Dear Parents

Over the weekend, we received both good news and bad news.

The good news is that the DfE were comfortable with all the educational aspects of our application for the Independent Grammar School, Durham, at the desired price point of £52 per week. The bad news is that they raised a small number of issues concerning our use of the building. While we are confident that these issues will be fully addressed, we cannot guarantee that these would be approved in time for the hoped-for opening on 8th January. Therefore, we have to conclude that realistically we will only be able to open our low-cost private school in the North East in September 2018.

We realize this is the second time we’ve pushed back the opening and deeply apologize for that. It has however been beyond our control.

We had planned to hold the parents’ evening on Wednesday this week (18th October), assuming that there would be fully good news by then. We have decided that we will still be at the school from 7 pm on Wednesday onwards, and will be very happy to have a cup of coffee with anyone who wants to come by. Of course we will understand if people would prefer to wait until we have the registration process completed later.

Thank you so much for your interest in the school. We look forward to writing to you some time in the near future with fully good news.

Yours faithfully,


Chris Gray, James Tooley and Barrie Craven

Invitation to Open Evening - 18th October

In our last update we promised to organise an Open Evening to give all parents an opportunity to visit the school, hear a couple of short presentations about the school (background, vision, ethos, curriculum etc.) and ask questions. 

We have decided that, although we have heard nothing yet from the Department for Education regarding our approval to open in January, we will still hold the event.  It will take place on Wednesday, 18th October at 7.30 pm at the school.  All interested parents are encouraged to attend if at all possible.  Even if you have not yet submitted a formal expression of interest, please feel free to come along to find out more. 

The evening will consist of light refreshments from 7.00 pm, a guided tour of the building, short presentations from James Tooley and Chris Gray, and a question time.  There will be time for informal discussions and questions during the evening.  We aim to be finished by 9.00 pm at the latest.

We very much hope that by the 18th we will have heard that we have gained approval to open and will therefore be in a position during the evening to take confirmed applications for places and begin the admissions process.  You will recall that we will admit pupils on a first come, first served basis but once the admissions process begins in earnest we will take into account the date on which an expression of interest was lodged.

If you would like to attend, it would help if you could email ( indicating that you plan to do so. 

We very much look forward to seeing you on the 18th.  In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact Mr Gray on 07984 619739 or by email (see above) if you have any questions.

Letter to Parents - 24th August 2017

This letter was emailed today to all parents who have expressed interest in IGS: Durham.  The contact details form referred to is not given here but will be sent to all parents who complete the "expression of interest" template on the website.

Dear Parents

First of all, may I thank you for your expression of interest in your child joining The Independent Grammar School: Durham.

I am writing to all parents personally to explain our current situation regarding the opening of the school. As you will hopefully have seen from the school website ( our opening has been delayed until January 2018 owing to the ongoing process of consideration by the Department for Education, who must approve all new schools before they can begin operating.  We hope and expect that we will hear from them very soon, but you will appreciate that that is beyond our control.  As soon as we hear, we will inform you immediately.

Assuming that we are approved to open, our first day will be Monday 8th January.  Clearly, your children, assuming they are of school age, will be either starting a new school or continuing at their existing school in September.  You may decide you are happy to keep them there, and we would certainly not wish to appear to be “poaching” children from other schools, but if you still wish your child to join us, bear in mind that children may change schools at any time during the school year.  So, even if your child has started the school year elsewhere they may still come to us in January (or at any point after that) should you wish, and the transition will be relatively straightforward.

We have been delighted that, without advertising as such, we have had almost 100 expressions of interest.  That confirms our view that there is a real demand for the kind of school we are proposing, and that we are likely to have more than enough children to make the school viable.  If necessary, we are quite prepared to begin with very small numbers but it increasingly looks as if we won’t have to!  So thank you for your support.

Some parents have expressed the concern that the school will be full and they will miss out on a place.  Please rest assured that if you have submitted an expression of interest, we will view that as an application for a place when we allocate places on a first-come-first-served basis – so your place, should you choose to firm up your interest once we are approved, is guaranteed subject to the normal terms of admission (see the website for details).

You will see from the website that we are registering the school in the first year for Reception up to Year 4.  Our aim is then to grow by one year every year thereafter – so, for example, in September 2018 we aim to have a new Reception class and the Year 4 children will move up to a new Year 5 class.  I realise that that will disappoint a number of parents whose children are older than Year 4.  I hope you will understand that a line had to be drawn somewhere. 

If any of you have yet to visit the school, please feel free to email me, or call me on 07984 619739, and we can make an appointment.  I and my colleagues will be delighted to meet you.  In the meantime, we will be arranging an evening reception in Durham very soon and will be issuing invitations to all existing prospective parents as well as any others who might be interested.  That will give us the opportunity to explain in more detail what kind of school we will be, and give you the chance to ask questions, meet other parents, view curriculum materials and talk to staff and Board members.  We will let you know details nearer the time. 

May I ask you to complete and return the short form given below?  This is to help us to be quite clear about names, dates of birth etc. for your children, as well as your full contact details. This does not commit you to anything and is not part of the admission process.  Please print the form, complete and return to: C J Gray, Principal, IGS: Durham, Claypath, Durham, DH1 1RH.  That would be very helpful.

Please do contact me if you wish to discuss any aspect of the school. 

I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer,

C J Gray


IGS: Durham

24 August 2017


Update - 10th August

Dear Parents

We hope you are well and enjoying a summer break. 

As you know, we’ve been hoping to obtain Department for Education (DfE) permission to open our school in September.  While the rigorous process is steadily moving forward – we’ve had the Ofsted inspection which we thought went well – unfortunately, it has not yet been completed. Regretfully, we will therefore have to postpone opening our school until Monday 8th January - again, of course, subject to approval. 

We sincerely apologise for this, but as you will understand, it is beyond our control. We are confident however that we will be able to open the school in January, and look forward to welcoming your children then. (Do remember that there are no restrictions on when a child can join a new school). 

Do please feel free to contact Chris Gray at any time to discuss this development further.


James Tooley

Barrie Craven

Chris Gray

Latest Update 6th July

We are still awaiting a decision from the Department for Education following their receipt of Ofsted’s inspection report.  The delay is in fact on our side rather than theirs: our fire risk assessment report was slightly later in arriving than we had hoped and that has delayed the process somewhat.  We are still doing all within our power to be ready to open in September, but must once again remind parents that they should not rely on a place being available at IGS: Durham and should make alternative arrangements in case we are not able to open on time.  There remains the possibility (assuming that we are approved) that we will have to delay our opening but it is worth noting that schools can open at any time and there are no restrictions on when a child may join a school.   Thank you for your interest in IGS: Durham and do keep an eye on the website for updates.

C J Gray


The Independent Grammar School: Durham


Latest Update - 16th June

We had our long-awaited Ofsted inspection today. This is compulsory for all new schools and results in a report to the Department for Education on whether Ofsted believe we are likely to meet the Independent School Standards. We now await the DfE's decision, which is expected to be with us in around two weeks. We remain hopeful of being approved to open in September but it is now a case of "wait and see". We will update the website again when we have any news.

C J Gray


The Independent Grammar School: Durham

IGS: Durham – Update at 5th June 2017

I am calling this an update, but am not sure that is quite accurate as in most respects there is very little to say!  The registration process is still underway with the DfE, and of course we must gain formal approval before we can formally open. All schools need to be properly checked out and we value the rigour involved in the process. However, we still hope to open as planned on 18th September. 

As we have said in all our communication, it is vital that parents ensure they have alternative provision in place as we still cannot guarantee that the school will open as planned. 

Prospective parents might be interested to know that we have had over 60 expressions of interest since February. That is very encouraging and suggests that we would have a healthy number of children to start the school. Many parents have visited the school and all have been impressed by its facilities. We have received many unsolicited applications from teachers – our type of school and the values we are promoting will always be attractive to those who are really serious about teaching!  

You might also have seen that the local media reported some comments made last week by representatives of the National Union of Teachers about our school. Of course we realise that not everyone will agree with what we are proposing. We value all comments and perspectives and look forward to discussing these further with our critics as our work progresses. 

It may be worth stressing what IGS: Durham will be doing in contrast with what the union representative said we would not be doing: 

IGS: Durham will most definitely start life with a team of qualified teachers with appropriate experience. We will also have access to very good sports facilities (indeed as many parents who have visited already will have seen, we have a great sports hall already). Our curriculum, far from being merely "off the shelf", is wide, varied, rich and of high quality. 

Many schools are already using the same curriculum around the country. The following extract from a recent Ofsted report on a London school shows the strengths of the curriculum we propose to use: 

The curriculum is designed to develop pupils’ skills, knowledge and understanding across a wide range of subjects. It promotes pupils’ enjoyment, confidence and ability to think for themselves. The curriculum emphasises the history and culture of Britain and promotes fundamental British values extremely well. The Reception and Year 1 pupil councils learn about democracy. They put key principles into practice and vote for the best way to enter the school buildings. Year 1 pupils learn about the kings and queens of England and how the Magna Carta is the basis for British law. They write about ‘bad King John’ and explain that it is wrong to take people’s money and to lie. Children in Reception learn about the rule of law and apply these basic rules by establishing their own class rules. A significant emphasis is placed on visual arts and music. There are numerous visits and visitors which bring pupils’ learning to life. The curriculum promotes pupils’ social, moral, spiritual and cultural exceptionally well. Pupils’ mature attitudes and social skills mean that they are very well prepared for life in modern Britain.

Parents can, of course, check out all that we intend to do for themselves. If you haven't already, please come and visit us. At the end of the day, your opinion is the one that matters!

Next steps for us, assuming our approval happens reasonably soon, will be an open evening and some advertising.  If you have visited the school, you can help with the latter by emailing me comments about any aspect of what we are proposing.  I hope I’m not being presumptuous in anticipating at least a few positive comments!  We can then use them, unattributed if you wish, on the website and in other promotional material.

Thank you all for your interest in IGS: Durham.  We remain excited about opening soon and look forward to beginning a long and fruitful relationship with you and your children. In the meantime, look out for further news updates on the school website. 

Enjoy the summer and please do not hesitate to get in touch with me at any time on 07984 619739 or at

C J Gray


The Independent Grammar School: Durham


The Independent Grammar School: Durham represents a radical approach to independent education.

For many parents, state education, good though it often can be, would not be their first choice.  The only alternative is a private school and, with average fees of just under £10,000 per year, that is simply unaffordable for all but the very well-off.  Our view is that there is a third way – a low cost private school.

Low cost private schools offer the best of private education at a fee that is affordable to many – £2,700 a year, or £52 a week.  IGS: Durham is the first of what we hope will be a chain of similar schools offering high quality, “no frills” education available to parents who love what private schools can offer but are currently not able to afford it.

Our focus will be on a traditional curriculum taught by passionate teachers who love their job and are free to do it really well.  Our standards will be high, demanding excellent manners and respectful behaviour, based on a determination that every child will be enabled to achieve his or her very best.  All within an ethos of "stretch, enjoyment and academic rigour".  

“Low cost” means that we will concentrate on those things which make the difference. Our premises will be simple and unpretentious - clean, hygienic and welcoming, with good quality, though not necessarily hugely expensive, resources.  Our curriculum will be traditional and knowledge-rich, giving children access to the best of what has been written, spoken and said.  Our teachers will be people who love children and are totally committed to the vision of the school.

We will adopt a broad, inclusive Christian ethos.  IGS: Durham is non-selective with no admissions criteria other than a commitment from parents to “buy in” to what we offer.  Our premises on Claypath in Durham are bright and modern and they provide a delightful, welcoming environment.  

So – welcome to our website.  You will find here most of the information you will need and we hope you will go further and arrange to meet the Principal and look round our school.  We are excited by what IGS: Durham can do for your child.  Come and visit and we believe you will share that excitement too!


Until we have had our obligatory pre-opening inspection by Ofsted and been approved by the Department for Education we cannot confirm places. However, expressions of interest are invited and you will be notified when applications can be made.

To express interest in your child joining IGS: Durham you may choose from three options. 

1. Call Chris Gray (Principal) on 07984 619739

2. Email

3. Fill in online form by clicking here.

In all cases Mr Gray will arrange to meet you personally to set out the school's vision and enable you to understand why and how IGS: Durham can provide your child with an outstanding education.