Opened on the 3rd September 1913, the ‘School on the Sands’ was initially built to accommodate 248 girls. The building, now Durham Sixth Form Centre, was officially opened on 21st January 1914 by Dr Hensley Henson, the Dean, and, later, Bishop of Durham.
The school was designed by W. Rushworth and was built in the Neo-Georgian style costing £16,250. It was originally suggested that the school should be called the ‘Johnston School for Girls’ as a tribute to the illustrious benefactor of the original school, James Finlay Weir Johnston.
However, it was also felt that the part played by Durham County Council in establishing both schools should be reflected, so the name Durham Girls’ County School was granted. In 1969, the school became co-educational and, in 1984, predominantly a sixth form provider.
Celebrating 110 years of education in 2023
In 2023, we are celebrating 110 years of education at Durham Sixth Form Centre, as the ‘School on The Sands.’
Watch this space for future celebration events.
Celebrating 100 years of education
In 2013, we celebrated 100 years of education at Durham Sixth Form Centre, as the ‘School on The Sands.’
US Ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun visits DSFC
In January 2014, Durham Sixth Form Centre were honoured to host Matthew Barzun, US Ambassador to the United Kingdom as he visitied the Centre on the afternoon of Wednesday, 22nd January 2014. As a keen believer in the importance of education Mr Barzun requested the opportunity to address around 250 students on business, entrepreneurial spirit and education.
“It is both an honour and a privilege to welcome Mr Barzun to Durham Sixth Form Centre. It is a fantastic opportunity for our students to meet and listen to the words and experience of such a highly regarded dignitary” said Head Teacher, Ellen Beveridge.
We are always pleased to find out about the success of our former students.
If you are a former student, and would like to tell us about your success, please email us at [email protected].
Below are some stories of previous Durham Sixth Form Centre students.
The One Show presenter, Matt Baker, spoke about his education in the north east, and how it influenced his career. Talking to TES Connect, Matt spoke fondly about his time at Durham Sixth Form Centre.
“My truly inspirational teachers were at Durham Sixth Form Centre. It all started when I took part in a college production of Grease. My form tutor was running the show. He was outgoing and really funny – a brilliant character, forever cracking jokes, and a wonderful piano player.”
Matt also talked about how he was given valuable career advice, which, in his opinion, set him on the path he has found himself on today. With the support of his teachers, Matt was able to re-asses the A-Levels he was doing, and benefited from this when he went on to audition for drama school.
“I ended up taking one of the bigger parts in the show and it went really well. As a result, my drama teachers encouraged me to swap my A-levels. They also helped me work through my audition pieces and I landed a place at Queen Margaret College (now Queen Margaret University) in Edinburgh. I’d been there 18 months when I heard Blue Peter was looking for a presenter. I auditioned and got the job.”
Matt described his teachers at Durham Sixth Form Centre as being “really influential in helping me make a life-changing decision.” He went on to add “If it wasn’t for Grease and swapping my A-levels, I wouldn’t be doing what I am today.”
Matt presented ‘Blue Peter’ for seven years and, as well as ‘The One Show’, presents ‘Countryfile’ on BBC1. He won two TV BAFTAS during his seven years on Blue Peter, and came second in 2010’s season of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.
Durham Sixth Form Centre is very proud of Matt’s successes. The Theatre Studies & Performing Arts courses at the Centre are going from strength to strength.
Footballer/Team GB Olympian
Durham Sixth Form Centre have previously reported that one of our former students, Stephanie Houghton played for England Woman’s Football Squad, in the World Cup in Germany. We are thrilled to report that her career has gone from strength to strength, and she has since represented Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics, and been named England Captain.
Steph represented Team GB, and shone, as they made British football history. During the 2012 Olympic Campaign, Steph scored three goals, in three games, making her Team GB’s record goalscorer. They won the group with a 100% record, progressing without conceding a goal.
Her first goal gave Team GB a winning start to their first Olympic campaign. The defender struck a 64th-minute free-kick to secure a 1-0 win over New Zealand, and then went on to score against Canada and football giants Brazil.
Of that special first goal she said: “‘It’s definitely the highlight of my career. It was amazing. People are saying: ‘You’re making history. You’ve scored the first British goal of London 2012’. That’s going to be something special for me and my family.”
“We go through set-pieces in training before the game and I just fancied it. I missed one and I just felt I could score the next one and, thankfully, I did that.”
It was some kind of redemption for the Durham-born defender, who has twice missed out on major tournaments because of injury. She suffered two unfortunate injuries, and missed the 2007 World Cup with a broken leg, and the European Championships in 2009 with a damaged cruciate ligament.
Houghton was ‘in shock’ as the ball went in, an assessment she did not dispute. “It is almost impossible to put into words,” she said. “I knew I had struck it well and when I picked my head up, it was in the back of the net. I didn’t know what to do with my celebration!”
“‘I was trying to head towards the bench but I got tired and tried to slow down because it was so hot. It was a really special moment for me, the best of my career without a doubt.”
Durham Sixth Form Centre is very proud of their Olympian champion!
(Article adapted from newspaper report initially printed in The Daily Mail, July 2012.)
Colin Hall was a pupil in the 1970s at what was then Durham Wearside Grammar School. He arrived in only the second year that the school admitted boys, having been a girls’ school only until 1969.
Colin says that he’s “a long way from being famous in the gallery of former students”, but “the school sowed the seeds of my desire to achieve and its teachers were absolutely a model for all I have sought to be.” Colin’s own school takes what was the motto of our predecessor school ‘Lampada Trado’ and in his school publications he writes about what he gained from his time. When the Sixth Form Centre opened, Colin’s History teacher, Miss Jean Anderson, became its Senior Tutor and was so until her retirement. Colin says of his time:
“The school was instrumental in my decision to become a teacher. I was taught by so many people there whose sense of devotion, duty and dedication were breath-taking and they left me no doubt that replicating their passion was what I wanted to do. They were different times, of course, a selective grammar school, but much of what it stood for and did is what I have put into place in a state comprehensive school in central London.”
The November 2014 Ofsted report on Colin’s school says, amongst other things, that it is: ‘a wonderful learning community’ where teaching is ‘outstanding and often exceptional’ where ‘intellectual endeavour is ‘cool’ and embraced by all’.
But Colin says “whilst a Head for nearly twenty years, I remain deeply at home teaching my Year 13 English group and some of the things I teach were all imbued in me by the fine teachers at DSFC, the former Durham Wearside Grammar School. I am a very proud alumni.”
A former student of Durham Sixth Form Centre was awarded a top prize at the 2010 Military Awards, organised and sponsored by The Sun newspaper.
Flight Lieutenant, Mike Anderson, from RAF Odiham, received the Most Outstanding Airman prize which was broadcast on ITV1 in December. He received the award for his bravery in airlifting Afghan children out of a firefight.
It was presented to him by Chelsea and England footballer Frank Lampard, and his fiancée Christine Bleakley, at the star-studded ceremony held at the Imperial War Museum in London. The 31-year-old was also pictured meeting England football star David Beckham.
He was the captain of the Immediate Response Team based at Camp Bastion when he flew to the scene of an explosion, and received reports of heavy machine-gun fire. While other aircraft fired at Taliban fighters, the brave pilot landed during a lull in firing and rescued four children. A fifth was evacuated on a US helicopter.
He told the local media: “It was an honour and an achievement to win the award but I didn’t do it on my own. There were four members of the crew, and as the captain, I was there to take responsibility if things went right or wrong, but really all four of us had jobs to do and we came together as a whole.”
Miss Bleakley said of Flt Lt Anderson: “It was obvious, listening to his colleagues, just how special he really is.” Mr Lampard, who was on the judging panel, added: “The story of the Most Outstanding Airman was so outstanding that we were just taken back. It is very inspiring.”
It is not the first time his skills have been recognised. Earlier this year, Flt Lt Anderson’s heroics were honoured with a Distinguished Flying Cross.
Flt Lt Mike Anderson was born in Durham, attending Durham Sixth Form Centre between 1996 and 1998. He later went onto University, and graduated from Lancaster with a BA (Hons) in Politics and International Relations.
After spending two years teaching Kayaking and travelling, Mike joined the Royal Air Force in 2003. Since then he has deployed to Afghanistan six times and completed various training and exercises in Norway and Africa.
Everyone at Durham Sixth form Centre wish him the very best of luck!
Principal of Abbeygate Sixth Form College
I started at Durham Sixth Form Centre without really knowing where or what I wanted to do with my life. From day one, my Personal Tutor, James O’Leary, took a real interest in helping me get my GCSE’s (which I didn’t get from school) and then encouraged me to progress onto A levels. After three years of continual support and encouragement, I had the confidence to leave Durham Sixth form Centre and to go onto University – something that I had never considered throughout my school life. My subject teachers, particularly Norman Ferguson, my sports teacher, was always supportive and more than happy to tell me when I wasn’t doing as well as I should be and what I had to do to improve.
As well as getting a great education in all the subjects I studied, the social aspect of the Sixth Form Centre was fantastic. It provided the opportunity to meet so many different people from different areas. We put on memorable college productions, including our own version of ‘Blind Date’ and our leaving prom was a great end to a very enjoyable and productive three years.
I went to University in London, where I studied Sports Science combined with a teaching qualification. Since graduating, I have worked in an inner-city Sixth Form College in South London for 12 years. In my early years, as a Head of Sport, I often brought up our College Football team (SFX) to play DSFC which were always great fixtures between the two colleges. My job has enabled me to travel the world, setting up international links in India and, more predominately, in China.
These links have enabled students from both countries to visit one another and work on collaborative projects linked to the subjects they are studying at the sixth form. I am currently the Vice Principal at Lowestoft Sixth Form College, where I have been for the last 3 years – I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to set up this brand new sixth form college and be involved in working with the architects and builders in designing a state of the art £25 Million college.
My experiences at DSFC shaped who I am today and gave me the confidence to go on to University and to get a degree, which has enabled me to work with sixth form students. I am thoroughly enjoying doing something that I was inspired to do by my teachers at the sixth form centre – hopefully encouraging students, who are a bit like me, to go on and do things that they never thought possible. My advice would be to make the most of the time you have at sixth form, listen to the advice given to you by your teachers and put yourself in a position to go on and do what you want to do.