21 May 2021

Dear Parents and Carers,

This has been a very busy term in which our students and teachers have had to work in new and flexible ways. We have had to create an assessment system for Year 11 and Year 13 from scratch. That system needed to be fair, robust and manageable for students, parents and staff alike. We have also thought carefully about the wellbeing of everyone involved in that process, as well as contending with changes, updates and information that really should have been shared with schools nationally back in January. Communication has also been vitally important and we have been very keen to work in partnership with students, parents and carers whilst also offering high quality teaching and support for the students in non-exam year groups. All children matter. When considering that unique set of challenges, I feel very proud of the commitment of our students and the adaptability of school staff. It is important to reflect in this way as you near the end of a process so as to improve. Reflection is also a part of growing up. The clearest sign that our students are growing up is that many will leave us next week. I will share some thoughts about that next week.

Last week’s update was very much about safety and it is heartening to be able to share more encouraging news this week. There have been no new positive cases linked to the school and we have worked very closely with the Local Authority in terms of track, trace and risk assessment. The LA have also shared their guidance regarding face coverings. The Director of Education notes in this week’s update for Headteachers:

Face coverings are part of a wider system of controls in education settings including good ventilation, handwashing, social distancing where possible and twice weekly testing. Together these measures help to stop the spread of COVID-19 in education settings. The Director of Public Health (DPH) supports education settings in carrying out their own risk assessment regarding the use of face coverings by pupils and/or staff in class and communal areas and taking into account the situation in school and the local community position. The DPH may advise that education settings reintroduce face coverings where this is indicated in a range of circumstances including where there are outbreaks, in response to case rates and/or where there are variants of concern transmitting in communities.

As promised, I will write to all parents and carers next week to share our plans for the final half-term of the school year.

We are aware that a large number of our students and families are completing regular lateral flow testing at home. I would like to thank you for doing so. The Local Authority have asked all schools to reiterate the following advice regarding home testing:

  • Please continue to complete two lateral flow tests on a weekly basis for your child.
  • When you have completed each test, remember to record the result for your child on line.
  • If you record a positive lateral flow test result for your child, please book a PCR test and inform the school.
  • Your child should then self-isolate until the result of that PCR test.
  • You should inform the school upon receipt of your result and wait for additional advice.

It is also very important to continue following the necessary guidance regarding symptoms. Please do not send your child to school if they are ill or have any of the symptoms associated with Covid-19. This helps us to protect the school community and your family and relatives too.

Can my child go to school today?

As part of our preparation for Year 11 leaving celebrations on Wednesday 26th May, we have reminded all students in Years 7-11 that they should not bring their bags to school on that day. They should bring a pen, but will not need anything else. Packed lunches should be brought to school in a clear bag if possible. On a related note, we intend to give Year 7 students access to lockers for the first time after half-term. We then plan to expand that to other year groups if possible. This is an important step towards greater normality in school and will help Year 7 to manage their possessions and resources.

We have recently shared our plans for the return of extracurricular after half-term and I would also like to congratulate those KS3 student who came second in the regional Children’s literature quiz this week. We will write with an update for all year groups next week, but there is one pressing update for parents and carers regarding languages. Year 7 are now marking their language choices for Year 8. The process was explained to students in an Assembly on Thursday 20th May 2021 and posted on Microsoft Teams. This was followed by a letter to parents via email. (You can read that letter here.) Please note that the deadline for completing the electronic form is Thursday 17th June 2021. We would also draw your attention to the House System European Championship tournament that will take place after half-term, with students in Years 7-10 being linked to competing countries and finding about the culture and customs of those nations - always an exciting time in school! The football tournament takes place each lunch time and I would like to thank Mr Kidd and Miss Forbes for giving their time so that all students have the opportunity to participate.

This is the last week of assessment for most of our Year 11 and 13 students and I wanted to emphasise again how impressed we have been with their hard work, commitment and support for each other. We have held assemblies this week for both year groups and have discussed next steps in terms of leaving dates, opportunities to complete bridging work for Year 11 into Y12, open days and the two summer results days. Mr Wright, Mrs Lennon and Bowman have shared detailed plans with Year 11 and Year 13 continue to be well supported by the 6th form team.

There are, therefore, some important dates to remind you of in the weeks ahead:

  • Year 13 Leaving Brunch and Celebration - Tuesday 25th May 2021.
  • Year 11 Celebrations, Lunch and Events - Wednesday 26th May 2021.

We also have induction days for those wishing to study in our 6th form:

  • Year 11 into 12 Induction Days – Thursday 24th and Friday 25th June 2021. 

Finally, students can collect their A Level and GCSE results on the following days in the summer:

  • Year 12 and 13 Results Day – Tuesday 10th August 2021.
  • Year 11 Results Day and 6th Form acceptance – Thursday 12th August 2021.

I regularly reference that Durham Johnston is a community school. We also exist within our local community and seek to be a good neighbour. With that in mind, please do not park across local residents’ drives or on private roads near to the school. This is understandably frustrating for those living nearby and can lead to unpleasant situations between parents and local residents.

Finally, we are very excited to have three Parent Governor vacancies for the summer term. We will write to all parents and carers next week with additional information.

Please continue to let us know if you have any questions or need additional support, and have a restful weekend.

Mr O’Sullivan