16 April 2021

Dear Parents, Carers & Students,

This is a very important half-term for our students in Years 11, 12 and 13 and I wanted to offer a weekly update so that you are aware of the work that is being done in school. I also wanted to ensure that you have a detailed understanding of what the school is doing to support students as effectively as possible in the weeks ahead.

Students have now started their assessments and it is clear that they feel much more confident about completing questions within a supportive classroom environment, as opposed to in high stakes examinations in our school hall.

I wrote to you on 26th March 2021 offering an overview of our plans for this half-term and I would recommend reading through that document again.
Programme of Summer Assessment

We have been working very hard to offer support and to make sure that students are being kept up to date with key information. We are also doing this very carefully, so that they do not receive too much information. Therefore, it is important that we provide the same information for you as parents and carers.

What we have done this week to support and guide all GCSE and A Level students:

  • Assemblies - On Tuesday Mr Wright shared important information via an assembly for Y11 students. Mrs Lennon led assemblies for Year 12 on Tuesday and Year 13 on Thursday. The information from all assemblies has been shared with students who were absent via Teams and email.
  • Confidentiality Agreements – All students have completed confidentiality agreements explaining that they will not share any information regarding assessments with other students. This an important part of the guidance outlined nationally to avoid malpractice.
  • Statements of Entry – We have asked all GCSE and A level students to complete and sign statements of entry. This usually applies for external examinations, but is still necessary so that grades can be awarded in each GCSE or A level subject. These must be returned by Tuesday 20th April at the latest.
  • Revision, Support Sessions & After School Transport – We want to make sure that all of our students can stay after school if necessary and work flexibly with their teachers. Therefore, there will be late buses on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week for this half-term. The buses will leave at 4.30 p.m. each evening and travel to Brandon and Bowburn, stopping at all points on those routes. Students in other year groups can access the late buses too.
  • Well Being and Form Teacher Support – We have asked Form Tutors to provide daily support for students and to complete regular ‘health checks.’ Please encourage your child to talk to us and let us know if there is additional support that we can offer. We are keen to offer expanded counselling support if possible too and will provide an additional update next week.

Year 12 Choices – Year 12 have received their reports. They are now being supported as they make decisions regarding subject choices and next steps. 

Things to be aware of regarding the national system and if you have a query for us:

  • Dedicated Email Address  – If you would like to share any information regarding personal circumstances, or the assessment process, please remember to use the following email: assessments2021@durhamjohnston.org.uk Please also contact this email address if you have subject specific queries, as our subject teachers are working very hard at present to support students in the classroom. They need time and space to plan, assess, mark, standardise and moderate. Please do not contact them directly.
  • Malpractice – I would like to thank you for the support you are offering. You are giving us the time and space to work with our students. We have, however,  been asked to remind all parents, carers and students not to apply undue pressure regarding assessments, as that could be viewed as malpractice by the exam boards and we have been asked to keep a record of all communication. 
  • Centre Assessment Policy – The Joint Council on Qualifications has asked all schools to complete a policy outlining the assessment process that they are following. We will follow their guidance and share our policy via the school website.  
  • Missed Assessments – We are aware that some students will miss scheduled assessments for a variety of legitimate reasons. We will write to students and their families individually when those circumstances occur and will schedule catch up sessions as and when appropriate.  
  • Covid Symptoms – Please ensure that your child stays at home if they are symptomatic and that you book a PCR test as quickly as possible. Please check my Friday update for additional guidance on why a PCR test must be taken. Please be aware that we will provide additional opportunities if an assessment is missed and that being safe and protecting others should remain the key priority for all members of our school community. If your child does test positive, please remember to forward that important evidence to the school.
  • Things Might Change – As you will note from our communication, we have a robust and very fair system in place. We will also adapt the system where necessary and communicate any changes very clearly. However, all aspects of our work and planning are subject to change based upon Covid-19 infection rates and any additional material that JCQ, Ofqual, Examination Boards or the Department for Education share with us at a late date.

Mr O’Sullivan


Mr Wright’s Revision Guidance

Students are working very effectively in the classroom, but it is also important that they work, plan and practise at home. Mr Wright will offer weekly revision advice for Y11 students via their form classes and Mrs Lennon will continue to offer practical advice for A Level students.

The first of Mr Wright’s messages for Y11 students can be found below:

Revision, the process of looking at knowledge and skills you’ve already learnt, seems like something we only ever talk about in terms of schools and education but in fact is something that happens throughout our lives.

In any area of life success comes from stamina, a combination of perseverance and passion. The revision process is a great example of this. There will be times when it feels tempting not to do it, but others when we enjoy reminding ourselves of what we already know. Revision is about showing independence and maturity, having the ability to see that working hard now has long term benefits, the sorts of qualities we all want to develop as adults and see in those around us.

There is no one right way to revise but there are lots of things you can do that will make a difference.

First of all, try and follow a plan. If you don’t map out what to you’re going to revise and when then it’s too easy to revise some subjects too much and others not at all. Sharing that plan in a public place is also helpful in terms of giving you a greater sense of accountability – if you say you’re going to revise Science and Spanish on Thursday and that information is pinned on the fridge for all to see there’s much more chance you’ll actually do it. It also feels pretty good to tick Science and Spanish off when Thursday comes around and you have actually revised those subjects! Over time ticking off the plan as you complete it helps build a sense of momentum which makes it more likely you’ll finish the process: if you’ve followed your revision plan for 23 days then you won’t want to ignore it on day 24.

In terms of how you actually revise different subjects benefit from different approaches and your teachers should offer you advice but we’d offer two main points here. First, try and revise individual subjects in 45-minute blocks. Much shorter than this and it isn’t worth it but much longer and you’ll stop getting the maximum amount of benefit. Second, whatever you do make sure your revision is active, don’t just sit and reread your notes or a textbook. Make new notes, flash cards, do practice questions, explain the subject you’re studying to someone. The more you have to do with the information you need to know, the more likely it is you’ll retain that information.

The final piece of advice for this week would be not to revise too much, you also need to make time for you. Revising every night and all weekend might seem like the key to academic success but it isn’t very efficient and might mean you burn out. The assessment process is long, that’s why you need stamina, and along with planning in your revision sessions you should plan in other activities too so you can switch off from school work and do something that means when you come back to revising again you’re feeling fresh and rested.

Next week we’ll look at some more precise revision strategies for those of you who might like to try and fresh approach as well as how you keep up your motivation across a long period of time.

Mr Wright