Durham Johnston Comprehensive School

Dare to be wise

The school motto sapere aude – ‘dare to be wise’ - encapsulates how we as a school approach education and both the curriculum and provision we offer our students here at Durham Johnston. Some of our choices have a direct impact on the performance of the school as published in league tables. For example, the school has always placed an importance on the learning of modern languages and the vast majority of our students have studied a language to GCSE level even when other schools abandoned this policy.

However, we ‘dared to be wise’ in standing by this policy and we note that government policy is now highlighting traditional subjects and qualification regimes with the EBACC and Progress 8 (see school accountability framework reforms)

Our core values are of academic excellence, social justice and global futures.

Academic excellence is central to all we do. We seek to appoint teachers who have a thorough and in depth understanding of their subjects, and teaching seeks to stretch the understanding of our students in each different subject area. We see progress as linked to specific disciplines, and look to develop expert and enthusiastic geographers in geography, passionate historians in history and so on. This policy of ensuring that teaching sequences are underpinned by academic stretch for learners from their individual starting points lies at the heart of our excellent outcomes at Key Stage 5 and at the top end of Key Stage 4.

The wider curriculum helps us focus on developing a commitment to social justice. We believe in inclusion, and teach that all can succeed, background being of little consequence. To this end our students whose backgrounds make them potentially vulnerable are offered a high standards curriculum and many make the mark, enabling them to compete with the very best. The school ensures that all students can access extra-curricular events through the provision of free buses to some of the villages we serve. Assemblies, tutor programmes and the formal curriculum highlight issues of injustice and equality for all. The school has received the Stonewall equality mark for its work in combatting homophobia and celebrating difference. We have a fully accessible building and several students who are wheelchair users. We welcome those with specific learning needs and ensure that these students reach the standards of which they are capable. We appoint, where possible, role models from different backgrounds.

The global future we seek for our students gives the school a wider focus on life skills, preparation for next steps and the world of work. In practical terms this means a bespoke careers programme, PSHCE which pervades the curriculum, collapsed curriculum sessions which focus on skills’ development. Our focus on modern languages, leadership skills, and communication allow our students to compete with the very best.