What our parents are saying ...

It is always good to receive positive comments from parents. This is what two of our parents have told us:

Putting our children into IGS has been the best decision we have ever made. The standards of learning are very high and the school is a happy, safe and  stimulating environment in which both our children are flourishing. They are now performing academically a whole year ahead, and they absolutely love being at school. We were astonished at a recent Parents’ Evening to see how much they had learned and how full their work books were with fascinating and yet stretching material. Best of all the school is led by a principal and by teachers who are passionately committed to providing an outstanding education and who also really love children. Not only are the children progressing at light speed in Maths, reading and writing, they are also learning geography, history, science, as well as about nature. There are even after school clubs, including the Thursday Lego construction club which our son has signed up to. We cannot recommend the School highly enough!

Our son is in reception at IGS Durham. He absolutely loves going to school, every morning he can't wait to start and is always excited to tell us what he has been learning at home time.  The education he is receiving is second to none, he is learning so much and having lots of fun at the same time.  Needless to say, the teachers are amazing, and as parents we are filled with so much confidence that our son is extremely well taught and cared for.  The communication between parents and the school is excellent, we feel we know exactly how he is doing and what he is learning.  Mr Gray has created a friendly, welcoming atmosphere at IGS with an outstanding curriculum and one where the parents are always heard.  We couldn't be happier with the school and for our son to be attending.

Article in the New Statesman 20 September

Peter Welby has written an article covering IGS: Durham in today’s New Statesman. This is what he said …

Is it possible to educate a child for £2,700 a year, which is about half what the average child in a state school costs and barely a quarter of what even the cheapest private schools charge? Those are the fees for a new private school, just opened in Durham by James Tooley, a Newcastle University professor of education. He argues that by renting low-cost buildings, cutting out “frills” such as swimming pools and playing fields, recruiting young (and therefore cheap) teachers and increasing class sizes, private education can be brought within the means of many more families.

He aspires to launch similar schools across the English north-east, having already established a low-cost private school chain in Africa. He has sunk his savings into the project and expects to attract private investors. Is he insane? What works in developing countries, where public services are weak, underfunded and often corrupt, can’t work in Britain, can it?

I am not so sure. In a separate venture, another low-cost private school, albeit charging twice as much as Tooley’s, is planned for London. As the British state decays, private firms are moving even into policing (see previous columns). Private enterprise has a usually reliable nose for where it can make money. Thanks to the Tories’ obsession with creating quasi-markets, the state school system seems, to many parents, to be increasingly fragmented and chaotic. In urban areas, getting places in the “right” schools is a complex, headache-inducing process that may involve moving house or renting a flat in the appropriate catchment area. Some families may conclude that it’s simpler – and possibly cheaper – to write a cheque


We are extremely gratified by all the national and local media attention surrounding the opening of our school.

As a privately-funded organisation, however, our policy is not to engage with the media.

Open Evening coming up ...

Thank you to all those parents who have enrolled children for the start of the new school year. Although at the beginning of the holidays the summer seems to stretch out endlessly before us, we all know that September will come around very quickly.  We are really looking forward to opening our school and to seeing our hopes and dreams come true. We know that our school model is new and different, and that it can make a huge difference for so many parents who value the ideas of independence and excellence in education – at an affordable price.

We still have places available and are holding another Open Evening on Tuesday 31st July at 6.45 pm at the school (Claypath, Durham, DH1 1RH).  There is no need to book a place – just turn up, bringing your children if you wish, and enjoy some light refreshments before learning more about the school, meeting some of the staff and asking questions.

For those parents who have already enrolled children for September, we will soon be sending you details of how to buy school uniform.  If you have any questions at all about any aspect of the school, please speak to Mr Gray (Principal) on 07984 619739 at any time. 

We wish you all a very pleasant summer.

UPDATE 9th July 2018

Some parents might have seen yesterday’s article in the Sunday Telegraph, which has already stirred up considerable interest in IGS: Durham from all over the country. Admissions are growing, although we still have places available in all year groups. We have recruited a number of great teachers, who are keen to get started with us (although we have decided to allow them a summer holiday first). We aim to hold another Open Evening at 6.45 on Tuesday 31st July at the school.

So – things continue to move forward on a number of fronts. The time between now and 17th September will fly by so we will be working very hard indeed over the summer – no holidays for some of us!

We are very aware that some of the parents who expressed interest in the school in the weeks following our original announcement well over a year ago have not yet confirmed their interest by submitting an application. There may of course be many reasons for that but, if you are still considering IGS: Durham, please do get in touch. You are always welcome to visit the school and discuss your child’s education with us. (Call Mr Gray on 07984 619739 to arrange a visit).

All interested parents are warmly invited to attend the Open Evening on 31st July. That will be an opportunity to hear more about the school, tour the building, meet staff and have your questions answered.


The initial deadline for applications to IGS: Durham has now passed and places have been allocated.  We are not yet over-subscribed so are delighted to say that all those parents who applied will be informed within the next few days that they have been successful.  We look forward to their children joining us in September.

Places are still available and we will continue to accept applications.

Entry forms are available here, from principal@igsdurham.com or alternatively phone 07984 619739


YOU AND YOURS - Radio 4 today.

IGS: Durham was featured prominently on today's You and Yours programme.  The programme has an interview with Professor Tooley and some of the parents who attended last week's Open Evening.  The link to the programme can be found below:

Open Evenings

As we announced last week (see below), we are delighted to be able to say that our application to register The Independent Grammar School: Durham has been successful and we will now be opening the school as planned on 17th September. This is great news – thank you all for your patience!

The next step will be an open evening on Tuesday 12th June at the school, starting at 7.00 pm with coffee and tea served from 6.45.  We will then repeat the event a week later on Wednesday 20th June at the same time. All interested parents are invited to attend one of these evenings, which will be an opportunity to hear more about the school, ask questions, have a tour of the building and, if you wish to do so, to enrol your child(ren).

Enrolment will involve completing a simple form and paying a £50 enrolment fee. Places are offered on a first-come-first served basis. As you know, the date of receipt of your expression of interest will be deemed to be the date of your application as soon as you confirm your application and pay the fee. We have set a deadline of 30th June for confirmations to be received and we will then allocate places according to either the date of your expression of interest or of your application.

Parents may apply for a place without attending the open evenings, although it would be good to see as many of you there as possible. If you are unable to attend, but would like to apply, please contact us (principal@igsdurham.com) and we will send you an application form.

Although all parents are welcome to attend the open evenings without booking a place, it would be very helpful if you could let us know whether you are planning to attend.


We are delighted to announce that we have been informed today (31st May) that our school has been officially approved by the Department for Education and has been entered on the Register of Independent Schools.

The Independent Grammar School: Durham will therefore open on Monday 17th September 2018. 

This is exciting news and we look forward to meeting many prospective parents and children at open days/evenings to be arranged in the very near future.  Details will appear here. 


UPDATE 16th April 2018

As expected, Ofsted conducted an inspection of our school last week which went well.  Ofsted will pass their findings to the Department for Education, who will then make a decision concerning our registration.  We very much hope that this will be positive and will enable us to open our school in September.  As soon as we have news, we will announce it here.  

UPDATE 3rd April 2018

All planned work has now been completed and we are eagerly awaiting our next Ofsted inspection so that we can evidence what we have done to address the issues identified last year.  We are still hopeful of a September opening.  

UPDATE 23rd March 2018

We promised to update the website every week and will continue to do so even when, as is the case right now, there is not a lot to say.  Good news is that the work on the building is progressing and is scheduled to be finished by next Wednesday.  No glitches so far!

Update 15th March 2018

We have today briefed our contractor to begin work on Monday.  The work involves, among other more minor jobs, installing low level toilets, creating a suitable sick bay and fitting an automatic closer on what will be the school gate.  The timescale is about a fortnight so we hope that shortly after that we will have our Ofsted inspection and receive DfE approval to open in September. 

Once the work is completed we'd be very happy to show parents round again - please get in touch if you’d find that helpful. 

Update for Parents - 7th MARCH 2018

Things have been rather quiet for a few months as we have worked to address the issues raised by the Department for Education following the Ofsted inspection last June.  Having developed what we hope was a thorough response, we met with the Department a couple of weeks ago and they have now responded to inform us that a further Ofsted inspection will be carried out soon to establish whether we have implemented the changes we identified.  We are comfortable with this situation as we believe we have very robust plans in place to do so.  We have today commissioned our architects to arrange for the works to start.  They are relatively minor in nature, although important in helping us to ensure the best possible environment for children.

We hope therefore that we will soon have good news about the school's opening in September 2018, which remains our firm aim.  If we are indeed able to confirm that over the next few weeks, we will be arranging a number of open days/evenings for parents to visit and learn more about what The Independent Grammar School: Durham has to offer.

Thank you for your continued interest and do keep in touch with the website, which will now be updated on a weekly basis.

Chris Gray, Barrie Craven and James Tooley



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

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 (www.igsdurham.com) 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 principal@igsdurham.com.

C J Gray


The Independent Grammar School: Durham