22 March 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,  


On Friday 20th March I wrote to parents explaining that we would be open for the children of key workers from Monday 23rd March. It is very important that Durham Johnston supports those within the NHS and other key professions, has the best possible plans in place regarding hygiene and social distancing and acts upon advice and instruction given by Public Health England and the Department for Education. 


There have been a number of examples since Friday of how the Government’s instruction has been interpreted in schools that I would like to share with you. Some schools are making large numbers of teachers stay in school and have accepted large numbers of children that could and should be at home. This contradicts the Government’s advice and contradicts the actual scientific advice on any potential benefit of closing schools. Some other schools have made the process of accepting students very difficult and have, perhaps, given the impression that they do not want or have capacity for children. This will leave some parents in an impossible position and will have an impact on whether or not ill people are treated and if food supply networks can function effectively. There is no criticism intended of either approach, as people are reacting to events and will sometimes get things wrong. There has been very little time to put good plans into place. We too might get things wrong until our approach has a number of days to bed in. Therefore, please make sure that you are fully aware of the Government guidance which is outlined below: 


“The most recent scientific advice on how to further limit the spread of Covid-19 is clear. If children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit, the chance of the virus spreading. This is why the government has asked parents to keep their children at home wherever possible ad asked schools to only remain open for those children who absolutely need to attend. It is important to underline that schools remain safe places for children. But the fewer children making the journey to school, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread and infect vulnerable individuals in wider society.

We have planned very carefully in the limited time available and want to share the following information with parents so that we can offer support effectively. Firstly, there are three questions that each family should consider based upon the Government’s explanation of how the system should work:  


Question: Are you a key worker? 

If the answer is yes, your child might need to come to school. 


Question: Is there someone available to look after your child at home? 

If the answer is yes, your child should stay at home in accordance with Government instruction. 


Question: For secondary age children, is your child old enough to be at home on their own? 

If the answer is yes, your child should stay at home in accordance with Government instruction as they will be safer at home then at school. 


We will ask students who do attend to take a form home on Monday with additional information, but to help you prepare for Monday please read the following carefully. 


  1. Our school day will run between 8.00 a.m. and 3.00 p.m. If you need to speak with a member of staff, please do so if you are dropping off or collecting your child at these times. 
  2. We will try our hardest to adhere to good hygiene and social distancing practices, although this is very difficult to do in the context of a school/educational setting. Please talk to your son or daughter so that they fully understand this. 
  3. Students need to come in school uniform, unless asked to do otherwise.
  4. We will not have our usual catering offer in place. We will provide sandwiches, fruit and drinks for students. We will ask if students have any dietary requirements when they complete a signing in sheet each morning. It is fine for students to bring packed lunches. 
  5. The day will not follow its usual structure, as we do not have the capacity to offer a normal timetable. Students will complete a number of individual activities and will also work through the relevant work published on the Home Learning section of our website. We will not focus upon teaching the students directly but will make sure that they are focused and completing work.  
  6. Students will work in the 6th form area and our IT rooms. They will not be free to enter other parts of the school building, but we will, if possible, utilise outdoor space. 
  7. Our school gates will be closed between 8.30 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. so as to safeguard students and staff. The school will not be open to visitors as that contradicts the Government’s instruction involving school closures and social distancing. If you have any questions, please check for updates via the school Website. 


We will review our initial measures on a daily basis and will share any changes with you via the website, school App and Twitter.  


Thank you again for your support and I wish all members of our school community the best of health in the coming weeks.


A J O’Sullivan