well in teams to solve the problems being set.
Mr Garside, Computer Science
Word of the Week
Sixth Form Notices
If you would like to keep up to date with what is going on in the Sixth Form please click on the following link - Monday 10 September 2018.
Music Enrichment Activities 2018 - 2019
Please click on the following link for information about Music Enrichment Activities for this academic year. If you have any questions or require further information, please ask you son or daughter to speak to a member of the music department. Please note that all activities and rehearsals begin in the w/b Monday 11th September.
Tuition from Durham Music Service and Music Works
Music lessons begin in the w/b Monday 10th September and timetables are displayed in the music corridor. Please do encourage your child to check the music notice board and ask their music teacher if they have any questions. I’m afraid that we are unable to share timetables electronically with parents/ carers, but if you could encourage pupils to note lesson times in their organiser that should assist them to remember times. If you have a year 7 child who is receiving tuition, please reassure them that it may take a few weeks to get into the swing of things and that they should not be too worried if they miss the occasional music lesson at the start of term.
Instrumental Tuition – New Starters
There are spaces for new starters in either year 7 or 8 for trumpet (2 pupils) and orchestral percussion lessons (3 pupils). Please would you ask your child to come and see me for more details if they may be interested in taking up this opportunity.
Each week over 150 instruments are brought into school by pupils and as many cases are very similar, please could I ask you to ensure that instruments are clearly labelled. I have a stock of name fobs and can supply these free of charge, if pupils need them. Also, musical instruments are usually covered by household insurance, but please could I ask you to check this as accidents do happen from time to time.
GCSE Pre-school Music
Please note that lessons for both the year 10 and 11 group begin at 7.40am on Tuesday 11thSeptember.
Mr Holmes – Subject Leader for Music
I would like to remind parents whose children are going skiing next year, that the 5th instalment is due by Friday the 14th Sept. £144 cheques made payable to Durham Johnston School.
Mrs Hopper, Ski Visit Co-ordinator
Term and holiday dates 2018-2020