Statement from the Chair of Governors
It is with great sadness that I have to inform you that The Durham Free School will close at Easter. We have taken the difficult decision not to pursue a Judicial Review against the Secretary of State for Education. Even if successful, it would do little to assure the school stayed open. Our priority must be to focus on helping the children and their families who have been so badly affected by this terrible miscarriage of justice and to make their last days at the school, which has become like a second family to many, as happy and celebratory as possible. We have asked if our “well wisher”, who was keen to fund legal action, would be prepared to donate these funds instead to further the interests of children and families in this area that have been so repeatedly betrayed by many of our public servants, both locally and nationally.
We will continue to work to expose the corruption and campaign of misinformation that has been used to destroy the school.
Our immediate priority however will be working with all of our current families to help them find the very best solution for their children now that their chosen provision has been removed. Work with Professor Tooley of Newcastle University will continue, looking at alternative provision that could be made available to our communities, whose educational choice at Secondary level continues to shrink.
I’d like to thank all who have supported and believed in what we have tried to do for our children. Above all, I would like to thank our brilliant staff who have been slandered in parliament, have had their livelihoods threatened and yet have been exemplary professionals, putting aside their own worries to keep strong for our children and have looked after and educated them so well through this distressing time.
Some people will say that the money spent on our young people's education has been wasted (no doubt with gross exaggerations of the amount spent): I know this has not been the case. The short time many have spent at The Durham Free School has already had an extremely positive, and in many cases, a truly transformational impact on their lives. We wish them every blessing and success moving forwards. They are a very special group of young people and it has been a privilege to serve them and their families.
Chair of Governors
7th March 2015
Some testimonials from our parents:
"The Durham Free School has been the best thing ever for my son. The difference in him since he started is a credit to the staff and I am very grateful and appreciative of this. I am also very proud of what he has achieved. I would like to thank all of the staff personally for the difference you have made to his life. We both thank you for all your kindness, understanding and hard work. I am 100% + pleased that I applied for my son to go to your school. I believe I made the right decision. Many, many thanks” (Year 7 parent, Ferryhill)
"My son is a different child since he came here, he's completely blossomed. He was very quiet and withdrawn at his last school but the difference in his self esteem since he came here is marked. It's done him the world of good." (Year 8 parent, Spennymoor)
"I didn't want my son to go to a big comprehensive, I wanted somewhere small and nurturing. Ofsted aside, I can only say my son is making progress. They have bent over backwards for him here and I don't believe he would have got as much support at a big school." (Year 8 parents, Spennymoor)
"This school is taking the children from our local area when no one else wanted them! My daughter loves it. She wants to know when the sixth form is opening, then she's going to college for two years then university. I'd never heard her make long-term plans for her future before she came here. All she wanted for Christmas was a violin because they've got her into music so much." (Year 8 parent, Bowburn)
“As someone who really was not fond of certain subjects, in particular maths, English and PE, my daughter has been transformed as she has excelled in these subjects even to the point of actually enjoying them. That is solely down to the dedication and determination of the teaching staff to provide an education second to none. Giving our children the values of Christianity has to be embraced; as difficult as it will be given the peer pressures of modern life, having a moralistic outlook will benefit them and indeed their children and the future. As parents we believe our children’s futures are at the heart of this school. Our children's lives will benefit from the passion and dedication of these teachers.” (Year 8 parent, Coxhoe)
"There's no way I'd send my daughter to any other school. She was badly bullied at primary school, now she's up and dressed and ready to go to school at 6.30 am. For her to come in from school with a smile on her face is everything." (Year 8 parent, Spennymoor)
"My son was very introverted because of bullying in his previous school, physically and on the internet, but now he's started here he's really thriving and full of confidence. He's a performer and was born to be on the stage, but he'd lost all that. Now his confidence his coming back, he's like a new kid. He has also done marvellously academically since coming to The Durham Free School as he was way behind and has already made up a lot of lost ground. He used to dread going to school but now he's happy to go." (Year 8 parent, Spennymoor)
"My daughter has blossomed into the person I know she wants to be. She feels like she's got something valuable to offer and the other kids appreciate her for who she is. I don't think there is any other school I would be happy about her going to now. It upsets me that the negative comments detract from the fact that the school offers parents an alternative choice and that it exists for the children. It seems to me there are a lot of people out there with agendas that don't actually care about the real well being of the kids.
The only agenda I'm seeing from Mr Eisner and his team is doing what is genuinely in the best interests of the students - whether that ticks all the boxes or jumps through the (ever changing!) hoops or not. I'm confident that my child is in the best hands possible. I'm a teacher and I'm really pleased with the progress I can see she has made, whether Ofsted acknowledge that or not. I know my child, I know education and I know she is getting a fantastic deal!" (Year 8 parent, High Shincliffe)
"When the media attack The Durham Free School with negativity, as a parent with an attending pupil, I feel personally attacked! This is basically because I know the TRUTH and I know the FACTS about what actually goes on inside the school, behind closed doors. I transferred my son from another local comprehensive school. From starting in year 7 to me taking him out of that school, he experienced a year of HELL. He was being bullied almost constantly. I strongly feel that his previous school was too big for members of staff to control and overlook all problems amongst pupils. My son's confidence was very low, as were his academic grades. However, since starting The Durham Free School two weeks into year 8, my son is a completely different person. He is very confident, his academic grades have improved dramatically due to him not being afraid of other pupils, and not worrying and having to look over his shoulder most the time! The staff at this school are fantastic. They are great at explaining things when children are stuck with homework, they are GENUINELY friendly and helpful people. These teachers are committed to their careers and WANT to go to work in the morning as they are accomplishing great work each day! My son actually loves going to school! Something I NEVER thought would be possible.
The Durham Free School promote Christian values which as a Catholic family we feel is very important. The pupils don't act out of control. They leave the school building on an afternoon and get onto buses or walk to parents' cars in an orderly, sensible manner. I feel this is because the teachers here teach our children to respect themselves and their neighbours. Therefore, resulting in sensible, respectful behaviour from each pupil. The class sizes are small, which helps the pupils of low confidence, and special needs. The school have boosted both my sons personal mental and academic confidence!
This school provides a safe environment for pupils to learn, and grow in many different aspects. The school day is an hour longer than other comprehensives as the teachers offer numerous extra curricular activities, from sports, music tuition, languages and homework tuition to art activities.... All bases covered! I can not think of any other school I would have transferred my son to at the beginning of year 8.... Other than private schools... And we would be looking at Barnard Castle or Durham School! My other option was going to be home tuition! This is because I could not find a state school suitable for my son!" (Year 8 parent, Chilton)
"The size of the school dictates how lost children can feel. I've worked in big secondary schools and I knew that wasn't the right environment for my son. Here, he's been able to carry on from primary school, his identity hasn't changed. He's mature and articulate and his persona hasn't been damaged at this critical time in his life. I want my son to grow up tolerant of all people in society. The bigger the environment, the more institutional it becomes and the more lost you are. That's why he's here and that's why he's thriving." (Year 7 parent, Shadforth)
“The thing that attracted me to TDFS when I was looking at schools for my daughter is the emphasis placed upon attitudes and values. I’m not a religious person, but it’s important to me that my child grows up knowing how to treat people, as well as how to pass exams. The school’s core values offer an excellent grounding for all children growing up in modern Britain. I have watched her and her friends grow in confidence and knowledge during the past year. I attribute this to the outstanding dedication of many staff members, the nurturing environment and the fantastic range of extra-curricular activities on offer, which would rival those available at many private schools.
It saddens me when I hear all the political noise about TDFS. When I read comments such as those made by Tristram Hunt about free schools being a vanity project for "yummy mummies” it makes me realise just how out of touch some politicians are. There is a reason why the majority of free schools have opened in Labour controlled areas; because the educational provision was not meeting the needs of the people in those areas.” (Year 8 parent, Coxhoe)
"We have been keen supporters of The Durham Free School from the outset and welcomed the prospect of a school that would serve the community around the Coxhoe, Bowburn, Shincliffe area. Of course, we did have reservations. There were no figures over performance/exam results to guide us. There was also the uncertainty of where the school would be situated. Now, after just over a year, we can say that we have no regrets whatsoever about sending our daughter to the school. We have seen her blossom into a confident, eager student who loves going to school. This in part is due to the support and tutelage of the teachers at The Durham Free School. Our daughter has gone from a 'middle of the road' student in primary school to one who meets, and in some cases, surpasses her expected grade levels, even excelling in some subjects. One could argue that this may have been the case if she had gone to another school, however, we feel sure that the nurturing environment within the school has allowed her to progress much quicker. The extra curricular activities have also exposed her to different experiences and challenges further growing her into a confident well rounded girl.
On occasion things do go awry, however, any issues are dealt with swiftly and all the staff are extremely approachable if there are any concerns. There has been much speculation and negative press of late. We feel that much of this is borne out of ignorance and fear of change and with the added intrusion of the local politicians doing their best to 'justify their positions'. Regrettably, the recent developments with the former head teacher have reignited this, which is a great shame as the school was settling into the community very well. If, with the benefit of hindsight, we had to turn the clock back to the time we were looking for a school to send our daughter to, we can honestly say that we would make exactly the same decision again. The Durham Free School has the opportunity to become one of the very best schools in the area and we will continue to support it wholeheartedly.” (Year 8 parent, Parkhill)
"The school has been run much better the last couple of months and I can see a real difference "
"Always impressed that when difficult decisions are to be made the children's education and welfare are foremost in their minds "
"Committed to helping the children acheive their goals "
"Despite the small size of the school they go the extra mile to ensure the pupils have the same opportunities as at larger, better funded schools "
"Always approachable and open to suggestions " (Year 8 parent and pupil, Bowburn)
"I'm very pleased with the Durham Free School and have not seen anything that would undermine my faith in the governance of the school. My daughter is thriving, making good academic progress and looks forward to going to school every day. The extracurricular programme is a great bonus, letting her do such diverse things American football, creative writing and sing in the school choir, or get homework help when she needs it. I appreciate the school's strong emphasis on pastoral care for the children: my daughter has a particular medical need and in the school she receives excellent support every day, which gives me as a parent great peace of mind. For a secondary school which was only set up a couple of years ago, I think the staff and governors are doing extremely well and I'm grateful for all their efforts." (Year 7 parent, High Shincliffe)
"I am incredibly happy with the school - it has a great family feel and my son loves it there. I feel they will care for my son not just educationally but as a whole." Parent
"I am exceptionally pleased with the school. My child was classed as one who would probably never learn. She has come here and is now coming on in leaps and bounds." Parent
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