23 April 2021

Dear Parents and Carers,

We are nearing the end of the second week of this half-term and the school is settling into a rhythm again. We are starting to see evidence of the academic ability of our students, routines are becoming established again and we have the return of a number of extra-curricular activities, with the highlight being today’s competitive cricket match against Castleview.

As you would expect, we are still being very sensible and cautious regarding risk. I would reiterate my message from last week, that you should keep your child at home and book a PCR test if they are symptomatic. This is the most effective way that we can protect each other and Lateral Flows are not sufficient. We shared some additional updates and Tweets explaining how to access additional tests.

There is also a need for greater caution when leaving school. If your child walks home could you please ensure that they behave responsibly and do not take unnecessary risks on the A167? We have received reports that students are running in front of cars and crossing the road when traffic lights are green. This is very dangerous and could lead to a serious accident. We will reiterate this at school, but please talk to your child at home. We are located next to a very busy road and students should avoid any unnecessary risk. In a similar way, please encourage your child to treat others in the local community with respect. A lack of manners reflects poorly on individuals, their parents or carers and the school. 

When I first became Headteacher I wrote regularly about a variety of issues that I felt were relevant to our school community. Whilst receiving clear communication is of vital importance at present, I think that it is also important to have a sense of the school’s wider ethos and the individuals that try to enact those beliefs on a daily basis. Those collected articles can be found at this link.
In retrospect, my 2020 new year’s resolutions were knocked off course slightly in February and March 2020, and I’m sure yours were too. It is my hope that it will be possible to share some new thoughts about school, education and society in the coming weeks and I look forward to doing so.

The last few days have felt a little like we are coming out of hibernation and that is reflected by the following 4 examples of student success and engagement. I referenced the academic or subject specific success of our students last week and that is exemplified by those studying Biology and Physics. 16 of our Year 13 students recently participated in the British Biology Olympiad. They were very successful indeed and were awarded 5 Gold, 2 Silver and 5 Bronze medals. 3 students were highly commended, with all those participating enjoying the experience. This is the highest number of medals that we have received during our significant period of participation, with this year being the 25th anniversary for the competition. Our students were presented with topics and ideas that were unfamiliar and had to use their problem solving skills and understanding of core biological principles. I would like to congratulate our very talented Biology students and Mrs Murphy for giving them the opportunity to take part. Well done to all involved.

In a similar way, Harry Cookson has been invited onto the UK team for the European Physics Olympiad in June 2021 – a phenomenal achievement. Six of our students entered the first round of the British Physics Olympiad and were very successful, achieving a variety of silver and bronze awards. Harry did exceptionally well, achieving a ‘Top Gold.’ Harry was invited to the Second Round of the Olympiad, where he achieved a Silver award. Following this he was invited onto the remote Easter Training Camp, which was followed by his selection for the UK team. We wish him good luck in June and are proud of all those who have represented the school in Physics. Mr Banner’s hard work and support for the Physics team is also greatly appreciated.

Last week I shared information regarding our virtual exchange with a Dutch school. We want to insure that we retain the strongest ties possible with students and communities in Europe and the exchange was a great success. The following two updates offer a little more context, the first from Mr Wright and the second from Daniel Brown of 9JW who participated.  

In a pre-pandemic world, the school was planning on carrying out a student exchange with a partner school in the Netherlands this academic year. For reasons that won’t need explaining to anyone this has been postponed for now, but some 30 Year 9 students did take part in a virtual exchange for some of Thursday morning. While talking to students in Holland via the internet can’t match the level of cultural insight an in-person visit can all the students responded very positively to the experience, and we hope this will act as a good springboard for an actual exchange programme in 2021-2022. Below a Year 9 student reflects on how they found it.

Mr Wright

On Thursday 22nd April we participated in a virtual Dutch exchange. It was an extraordinary experience and one that I’m sure everyone who participated will remember. We were able through the power of Google Meet to speak to some pupils of the same age as us in Holland. We learned about the experience of going to school and the differences in culture with a personal first-hand experience. The town of Zeist, which looks simply picturesque, was said to be a lovely community. Both the Durham Johnston and the Dutch children learnt something new, and I’m sure that I speak for everyone when I say that I dearly hope to see them again, hopefully in person sometime!

Daniel Brown 9JW

Well done to Daniel for his first foray into journalism and I don’t think that anyone would disagree with his final sentiment.

As I’m writing the sun is shining and our Year 7 students are gearing up for their first competitive cricket match of the season. I had the great pleasure of witnessing Brian Lara’s 501 not out innings at Edgbaston for Warwickshire in 1994. A number of our students in Years 7, 8 and 9 have recently been selected for Durham’s County junior teams and maybe one of them will break that County Cricket record when they are older. They should certainly aspire to do so and we can all plan for and daydream about future success now that we are able to (tentatively) do so again.

Have a good weekend.

Mr O’Sullivan