9 July 2021

Dear Parents & Carers,

There are two updates this week. The first is related to the ongoing difficulties associated with Covid-19 in the Durham area and offers clear guidance for the remaining 7 days before the end of term.  That update can be found here:

Lateral flow testing | Covid-19 | The final week of term

There is a very detailed end of term letter for parents and carers that will be shared next week, but I would like to remind all members of our school community that this school term ends at 12.30 p.m. on Friday 16th July 2021.

For my final Friday update of this academic year I wanted to accentuate the positive. It has obviously been a challenging year, but also one in which staff and students have shown real ingenuity. In particular, in finding ways to adapt so that, amongst many other things, our wonderful extra-curricular work can continue. On Tuesday I asked teachers at the school to share any examples of student success within that difficult extra-curricular context. I received a large number of responses very quickly and they were fantastic to read. They offer a snapshot of how teachers have worked closely with students to keep things running, when it might have been easier to just give in and blame our current circumstances. This is not an exhaustive list and there are a wide range of other activities taking place across departments. I am very proud to be Headteacher at Durham Johnston and to work within a community that understand that education extends far beyond the classroom. At short notice, a number of our teachers shared the following:

Mr Hopper writes:
School Sport Summary 2021: This week we should have be gathering at the Ramside Hall for our 26th Annual Sports Presentation Evening. This is always the highlight of the Durham Johnston sporting year as both children and parents come together to celebrate the success of so many of our young people.

Unfortunately, this has not been possible for the second year running but I would still like to acknowledge the many achievements in what has been a curtailed sporting year.

The successes listed below are made possible due to the extensive extra-curricular sporting program we offer which has been amazingly well attended this year. On many nights we have had over 100 children attending clubs which has been excellent to see.

This support has highlighted both the physical and mental benefits of keeping active during the pandemic.

Inter-school competition has only been possible since Easter but we have still be able to maintain our position as one of the top sporting schools in the north-east.


  • Year 7 team – unbeaten and into the county final. This included an outstanding 1 run victory over Durham School in the semi-final.
  • Year 8 team – unbeaten and into the county semi-final
  • Year 9 team – reached the county semi-final before losing to Durham School
  • Year 10 team – into the county quarter-final


Only one competition which was the North-east English Schools event held at Gateshead Stadium.

Ten of the best schools in the north-east attended and we were the best placed school overall:

  • Junior boys – 1st place and North-East champions.
  • Inter boys – 1st place and North-East champions.
  • Junior girls – 4th place.
  • Inter girls – 7th place.


Both our U13 and U15 boys and girls teams were placed as the best state school in the county as they finished runners-up to two local private schools. The only school to beat the girls was Durham High. With Yarm School beating the boys.


All four of our teams reached the county Futsal finals held last week at the Beacon of Light.

After an excellent day of competition in which three of our teams reached the final we achieved the following results:

Year 7, 8 & 10 finished runners-up and Year 9 team were 3rd.

As well as these competitions we have also organised several friendly matches in rounders, football, girls’ cricket and basketball. Hopefully September will bring the start of a new and more normal extra-curricular program.

Finally our sporting year always finishes with a sporting trip to Malaga for our Year 7 & 8 students. This has not been possible for the last two years but hopefully we can re-start this amazing trip for the summer of 2022. Please look out for more details of this during the autumn term.


Mrs Walton writes:
Our students came 2nd and 3rd in the regional Literature Quiz and one of our students has been chosen to recite poetry at The Globe Theatre in London as part of the national Poetry by Heart competition. 


Mr Holmes writes:
Music at Durham Johnston 2020-21

Whilst access to music and the arts in wider society has suffered terribly in the last year, there have been a few rays of hope, and a sense that although music may be in hibernation, it is certainly storing up energy in readiness for a glorious return.

We have been hugely grateful to the dedicated staff from Durham Music Service, who embraced online teaching and have ensured continuity of tuition throughout the whole year. Their hard work has been rewarded with some excellent ABRSM exam results this term. Well done to those pupils concerned - a great achievement. We were also delighted that a project with the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment was able to go ahead, and that Durham Johnston players were very well represented in the student orchestra.

Lack of practical music making in curriculum lessons has been frustrating, but by the end of this year, all classes were back in the music department for their lessons, taking full advantage of the keyboards and computers, and the opportunities for performance and composition this offered. Lunchtime keyboard, theory and aural sessions also resumed, giving pupils from all year groups the chance to further their skills.

Undoubtedly, what we have missed most has been the weekly programme of ensemble rehearsals, the Christmas and Easter Concerts, and the Carol Service. Chamber Choir did manage to have a few rehearsals in preparation for pre-recording some carols for our 2020 Virtual Carol Service, which was partially filmed in Durham Cathedral, therefore maintaining at least a small part of our annual tradition.

We were sorry not to be able to host our Music for a Summer Evening, which usually gives us chance to say ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’ to our departing Y13 musicians. Instead, we take this opportunity to offer them our best wishes, and thank them for their years of commitment, enthusiasm and skill. Remember, music is for life, not just for education!

It was great to have three weeks of ‘taster’ rehearsals earlier this term to allow Y9 musicians the opportunity to try out the senior groups, and Y7 pupils a chance to experience DJ extra-curricular music for the first time. The number of pupils attending these rehearsals and the quality of music making in them was proof that the pupils and staff of Durham Johnston are certainly ready to come out of their enforced musical hibernation.

Finally, as we look to the future, to aid family planning, here is our weekly schedule for September 2021.


Miss Colquitt writes:
One of our Year 12 has been successful in his application to the Field Studies Council Young Darwin Scholarship 2021. This provides students with the opportunity to attend a residential week: conducting outdoor geographical research with other students from the UK, meeting with geography scholars and those working in environmental industries, followed by an ongoing support and training program. Only 195 places are awarded each year and it is a fantastic achievement to have been selected. 


Dr Coleman writes:
We have just completed the Cambridge Lower 6th Chemistry challenge. Nationally, more than 7300 students entered and from the small cohort of 15 students who took part, we achieved 3 silver certificates (top 10% of entrants) and 6 copper certificates (top 33% of entrants) which represents an excellent achievement for all those who participated.


Mrs White writes:

A couple of months ago I was approached by County Durham Sport to find out if our leadership students could be involved in producing resources for the virtual school games. We readily accepted this challenge as it gave the BTEC Year 10 group something to look forward to as their leadership work in primary schools had to be cancelled. 

Our pupils designed and recorded a series of tennis challenges for primary school pupils from EYFS to year 6. These challenges were shown to all local primary schools and they were so well received CDS asked us to do another set (a local school had let them down), so we again rose to the challenge and created a series of athletic challenges. The link to all of these challenges has been shared on our school Twitter and they show our pupils in a very positive light, for which they deserve real credit. CDS have since emailed to say that, as the students were so good, that they would like to make a TV programme with our pupils demonstrating activities that pupils can do at home for the Active 30 TV channel.

Girls’ football continued throughout with separate pitches and coaches for all of the different ages. We regularly had 70 + girls each Friday night. We even had one of our pupils who recently left, offering to come back and coach the younger ones. We now have teams in all age ranges ready to start competing in September and we have entered teams in the U12, U13, U14, U15, U16 and U18 National cup competitions. 

Hockey also started to see who would be interested in joining our team in September. We had 20 players of all different abilities sign up with the promise of more to come in September. We are hoping to make a connection with Durham City hockey club as quite a few of our pupils are members. 


Students also ran a term of very successful table tennis sessions in conjunction with Brandon TT Club. This was part of their work for Table Tennis England's Young Ambassadors programme. The boys improved the skills of 20 boys and girls from year 7. 


Mrs Urwin writes:
We achieved great success in the UKMT junior maths challenge and qualifying rounds for years 7 and 8. A large number of our students were successful with genuinely high level achievements, qualifying for both the Maths Olympiad and Kangaroo rounds.

Mr Patterson writes:

Due to the restrictions this year we have been unable to run the full selection of maths enrichments activities which has been disappointing.  In October ten of our female mathematicians in Year 12 and 13 took part in the Maths Olympiad for Girls. We were also able to run the Senior Maths Challenge in school, designed for students in Years 11 and above, and number of younger students also took part (suitably distanced, of course!).  Of the sixty six students who took part eight won gold certificates, sixteen won silver certificates and twenty-eight won bronze certificates, with the eight gold winners earning a place in a next round.  Seven qualified for the Senior Kangaroo, with one student qualifying for the first round of the British Maths Olympiad, where he also earned a certificate of merit for his work.  The Junior Maths Challenge was able to run online from April and of the twenty six students who took part, five won gold certificates, five won silver certificates and another six won bronze.  The five gold winners progressed to a next round. We hope to be able to run more of the enrichment opportunities next year.


Miss Murphy writes:

5 of our 6th form students took part in a panel talk with the title "What's happened to our education?" - I was asked to do so by the Royal Society of Biology and the talk was advertised as – ‘What has it really been like learning in schools and universities recently?’ Our students took part in a panel of local teachers and sixth form and university students, who gave first-hand accounts of the challenges and benefits of teaching, learning and assessment over the last year, as well as the support they had received. The students who took part were excellent, speaking honestly about their experiences. We did this from 19:00-21:00 and they did such a fantastic job - they were outstanding and a huge credit to the school.


This captures the school at a single point this week and I hope offers an insight into one of the ways in which we support students at Durham Johnston. Students spend 25 hours of each week in lessons and the school’s broad curriculum is the foundation for all that we do, but staff have also worked very hard to maintain the other things that matter to so many of our students.


Thank you to the students, parents and carers that participate. Thanks also to our teachers for providing opportunities for student to develop their interests and to discover their talents.


Thank you for your support during this rollercoaster of a term.


Mr O’Sullivan