11 May 2018

What can you remember about 2013? What will you remember about 2018?

If you are a Year 11 student you might well look back on your first ever day as a Durham Johnston student. Nervously walking onto the school yard in your ill-fitting uniform, keen to meet up with friendly faces from your primary school, or from the June induction day.  Form teachers met you in 2013 at 8.30 a.m. to walk to your new form room. At the same time today, many of those same form teachers were reaching up to sign your shirts.  If you are a Year 11 parent, you will be struggling to process how quickly five years can pass. After primary school, an invisible accelerator is pushed, speeding up time.

You might also be surprised by the context of 2013. David Cameron was in the third year of a coalition with Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats, he had a manifesto pledge that in the next election he would offer a referendum on EU membership.  Margaret Thatcher’s death was announced and she was given a state funeral.  Manchester United won their last ever Premiership title under Alex Ferguson’s management. Pope Francis was chosen by Papal Conclave; same sex marriage was legalised in the Marriages Act and Barak Obama was inaugurated for his second term as U.S. President.  You can make your own judgements about whether or not things have improved. 

A lot can change in a five years period, particularly with regard to your children.  We hope that our year 11 students leave us fully prepared for the next steps in their lives.  We want them to be successful in exams and fulfil their potential. That is clearly very important, but it is equally important to be tolerant, fair and kind. We hope to develop these qualities too.

I explained our ethos to Year 6 students and their parents at our recent Induction Evenings; as one group leaves, another steps up to take its place. 267 individuals will join us in September and they met with our transition team. To demonstrate the balance that we are seeking to find, I shared an annual report written by Durham Johnston’s first Headteacher, Mr Whalley.

 “High scores and successes are important because they show evidence of industry and progress, but we do not forget other important features, not as easy to measure or tabulate, which are nevertheless of vital importance to the formation of character and personality. The health of the students is good…and school societies, sports clubs, the musical society and orchestra are all in very satisfactory condition.”

Mr Whalley, Durham Johnston’s first Headteacher, Durham Advertiser 18th December 1908

This is still what matters to us, and is evident as Year 11 prepare to leave.  We want students to be academically successful, but that is only one aspect of what schools are for.  We also want to ‘build’ character in the language of 1908; to prepare students for a global future and to give them a keen sense of social justice.  As Year Leader, Mrs Bell has worked hard to support and encourage Year 11 in their 5 years at the school, Miss Hardwick is just about to begin that same process with the students joining us in September. Attitudes may change, politicians rise and fall, but there are certain values that retain their importance.

Year 11 have made their mark and we will miss them.

A J O’Sullivan