8 March 2024

Image of Friday Bulletin

Dear Parents and Carers,


My message this week is mainly intended to offer an update on the school focus groups that are planned for Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th March 2024 (Please see detail and the link to sign up below). Those focus groups are intended to offer a parental perspective on four key areas of school provision at Durham Johnston, and an opportunity for all parents to contribute to our wider curriculum.

Collaboration between parents and school staff is hugely important. So far this academic year, we have held eight parent information evenings, two open evenings and smaller support and information groups for the parents of children with a specific learning need. In February we also invited a number of Year 11 parents and students into school to offer additional support in preparation for GCSE exams. This is part of our intervention and support programme, which also involves additional reporting and parent information evenings that we encourage all parents to attend. The February support meeting was fascinating, as it gave us insight into the support that is beneficial for parents during the exam period, and also gave parents the opportunity to discuss support with senior staff and to find out more about revision opportunities in school, how the exam process works and to seek advice about careers and next steps. All parents want to help their children to succeed but is sometimes difficult to know what to do. The feedback from parents was excellent, as is exemplified by the following comment from our follow up questionnaire: 

“If only as an indication about how much your fabulous staff really care about our kids (my daughter said this herself) and their progress, this was a highly successful event. But it wasn't just that; the information handed out and presented was very high quality, immediately applicable and I have already experienced an upturn (overnight) in my child's attitude and approach. This enthusiasm can be immediately harnessed by attending an intervention session tonight selected and prioritised to her A level choices (thank you for that strategy). She therefore will not just be trying to ensure she passes those core subjects, but also a mixture of increasing her potential to do even better in her selected subjects - this has encouraged her intrinsic motivation with a goal to be good enough to stay on at DJSF and you have given her support to make that a real possibility. Thanks so much for your efforts and courage to get close and face to face with the parents - not many schools would do it, but you obviously feel you can because you have great relationships with your parent community already - again, thanks.” 

Another parent commented that: 

“One of the main issues for me is understanding who is responsible for what, who exactly to contact for something and also with whom any decision-making lies. It was great to see people's remits and get the chance to meet in a small group setting. I do feel I have a better understanding after the session on that. All the information provided was useful and I would love to see this again. I also really appreciate how willing staff were to listen and help with specific concerns and appreciate the time people put into this as well of course!”

We are currently planning similar events for Year 7 and 9 students, and we learnt a lot from the parents that attended about how they perceive the school and what would help their child to be successful. We wanted to host that evening before announcing more information about our proposed focus groups to see how such a meeting would work in practice. We would now like to invite interested parents to a series of focus groups in late March, each with a clear link to our strategic planning and areas of school life where we would like to get an additional parental perspective. We are keen to receive expressions of interest so that the groups can reflect the comprehensive nature of the school. After we have received all expressions of interest, we will then invite participating parents into school for meetings on Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th March. The deadline for signing up is Friday 15th March at 3.00 p.m.

Our Five Focus Groups – If you are interested, please sign up using the link below.

Year 6 into Year 7 Transition Focus Group - The first focus group is for the parents of students in Year 7 only. We are currently planning our next steps in terms of transition for the 265 students that will be joining us in September 2024 and want to learn from your recent experiences. Our parental survey from December 2023 highlighted a number of practical things that parents felt would have been helpful to know in advance. This meeting will be with key transition staff, a school governor and a member of the school’s leadership group and we will offer a brief presentation before sharing ideas and discussing next steps. 

This focus group is open to all parents and carers who successfully sign up for the 30 available spaces. The meeting will take place on Wednesday 27th March 2024 between 5.30 and 6.30 p.m.

Homework Focus Group – The second focus group is linked to homework. Parental surveys always highlight strong feelings about homework, with some parents feeling that there is too much and others suggesting that much more is needed. We have always shared with parents and students that the purpose of homework is to get ready for lessons, to complete work, consolidate knowledge and to go further in terms of depth. We are also aware that the most common reason for behaviour points in school relates to incomplete homework and that AI affects some aspects of homework and coursework. Based upon those points, it would be helpful to discuss the approach that the school should take. Other aspects of technology have also changed how we might approach homework and we are keen to discuss this with parents and carers. We will offer a brief presentation before sharing ideas and discussing next steps. 

This focus group is open to all parents and carers who successfully sign up for the 30 available spaces. The meeting will take place on Tuesday 26th March 2024 between 5.30 and 6.30 p.m.

Assessment & Reporting Focus Group – We have made some significant changes to reporting for examination years in 2023-24 and are keen to build upon this. We are also considering how to introduce more consistent forms of assessment across the school year and how to make sure that students and their parents are well prepared. We want to get a sense of the information that is most helpful for parents whilst carefully considering any impact that change may have on the workload of students, teachers and school support staff. We are also thinking about the different information, beyond results, which might help parents to understand how their child is doing at school, with an understanding of strengths and weaknesses. As referenced above, technology affords more opportunities to do this, but we want to make sure that we identify the most appropriate things that allow students to be successful. We will offer a brief presentation before sharing ideas and discussing next steps.

This focus group is open to all parents and carers who successfully sign up for the 30 available spaces. The meeting will take place on Wednesday 27th March 2024 between 5.30 and 6.30 p.m.

Personal Development Focus Group – All schools have a number of statutory responsibilities linked to the personal development of students, such as relationship and sex education, and careers guidance and opportunities. Personal development is an educational label used in schools to describe all of the things that sit outside of the formal curriculum delivered via subject areas. We feel that the school offers wide range of opportunities in the classroom and also via extra and super curricular provision. We are keen to get your thoughts on how we plan sessions, use student voice in school and how we might best interlink opportunities within both dedicated time in the curriculum and in subject lessons where appropriate. We want to make sure that all of our students are ready to play an active part in British society as adults and want to know what else parents feel would allow us to continue doing so in the most effective ways. We will offer a brief presentation before sharing ideas and discussing next steps. 

This focus group is open to all parents and carers who successfully sign up for the 30 available spaces. The meeting will take place on Wednesday 27th March 2024 between 5.30 and 6.30 p.m.

Fund Raising, Sponsorship & Super Curricular Focus Group – We are fortunate to have such a committed Governing Body and we want to expand the number of people willing to serve as Parent Governors in the coming years, whilst also encouraging parents and carers to support the school in any way that they can. With that in mind, we are keen to work with any parents who feel that they could deliver an extra or super curricular activity for our students. That can be linked to your experience or a particular job, it could be to help with clubs and activities in school. In addition, we have lots of great ideas that would benefit all of our students but, due to the very difficult financial situation that all schools are currently experiencing, don’t have the available money to fund them. For example, a sponsored bus on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays would allow far more students to stay after school and to access clubs. Similarly, support for transport to sporting events would make a significant difference, as would any additional funding to widen participation and to allow the widest range of students possible to gain access to new experiences. Our House System is very active, and we are also keen to speak with parents who work with local charities, to see how our students might volunteer more and serve their communities positively. We will offer a brief presentation before sharing ideas and discussing next steps. 

This focus group is open to all parents and carers who successfully sign up for the 30 available spaces. The meeting will take place on Tuesday 26th March 2024 between 5.30 and 6.30 p.m.

I hope that all those reading this would like to participate and to share their ideas and contribute to the school and our students. We intend to run our next parental survey in the summer term and will use similar focus groups in the future. Please also remember that you can discuss any of these areas of school life with school staff and don’t need to wait to participate in a focus group. 

You can express your interest to participate in a particular group at this link.

Thank you for your ongoing support and have a good weekend. 

Mr O’Sullivan

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 12 Psychology

Year 12 Psychology students have been learning about the importance of secure childhood attachments in the formation of adolescent and adult relationships.  From the interactions between caregivers and infants (reciprocity and interactional synchrony), to the role of the father, and the various stages of attachment.  They have also examined animal research into attachment and the influences that has had on identifying risk factors in child neglect as well as helping in the care of animals in captivity.

As part of their understanding of attachment, students were set the challenge of caring for an ‘egg’ for one week. The idea was to demonstrate various concepts that we have looked at in class.  Their ‘caring’ skills certainly showed variety!

Mrs Nixon
Social Science Department


Year 10 Business

This week our Year 10 Business students were set a challenge, requiring them to work for SnapChat (social media); they would then collaborate with a brand of their choice. Students needed to explore the brand, identify their demographic and how that would align with SnapChat. They then produced a marketing campaign, looking at data from similar brands, growth patterns and engagement, as well as a digital advert and prototype! We watch The Apprentice as part of our weekly homework and I have got to say - I'm backing my Year 10s every time. We were genuinely blown away by the standard of work and final output. Here is one of our winning campaigns SnapChat x Euro2024 - superb work and a special nod to our prototype superstar, Batool! 

Miss Forbes
Subject Leader for Business & Computing


CyberFirst Girls Competition Winners

Congratulations to Jessica, Kemi, Lucy, and Sunnie for winning the North East CyberFirst Girls Competition Finals.

The girls were invited to a celebratory event in Oxford last weekend, with daytime activities including observation of cutting-edge robotic technology, as well as a number of Oxplore sessions including "what would it be like to live forever?" and "should we all speak the same language?". There were talks delivered by Oxford students who had bursaries provided by the NCSC (CyberFirst's parent group).

They were then invited to a formal awards dinner in the evening, with a 3-course meal; a trophy; and (most importantly) a goody bag of tech! This included laptops; AirPods (yes, AirPods!); wireless keyboard and mouse; charging dock; and a brand new backpack!

The girls had this to say about the competition and the winners' event:

"I really adored the interactive experiences during the Oxford workshops and learning about new experiences and life skills and where it could take me later on. Additionally, I also got to work with my fellow teammates to solve puzzles together during the competition and meet others on the trip who have interests that align with mine”.

"I enjoyed learning about how languages go hand-in-hand with jobs, and how it can open up more doors and opportunities in the future that could lead to a person getting a better and higher paid job.  In regard to the competition, I enjoyed being able to work with my friends and help them with challenges."

"I liked learning about how open the world is, like how blind people can adapt and learn how to read, or how they can tell how big a room is just by clapping. I liked learning about how amazing it can be for people to understand the little dots on the paper even though they feel exactly the same”.

This is the second year in a row that Durham Johnston has brought home the trophy. Could we make it three in a row? If you are currently in Year 7 and would like to take part next year, keep an eye out for information about the CyberFirst Girls Competition during form, and express your interest!

Mr O’Connor
Lead Teacher for KS4/KS5 Computing


House System News

Easter Egg Appeal

On Monday 25th March Mr Wilbraham and I will visit the distribution centre for Durham Foodbank. Our plan is to drop off as many Easter Eggs as possible for local families in need!

We would like to invite form groups, students, staff and our wider community to support – we are hoping that as a school we can drop off 100+ Easter Eggs; we will also present them with a cheque for £200 which is part of the funds raised via December’s non-uniform day. A really worthwhile cause!

Non-Uniform Day

On Friday 15th March 2024 we will hold a non-uniform day. Funds raised from this will go to support various charities which will be chosen by students and our school house system.

Normal rules in relation to jewellery, lashes, make-up, false nails and heeled footwear still apply - please do not wear them.

Please remember this is a school environment - wear clothing and footwear suitable for school (no crop tops, offensive slogans or images etc.). If clothing is not suitable you will be asked to change.

If students have PE that day they must have full school PE kit with them.

Non-uniform is completely optional; students do not have to take part. However, if students choose to wear non-uniform, they should please bring in a donation of £1.

Miss L Forbes
Senior Teacher, the House System


Please support our school lottery!

Thank you so much to those parents, carers, and friends of the school who support us via our school lottery.

All funds raised are used to support vulnerable pupils. Since the lottery began, we have raised over £2,000 in direct cash for our Benevolent Fund and we’ve used this to support pupils who could not otherwise attend school trips, to provide emergency assistance for pupils without electricity or food at home and for a range of minor awards to help pupils to attend national events and competitions.

Your support really does make a huge difference!

The Trustees of Durham Johnston Private School Fund

We have also been asked to share the following:


HPV Vaccinations

The school age immunisation team will be delivering the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine at Durham Johnston on 24th April 2024 to Year 8 pupils.   The HPV vaccine protects against many genital-based cancers and warts. It also protects against mouth, throat, head and neck cancers caused by Human Papillomavirus. 


Please use the link below to complete either the consent form or a refusal for the vaccination. The link contains the consent forms and additional information such as FAQs regarding the vaccination. The link will close on 17th April 2024


Consent or refusal forms


For further information please see the links below: 

Human papillomavirus (HPV) - NHS 

HPV vaccine - NHS


If you have any problems accessing the link, please telephone 0333 358 3397, option 3, option 2.