8 December 2023

Image of Friday Bulletin

Dear Parents & Carers,

Thank you to all those who recently completed our parental survey. We are thrilled that 94% of those parents who completed the survey would recommend the school to others, and feel that we are doing a good job. That number has increased from our summer survey, and we are grateful for a wide range of positive and supportive comments. However, that figure is not 100%, and there were also a number of areas identified for improvement, or where parents have suggested that we approach things differently. We are currently working through the information that has been shared and will issue a detailed response in early January. Whilst we welcome the positive feedback, there were also some helpful and thought-provoking ideas about how we might improve and do things differently.

Last week I shared our excitement about being identified by the Sunday Times as being their Northeast Secondary School of the year for 2023-24. It has made me reflect upon my first 6 years as Headteacher at Durham Johnston, as that period has been a challenging one in terms of the external pressures facing all schools. As part of my conversation with the Sunday Times I was asked why results in the Northeast were lower than the national average. There are clearly a wide range of reasons for that, and it was obviously hard to offer all of the appropriate context in a brief conversation. I’m also not foolish enough to believe that being Headteacher at Durham Johnston would allow me sufficient insight or understanding to explain the unique circumstances for each individual secondary school in our region. However, I did see it as an opportunity to speak up for the region and to identify some of the ongoing issues faced by children across the Northeast, something  I wrote about separately in a recent Friday Bulletin. 

The following brief extract appeared in the Parent Power section of the Sunday Times on 3rd December:  

Who dares to be wise — it’s the school motto — at Durham Johnston Comprehensive School wins, as once again this Parent Power favourite takes the crown, bagging the Northeast Secondary School of the Year 2024 award for the second year running. The comprehensive school has also climbed 15 places in the national rankings from 192 to 177=, with the runner-up in the region, Queen Elizabeth High School (QEHS) in Hexham, Northumberland, jumping 20 places to break into the national top 250 state schools ranking at 239. This year two thirds of QEHS A-level grades were A*-B (or equivalent).

However, schools across the northeast have faced numerous challenges post-pandemic and a number of schools have slipped this year in comparison to other regions. Andrew O’Sullivan, the Durham Johnston head teacher, says: “There’s some interesting stuff from Durham University about Progress 8 [a measure that shows the progress a school’s pupils make between primary school and the end of GCSEs], for example. But it’s not just results that are down. When you start to look at attendance, it’s worse in the northeast than in many other regions. We’re now 13 years into a period of austerity, that initial lack of funding had a very negative impact in this part of the country. Poverty is the reason behind poor attendance. This is true across the country, but it is even more pronounced in the northeast because of long-term economic factors. For some families it’s easier for their children to be at home, there are issues around transport, around uniform. Families aren’t equipped to get children out and to school every day, that structure has declined for those families.”

His own school’s success is all down to building strong relationships. “The only way children achieve good results is when it works between themselves, their teachers and their families,” he says. “Relationships are the biggest thing in any successful school.”

It is right that we speak up for all children in the region when given the opportunity but, on reflection, I should also have more clearly celebrated the school’s success. Our 2023 progress and attainment were very strong for GCSE students, meaning that most have gone on to successful further study or employment. At A Level it means that students were successful in terms of university places, apprenticeships and employment. We have clear plans in place to build on that success in 2024 and have shared much of that information at parental information evenings. In the past 5 years (excluding 2020 and 2021when no external exams were completed) the school has achieved its highest GCSE and A Level results, its strongest progress and attainment for students eligible for free school meals, and we have been identified as the Sunday Times Comprehensive School of the Year (2019) and State Secondary School of the Year (2022 and 2023). We have also finished first in the Sunday Times attainment ranking for over a decade. As Headteacher since 2018, I am proud of these achievements, but also understand that there are a great many things that we could do more effectively, and how important it is that we continue to improve and adapt.

Your positive comments have been very motivating, as has acknowledgement of our success from the Sunday Times 2023-24 Parent Power survey. Both are important to all school staff, but we are also committed to improvement and will write to all parents and carers in January with our plans for 2024.

Have a good weekend.

Mr O’Sullivan

Christmas Lunch

The catering team is pleased to offer our annual traditional Christmas lunch next week, on  Thursday 14th December 2023. The set two course menu (which you can view here) costs £2.75.

There will also be a choice of jacket potatoes, paninis, and sandwiches available.


What is my child learning?

In the Learning section of our website you can find guidance on what every student at the school is studying. As well as an overview of our curriculum and principles behind it, you can find an overview of each subject area.
You can also find a guide to the content being covered in every subject and how you can support your child for each half term here: 
Year 7 | Year 8 | Year 9 | Year 10 | Year 11 | Year 12 | Year 13


Year 8 CyberFirst Girls Competition Winners 2023/24

This year's Year 8 CyberFirst Girls Competition has concluded, and we have a winner!

This competition involves completing a set of Cyber Security challenges online, scoring points for each challenge completed. These challenges included solving puzzles; cracking codes; and spotting patterns over the course of a week.

Congratulations to Team Johnson (named after Katherine Johnson): Kemi K, Sunnie D, Lucy L, and Jessie F-W for winning this year's CyberFirst Girls Competition! 

They each have won a laptop, and an invitation to a grand prize winning dinner early next year. A complete list of winners across the country can be found at this link.  

This is now the second year in a row that Durham Johnston has claimed the North East trophy; could we make it three in a row? Will you be in Year 8 next year? Are you interested in Cyber Security? Find out more about the competition at this link.  

Mr O'Connor
Lead Teacher for KS4/KS5 Computing


House System Christmas Appeal

At the time of writing this we have received hundreds of items for Durham Foodbank and Feeding Families. A team of House Leads and Year 11 students set to work to share and sort the goods equally between the two. We were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of donations – donations which included some incredibly special items which we know will make things a little easier this Christmas. 

Once the food donations were placed under the tree, we began to sort the gifts that have been donated by our students for those in need, particularly young people who take on the role of a young carer. We are genuinely humbled by the generosity and kindness shown - the thought and care that has gone into selecting each gifts is very special, and we know this will make such a difference! 

We will also be sending monetary donations to our chosen charities to support the amazing work they do all year round.

A huge thank you to everyone who has donated, brainstormed, sorted and collected - you really have done something special! We encourage all students to take a moment on Christmas morning to reflect on how much they have helped others by "giving back". 

Miss Forbes
Senior Teacher, the House System


RSE/PHSE workshops for Year 11 students.

Year 11 students will take part in important sessions on Thursday 14th and Friday 15th December in relation to their personal development. Wayne Stevenson will be working with students. We asked students to identify areas in which they required more information in November and the PHSE/RSE sessions have been adapted based upon those results. In particular, Year 11 students wanted to consider issues in relation to staying safe and consent. Wayne Stevenson will lead the sessions, which are based upon nationally recognised materials from the PHSE society. We will share the materials for the session in an update on Monday 11th December. Please contact the school if you require additional information.


Sixth Form Notices

Please click the link below to read the weekly digest of news and information for Sixth Form Students.

Week beginning 11th December


Music Notices

This week has been rather busy in the Music Department with extra rehearsals, two Christmas Concerts and pupil participation in 'Carols at County Hall'. 

The concerts in school were the culmination of weeks of hard work in rehearsals by both pupils and colleagues, and these were performed to a full hall. Over the course of both evenings, the audience were treated to several solos and a wide range of festive repertoire from our seven ensembles, along with a cello and guitar group, which were led by colleagues from Durham Music Service. Congratulations to all pupils who performed, some of whom have only started playing their instruments this term.

Next Week:

Our rehearsal schedule for next week is slightly different from normal. Please click here for details. 

Next Term:

Tuition from Durham Music Service will resume on Thursday 4th January and school ensemble rehearsals will resume in the week beginning 8th January.

Mr Holmes
Subject Leader for Music


PE News

Last weekend our Junior and Inter boys’ cross-country teams made the long journey to Woodbridge School, Suffolk for the English Schools national cross-country finals. After a restful overnight stay in Cambridge, we arrived at the course in freezing fog with icy conditions underfoot. Despite the challenging conditions, and competing against the best 28 schools in the country, we produced some amazing performances. Our Inter boys finished 4th in the country with Will Jardine our first placed runner in 18th.

Our junior boys finished 18th, with Henry Engelhart our first runner in 30th. That put them as one of the top 10 state schools in the country. All the boys were outstanding throughout the weekend and a real credit to the school.

On Monday, we hosted the Area U14 and U16 boys badminton tournament. Both teams won all their matches comfortably playing some excellent badminton to become area champions. They now go on to the county finals.

Also on Monday, our Year 7 5-a-side football team were at Sedgefield for the BASFA tournament. We started with a 3-2 victory against Whitworth and continued to dominate our group, winning all our games to finish top. Then we faced St John's in the semi-final. Again, we proved too strong for them, winning 5-0 to set up a final against the hosts. Unfortunately, we started slowly, conceding early goals. We weren't able to recover and eventually finished as runners-up.

On Tuesday, an U18 rugby match against QEHS was a victim of waterlogged pitches. However, the Year 7 & 8 Area Sports Hall Athletics competition did go ahead at Maiden Castle. We traditionally dominate this event, and this year was no different, as our Year 7 and 8 boys and girls teams all won their competition to become Area champions and qualify for the County finals in February. Our boys’ teams only lost one race all afternoon.

Yesterday our U14 girls’ basketball team hosted Northampton School for Girls in the English Schools Cup. Despite a battling performance they proved too strong for us as they won 31-71.

Our VIth form football team were at St John's for a cup match. Despite the conditions we played some excellent football to win 8-1, with Jake Toase as POM. 

A busy night continued as our Year 8 girls futsal team travelled to King James for the BASFA tournament. It was another success as our girls won the tournament and now progress to the final.

Finally yesterday, our Year 8 rugby team played St Leonard's in a friendly. Despite heavy rain the game continued, and as darkness fell we won a match played in a great spirit.

Good luck tonight to our Year 9 boys’ basketball team who are at RGS, Newcastle for English Schools matches; our Year 11 football team who face Emmanuel College in the County Cup; and our Year 9 rugby team who also take on Emmanuel College.

Mr Hopper

Subject Leader for PE

We have also been asked to share the following:

Vacancy - School Crossing Patrol – Traffic Island, Crossgate Peth, Durham


Durham County Council Road Safety Team are keen to appoint a School Crossing Patrol to a vacancy to work at Traffic Island, Crossgate Peth, Durham


The hours of duty to be worked each week [term-time only] are:
8.05 – 9.05 am 3.00 - 3.50pm Monday to Friday [1hr 50 mins daily  / 9hrs 10 min weekly].


Grade 1 £4,852 (approx.) £11.79 per hour.


Further details of the role and application form are available at this link. 

Paper application forms are also available by contacting the Payroll and Employee Services Team on telephone no. 03000 264469/266838 or email PESREG@durham.gov.uk


Interested applicants can contact the Road Safety Team for an informal discussion on 03000 268171.


Closing Date for applications is 3 January 2024