19 March 2021

Dear Parents and Carers,

We have now completed our first full week back and it is remarkable how quickly routines have been re-established. This week’s briefing is comparatively short, as we are working hard at present to finalise plans for our GCSE, AS and A Level students and making sure that the school is equipped for the months and years ahead. We have important appointments to make to key departments in the next week and we are also thinking very carefully about how to support our students in terms of literacy, subject specific knowledge and opportunities in terms of careers, extra-curricular activities and social interaction. We are deliberately not referencing the need to ‘catch up’ or ‘lost learning’ with students, as they are individuals with unique experiences as opposed to one homogenous mass. Very few people succeed by being told that they are lacking, behind or suffering some form of learning deficit and our students have different needs. We also thinking carefully about the support that our students will need over a 3, 5 or 7 year period, as students aren’t simply partially full vessels that can be topped up with extra lessons or quick fixes.

We will continue to provide opportunities for students and will encourage positive engagement, as they are important ways in which students can ‘recover’ from their recent experiences. To demonstrate that, on Monday the PE department started to run a wide range of after school clubs and activities again. 310 students from Years 7 to 11 have attended at least one session this week and it has been fantastic to see so many participating. I’m sure that will also be true of their involvement in clubs and commitments outside of school as we move into April.

There are a number of brief updates and notices that we would like to make you aware of as parents and carers:

  • We will share our whole school and subject specific planning with Year 11, 12 and 13 students next week with regard to whole school assessment and grading in the summer term. We have assemblies scheduled and will share overview materials with parents and carers via email and the school website. We will also share the most important guidance from Ofqual and any exam board materials that have been made available. We have been informed that the exam boards will share important information by 30th March at the latest.
  • We will make additional lateral flow tests available next week. If you would like additional information regarding the tests, please read the guidance that we shared with all parents and carers on Friday 12th March at this link.
    We would advise participating families to test once at the weekend and once mid-week. Results should be logged via the Track and Trace App, with only positive results being shared with the school. Positive lateral flow tests taken at home should be followed up with a confirmatory PCR test which can be booked on line. Please let us know if you need any additional support with testing and continue to keep your child at home and book a test if your child has any of the symptoms identified in Durham County Council’s flowchart: click here to read.
  • If reporting any additional form of absence by email, please include your child’s name and form class in the subject/title of the email.  This allows us to register the absence much more quickly and to inform the appropriate staff members.
  • Since the full return of students to school we have been contacted by local residents with regard to students being dropped off near to their homes. They are concerned that when dropping students off parents are blocking drives and using private roads to turn, which is causing damage. Could I please request that all parents and carers dropping off or picking children up extend the same courtesy to our neighbours that they would expect others to demonstrate near to their property? We are members of a shared community and many of those affected are parents at Durham Johnston too.

It has been an excellent week with students consolidating their learning, working closely with their peers and planning for future assessments and courses. It was also St. Patrick’s Day on Wednesday. When talking with students on that morning I explained that we can learn a lot from Patrick and his inquisitive mind. St. Patrick reputedly lived until the age of 120 and his 5th Century wisdom echoes through the ages. That wisdom is reflected by the philosophically important question he posed when driving the snakes out of Ireland in 432, famously asking, ‘Are you alright in the back there lads?’

Please accept my apologies for such a terrible joke and the equally torturous set up.

Best wishes and thank you for your ongoing support

Mr O’Sullivan