Curriculum Versus Progress and Should We Be Happy With 95%?
We have had an excellent start to the new school year, welcoming Year 7 students from 37 different primary schools and Year 12 students from 18 secondary schools. The majority of our Year 11 students have also made the step up to A level study at the school. They have settled in well and are offering a huge amount to the wider school; working hard in lessons and contributing to the school’s cultural life. We are now thinking carefully about transition for next year and students from Parkside, Shotton Hall and Wolsingham are all planning to spend time with our 6th form team in the coming weeks. Our Maths department are also working on a project with local primary schools to boost confidence in the subject and we have been working with other secondary schools to share good practice. It is important that we engage with other schools and that we leave others with a positive impression of Durham Johnston. It is important that our students make a positive impact on others too.
The year started on a positive note, with our GCSE and A level students achieving excellent results, both in terms of both attainment and, more importantly, progress. Year 11 students’ average attainment was 5.69 (as a grade, approximately B+) and the year group’s progress score was +0.28. (If they had achieved their expected grades this would have been 0.0). In a similar way, our Y13 students achieved an average grade of B/B+ and progress of +0.22. We are hugely proud of the students for achieving such wonderful results and are currently working hard to provide the same opportunities for our current students. I share this with you because I recently had the good fortune to be present when the Chief Inspector of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, spoke at the North East School’s Conference. The speech had many strengths and a number of key lines intended to generate media interest. She stated that: “I don't know a single teacher who went into teaching to get the perfect progress 8 score.”
Well, that’s obviously correct. I became a History teacher because I wanted students to be inspired by studying the past and to develop a lifelong love of the subject. I also think that students benefit enormously from a comprehensive education; the curriculum should be broad and balanced and students should choose what is best, or most appropriate for them. However, progress really does matter.
It matters particularly for those students with limited cultural opportunities and those that live in relative poverty. A comparison between the expendable wealth of the average person in the South East and those in the North East is testament to that. Academic progress is important for social mobility and we clearly live in a very unequal society. https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/scale-economic-inequality-uk Educational opportunity is enormously important in this context and academic progress can change lives.
Curriculum versus progress is obviously not an either or proposition, nor, I should add, was that suggested by Amanda Spielman. However, much of the coverage and discussion around the speech suggested that dichotomy. In 2014 a similarly bizarre educational conversation emerged around ‘skills versus knowledge.’ I remember attending a conference when people argued, quite vociferously, that teaching knowledge was elitist and that teachers should prioritise skills. The debate always seemed very peculiar; knowledge, skills, curriculum, results and progress are all important and all are interconnected. Ofsted can shuffle the pack and measure the quality of education offered in a multitude of ways, but the fundamental reason that most people work in education is to help students to experience as wide a range of subjects as possible and to make progress as individuals and as part of a wider school community. Ofsted don’t control the treasury purse strings, but it would be helpful if they were to use their laudable skill at generating media interest to argue for the increased funding needed in order for all schools to offer the broad and balanced curriculum that they believe to be important. Without that funding, subjects and teachers that provide breadth will remain vulnerable.
I would like to thank you for your continued support in the first 7 weeks of the year. We have appreciated your support regarding the school’s position on mobile phones and uniform. In a similar way, we are currently working closely with parents on the importance of 100% attendance if at all possible. 95% appears to be a big number, but when applied to attendance it would mean 10 missed days during the school year. Sometimes absence is unavoidable and we would always support students and parents when that is the case. However, if students can be present, then they should be. Regular attendance is the foundation for individual progress and success.
Have a good half-term.
Festival of Culture 2018
Meet Tommy Atkins
On Wednesday, Over 500 pupils and staff enjoyed performances of Peter Gill’s play Meet Tommy Atkins.
In keeping with the theme of this year’s festival, which is remembrance of the centenary of World War I Armistice, the play took the audience, through the eyes of a simple 'Tommy', through his first world war experiences in the trenches of the Western Front and on to his subsequent life in Britain.
We learned of the boredom of trench life, the horrors of Passchendaele and the Somme, the gas attacks of 1915 and the Christmas Truce of 1914. We also followed Tommy through his post war life in Britain - learning of his bitterness on returning from the trenches to a country that was not a ‘country fit for heroes’, finding some comfort by returning to the Western Front to help tend the graves of those in the Imperial War Graves cemeteries and ultimately regaining patriotic pride, after the Second World War, when he witnesses the birth and success of the Welfare State.
After the performances, Peter offered question and answer sessions where students had opportunity to explore further the life of a 'Tommy' both in the trenches and in post war Britain.
The standard of the performance was superb, students gained valuable insights into the life of a Great War soldier and history was brought to life.
Themed Lunches – Food from the Trenches
Students across the school had opportunity to try food typical of that eaten in the trenches during World War I.
Original recipes were used and catering staff, dressed in historical costume as worn by lunchtime ‘dinner ladies’ during the war, served pea soup, machonochie stew, fish sausages and trench cake with (unsweetened) white sauce.
Students bemoaned the loss of our usual school ‘chip day’ and embraced the challenge of eating somewhat bland recipes and unsweetened cakes and sauces; dishes which would have been, to many, luxurious at the time.
Please see below the post for the final event which will take place on Friday 2nd November.
Festival of Culture Events Team
After studying 'Kes' in their English lessons, a number of year 7 pupils participated in a brilliant falconry display on Wednesday morning.
Students were able to hold and watch birds of prey in action!
With thanks to Mrs Tennant for organising this for the pupils.
Mrs Walton, KS3 English Co-ordinator
On Tuesday 16th October our Geography GCSE and A-Level students had the chance to meet representatives from the RSPB. The session looked at the aims and objectives of the RSPB, where the organisation works, what the different roles in the RSPB are and how Geography is used.
The students who attended gained an insight into the potential careers available to them. One student said, "Geography is not just a static career. You could be a teacher, a conservation manager and even a mapping expert. It was enlightening to discover that birds are perhaps the most important indicator in showing potential disruption to food chains."
We thank Aimee-Lee and Judy for giving up their free time to speak to our students.
Mr Ray, Geography
Word of the Week
Art Students of the Week
Billy Hutch 7HK-for his very creative use of old newspapers in creating this intricate bowl shaped sculpture.
Katie Crich 8SW- Katie has created a very well constructed sculpture, with a paint effect replicating the appearance of rusty steel. The reference to steel relating to our local industrial heritage. A theme we will be exploring more over the next few weeks.
Well done to all three students.
Mr Devlin, Subject Leader for Art
All ensembles have made and excellent start to the year and repertoire for both the Festive season and later events in the year is coming on well. Following various changes to our rehearsal schedule during the DJ Festival of Culture, all ensembles will be rehearsing as normal during the first week back.
Performance Dates for next half term
Friday December 30th - 15.45
Johnston Brass and several Durham Music Service ensembles will be performing at a Neville’s Cross Community Association Christmas Event at Sheraton Park. More details to follow.
Saturday December 8th – 14.00
Junior Choir, Johnston Brass and selected soloist perform in a Christmas Concert at North Road Methodist Church
School Christmas Concert – Thursday 13th December, James Hall.
First Half (6.30pm) to include Wind Band, Junior Orchestra, Junior Choir and selected soloists.
Second Half (7.30pm) to include Big Band, Senior Choir, Senior Orchestra, Chamber Choir and selected soloists.
Tickets for each part of this concert may be purchased from the Music Department. To ensure that as many parents, relatives and friends as possible can attend this event, we would encourage you to purchase tickets only for the half in which your child is performing? There will be some pupils who are performing in both halves, in which case audience members will need to purchase tickets for both parts of the concert. Please note that pupils who have siblings in the other half will be able to attend that half of the concert without a ticket.
We shall ask everyone who does not have a ticket for the second half to vacate the hall at the end of the first half and then, those with tickets for the second half will be admitted in time for the second half to start at about 7.30pm. Tickets will be £3 (or £2 concessions) for each half and please note that these will not be for sale on the door. Payment by cash or cheque, payable to ‘Durham Johnston School’. These will be on sale from Monday 12th November.
Mr Holmes – Subject Leader for Music
On Monday night our VIth form football team were at home against Prudhoe in the Tyneside Cup. This was an excellent game however we eventually lost 4 - 2
On Tuesday our Year 7 & 9 football teams were in league action against Teesdale. Our Year 7’s dominated possession but just couldn’t find a goal losing 1 – 0. It was better news for our Year 9 team who dominated the game going on to win 7 - 1
Our U15 girls football team were also playing on Tuesday away at St Robert’s. We produced a battling performance going on to win a close game 3 – 2. Our Year 9 rugby team were at Blaydon on Tuesday for a Tyneside tournament. They played two games winning one and losing one.
To complete a busy evening our U15 table tennis teams were at St Leonard’s for the Area tournament. Our A team won their group comfortably to reach the final. Our B team needed to beat Framwellgate in their last group game to join our A team in the final. This match ended 4 – 4 but we unfortunately lost on game countback. Our A team played very well in the final going on to become champions and reach the County finals in March.
Our U16 and U19 rugby teams were both in County Cup action on Wednesday. Our VIth form travelled to Hartlepool and produced an excellent performance to win the game and reach the County finals. It was also good news for our Year 11 rugby team as they finished second to also qualify for the County plate finals. It wasn’t quite as good news for the football teams on Wednesday as our VIth form team lost a close game 3 – 2 away at St Thomas More. Our U14 girls football team were hit badly by illness, injury and player availability as they were knocked out of the English Schools Cup by a strong team from Cardinal Hume.
Finally on Wednesday 28 of our rowers were at Durham City ARC competing in the Durham & Chester-le-Street indoor rowing competition. This was an outstanding evening of success as we won 8 of the 12 races. Incredibly 24 out of our 28 rowers finished in the top four and therefore qualify for the County finals which take place on 15th November at Maiden Castle. Congratulations to the following who are Area champions: Tabby Barry, Simon McKim, Elise Lambert, Tom Pfetscher, Miriam Stewart, Thomas Crabtree, Ella Sampson and Adam Morris.
Last night our Year 11 football team were at home against Hurworth in the County Cup. We lead 1 – 0 at half-time and took control in the second half going to reach the quarter-final with a 3 – 1 victory.
Finally good luck tonight to our Year 9 rugby team who travel to St Johns’ and our Year 7 basketball team who are away at Dame Allan’s.
Mr Hopper, Subject Leader for PE
Huge congratulations to Joe Hughill (Year 10) who has been awarded a football scholarship at Sunderland AFC for when he leaves school next year. Joe is currently on day release from school to train at the Academy of Light. The academy has been awarded prestigious Category One status under the new EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) rules – the highest level possible. Well done Joe!
Mr Kidd-PE Department
Football Match Reports Link