Durham Johnston Comprehensive School
Durham, County, United Kingdom
About Durham Johnston Comprehensive School
An introduction to Durham Johnston Comprehensive School
It is very difficult to describe the Johnston on paper. People often have pre-conceived ideas about us. I believe that we are a caring and inclusive school that has high standards and where both students and staff work hard to reach their potential. I believe that our school is very special, and that school leaders and governors work hard so that our staff feel valued and that coming to work is a (generally) pleasurable experience. I believe that we do our best to put students at the centre of our work –certainly, our systems and procedures are designed so that we focus on student need rather than curriculum constraint.
Academic excellence is our first priority. We work so that all our young people have the best education we can provide. We want Johnstonians to be confident and articulate, self-motivated and determined to succeed. We want them to enjoy and value learning for itself, not just as the means to an end.
Taking our responsibility as public servants very seriously, we seek to offer the benefits and advantages that confer success and prosperity by imparting knowledge and habits of mind to last a lifetime. We do not close doors to any child, but enable them all to have access to powerful knowledge and deep subject learning and useful skills. We educate our young people with excellence and equity so that they may feel at ease in the world, ready for hard work and global citizenship.
A commitment to social justice characterises this local authority comprehensive school. We work so that background is irrelevant to achievement and that aspiration is not limited by circumstance of birth. We want Johnstonians to be reflective, inquiring, tolerant, positive and respectful of the needs of others. We give opportunities for leadership and active citizenship.
We expect Johnstonians to have the highest standards of behaviour, we aim for our school to be a just, and happy community so that our students understand how each person may be of service to society. Adults and young people alike share an ethic of hard work and public service. We want to be central to the life of Durham City and an educational force in the life of the communities we serve.
The global future we seek for our young people is one where their curriculum and learning equips them with the knowledge and skills to compete globally. We want Johnstonians to take their place among the best. We are committed to a curriculum built on the concepts and knowledge, which will open all the doors in the world to our young people. The learning of languages enables global community cohesion, international understanding and equality of opportunity: it is central to our purpose.
Introducing Durham Johnston
Durham Johnston is a long-established, highly successful and much respected comprehensive school serving 1500 young people from Durham City and the surrounding villages. Our school was founded in 1901 as a mixed grammar school and took its current form in 1979 from the amalgamation of the grammar school and two secondary modern schools. After 30 years, a split site school our new building opened in April 2009. The admission number for Year 7 is 232. Our prestigious sixth form draws from a much wider area and has approximately 340 students. About 65% of our own year 11 students stay with us into years 12 and 13. Before deregulation we were a Language College with full International Status and a High Performing Specialist School with further specialisms in Leadership and work with Gifted and Talented students.
How we serve our young people
Each young person is based in a form, with a tutor, and looked after by a Head of Year too. We have two Deputy Heads and three Assistant Heads. The Leadership Group are responsible for the curriculum and pastoral structures, the 6th Form, pastoral provision, and the quality of teaching. Our Business Manager is also on the team, together with some middle leaders who are supporting the strategic priorities of the school over the coming years.
In Year 7 our young people study in mixed ability classes for everything except mathematics and English and from Year 8 onwards we set in most subjects. Our curriculum is broad and includes art, English, French, geography, history, mathematics, music, PSE, physical education, ethics and philosophy (RE), science, technology and computing for all students. Students also study Latin, German, Spanish or Mandarin from Year 8. The school operates a 25-period timetable and lessons last for one hour.
The Key Stage 4 curriculum currently includes core subjects and three pathways for option choices. The core subjects are English (language and literature), mathematics, science (separate or dual), PSE (including Careers), RE and PE. The first of the three options is from the EBACC list. Options B and C are a free choice (with the final Progress 8 subject being either RE, literature, or the third science). We use GCSE specifications from all the examination boards. We offer a range of vocational options also.
In the sixth form we offer a range of GCE A level qualifications in art, biology, business studies, chemistry, economics, English literature, English language, French, further mathematics, geography, German, history, information technology, media studies, mathematics, music, physical education, physics, politics, religious studies and sociology. The comprehensive list is on the website. Students take four subjects in Year 12, most dropping to three in year 13, although some students keep four. We try to make sure that our young people have an ICT award, we also offer languages, and a choice of sport or community service to extend the range of options offered to sixth formers. Most of our sixth form go on to university, with many going to highly competitive courses and a large cohort – usually about 15% - to Oxford, Cambridge, medicine or veterinary courses.
What is it like to work at Durham Johnston?
We have a strong teaching and support staff team and a very wide range of extra-curricular activities. We work well with our partner primary schools, trying to develop coherence and continuity in the 3-19 curriculum. We work closely with the other schools in central Durham. We have strong links with local industry. The performances of our music department are of a very high standard and our sports teams are very successful regionally and nationally. Our carol service is held in Durham cathedral: a marvellous event!
Like other schools, we use staff committees and working parties to consult, develop and plan for Johnston’s growth. Staff are active on committees of the governing body. We encourage colleagues to pursue active professional development throughout their careers, and we enjoy our training time together. We are a friendly staff and our excellent support staff enable nearly 100 teachers.
Durham Johnston has a very good reputation well beyond our neighbourhood. We are a high attaining school, and our students make excellent progress from their starting points. Our A-level results are among the best in the country. Our GCSE results in 2016 were strong. 77% of students attaining the basics, and very high levels of progress in English and maths (using legacy measures). At A2 Level 49% of grades were A and A*. We are equally committed to those students whose situations could make them more vulnerable; the percentage of ‘pupil premium’ students attaining 5 grades A*C with English and mathematics is well above the national for similar students, and we are working hard to support the achievement of these students. Even a cursory glance at our website or the performance tables would indicate how high achievement is here at the Johnston.
We are regularly written up in the press as one of the top highest achieving comprehensive schools in England at A Level. We are highly ranked nationally for entry to highly competitive university courses. We blow our own trumpet when we can; our innovation and performance are emphasised through a good profile in the media. Better still, most of our young people and their parents have a very positive attitude towards their education and the opportunities that this school offers them. We have had two outstanding Ofsted judgments over the past years, including one in January 2015.
Is Johnston right for you?
Durham Johnston is an extraordinary school and we need staff who understand that. We are one of the very few genuine comprehensive schools in Britain, with young people from a very wide range of backgrounds and abilities, although many of our students arrive above average in English and mathematics. All our staff need to have the skills to work with the wide range of abilities, and to be equally at home with those who are struggling to learn as with some of the best young minds in the country. Working here is sometimes exhausting, but it is always rewarding. We want to appoint people who are committed to their jobs and prepared to throw themselves into school life. We want people to join us who know that a teacher’s responsibility extends well beyond the walls of a classroom, who will play an active role in department teams and other staff groups and who will make good working relationships with young people, leading them to the highest standards of achievement. We need support staff who facilitate this and help us to improve our standards of service.
We are proud of our traditional ethos at Johnston, and we celebrate stability and reliable excellence. We know that it is in the maintenance of a happy, orderly and successful community built upon classroom excellence, long-term commitment and strong personal relationships that we root our success. We are a dynamic, improving school.
We take education very seriously at Johnston. We expect students to strive for the highest standards and grow into good citizens. Our school plan commits us to academic excellence and social justice and we believe that what we offer gives all our young people a fair opportunity to compete with those for whom privilege has been purchased. We seek to transform lives through learning.