The Head's Blog

Friday 28 March 2014

Final day of term and what a brisk term it’s been. Quite short but very intense, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

Over 100 boys cross the stage at assembly in recognition of their many and diverse achievements. I take a little time to tell them about Hugh Lunghi OA, who died recently. He had a remarkable career as an interpreter and broadcaster.  

Off then to the Commemoration of Benefactors and Passiontide Service where the whole school is gathered. The music is utterly sublime. A prefect lays a wreath on the tomb of John Roysse during which the chamber orchestra plays “Fantasia”, a fantastic work composed by James Anderson-Besant (5th Year). What a remarkable work, quintessential English string composition. We sing the new school hymn, composed by our own Simon Whalley, words by Simon Marriott. Sebastian Johns sings the solo in the choir anthem.

A mass exodus to the buses - I wish everyone a very happy Easter break and look forward to picking up the pen again next term.

Thursday 27 March 2014

A day of celebration for we are gathered for the ground breaking ceremony for the new science centre. What a novel approach. On the ground, the layout of the design for each floor has been spray-painted on the grass, just where the main entrance will be in due course. Around the outside are 25 spades, decorated in cerise and black ribbon. The speeches begin with Adrian Burn, Chairman of Governors, welcoming the gathering including staff, donors and governors and a special group of boys, 11 of our younger scientists who’ve been chosen to take part in the digging.   Jon Gabitass (Chairman of the Appeal Committee and Vice-chairman of Governors) tells us a little of the history and also particularly thanks the Mercers’ Company, who have made a generous donation to the appeal. I step up to introduce the Yang family who have sponsored the Science Centre and after whom the building is to be named.    Digging then begins. The Chairman, the Yangs and I get to use “THE SPADE”, the special spade first used by Margaret Thatcher in 1973 when she turned the first turf for the dining hall. Everyone else then gets stuck in, the boys particularly enjoying the activity. Off then to the sports centre and a reception which is much enjoyed by all.   Thank you to our 350 donors who have helped us not only meet the appeal target, but overtake it.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Quite a big day. I’m speaking to the assembled gathering of the Women’s Institute (the WI) and the Oxford Town Hall is packed with women who’ve come from all over Oxfordshire for their annual meeting. It’s quite extraordinary what the WI do for their communities. With a national membership of 20,000+, 4,000 in Oxfordshire, they are the largest organisation for women in the world. It’s a very great privilege to be invited to address them and I much enjoy talking to them about what it’s like leading Abingdon and life in general.

A brisk turnaround to be back in time for our termly meeting of the Board of Governors.

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Meetings with housemasters continue and then I visit the Albert Park Residents’ Association AGM. We always provide the venue for their meeting and this year we have a small clarinet ensemble entertaining our neighbours. Thomas Purkhardt, Jeffrey Hang, Jamie Blackwell, Joe Sandall, Solomon English and Christopher-James Nicholls give a jaunty start to the proceedings. Later I update residents on matters which might affect them and I promise to investigate again the source of an illusive puddle which occasionally appears just outside our main gate, but never long enough to detect the source.

Monday 24 March 2014

Being the last week of term and report time, I’m seeing each housemaster to discuss the boys in their house. It’s a great opportunity to get right down into the essence of each house. Of course, I’m updated on any issues or problems the boys might be having but what’s always heartening is to hear of boys who have picked themselves up since the last time we met. I do believe that a combination of care and time works wonders in helping the boys through difficult patches.

The latest edition of “The Blazer”, that idiosyncratic and popular Lower School publication, arrives. I’m entirely defeated not just by the highbrow cryptogram for high brows but also, somewhat regrettably, by the cryptogram for low brows. Dominic Whinfrey and Matthew Green have done a good job on the puzzle page. I flip through the pages searching for the answers but to no avail. Perhaps the boys might pay me a visit to enlighten me – chocolates available of course. I turn to the back page where Fraser Scott and Luc Jersing have funny sports pictures. This is more within my comprehension and the pictures certainly raise a smile.

Later I welcome our visitors from the Peleteiro School, who are here on the Spanish exchange, to Lacies Court. It’s good to meet Donagh Craven, Benjamin López, Marcos Iglesias, Maria Picallo along with colleagues at SHSK and Victoria Pradas, Head of Languages, on their way out to dinner in Oxford. The staff know one another very well having shared the exchange for some years now.

Saturday 22 March 2014

What a buzzing gathering – the hockey dinner. A distinctive feature is the number of younger boys attending and they’ve made a real effort to comply with the dress code and look very distinguished for their age. This season 18 teams have played 150 matches scoring over 350 goals, with the 1st XI having a particularly spectacular season. It is announced that hockey players are to have their own tie. Designed by Matthew Wyatt I’m sure that the hockey players will wear it with pride. Many thanks to Steve Brenchley (master in charge of hockey), all the coaches and the parents who are here supporting their sons and arranging the evening.

Friday 21 March 2014

The new School Council meet for the first time since their election to office. We hear from four candidates standing for Chairman and Vice Chairman. In due course Will Johnson (L6) is elected Chairman and George Wilder (L6) Vice Chairman. James Beazley (L6) becomes secretary. David Dawswell (Second Master) gives much feedback on the items which came before the last meeting, while the votes are counted. Great to see a couple of our younger boys, new to Council, already bringing agenda items and speaking with great conviction having done some research too. This will be a proactive group I think.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

The Chairman and I walk up to Big School and greeting us is Finlay Garland, who is piping in all the guests for the annual Foundation Dinner. It’s good to see so many well wishers, supporters and benefactors who are here to toast the School’s achievements over the past year. Our theme is “Developing the Whole Man” and after Crispin (HM APS) and I have delivered “State of the Foundation” addresses, talking about how we do it, guest speaker Barnaby Lenon (former HM Harrow School) picks up the theme. Our caterers have excelled themselves, four delicious courses including elderflower and cucumber granita, novel. Heads of School Thomas Kelly and Leo Wood give the vote of thanks and loyal toasts and there is general agreement all round that it’s been a wonderful evening.

Monday 17 March 2014

On your marks – get set – GO! Such a sense of power as I press the trigger on the starter gun to set the annual road relay race off on a long journey around Albert Park. There is a combination of sheer grit, determination and ambition in evidence as the huge body of boys surge up Park Crescent on the first lap. Boys from every single tutor group are taking part, and most of the School it seems, although there is a strong group of supporters on the school wall giving encouragement as the boys stream along Park Road and up the drive. Quite how the boys find the next person in their team is beyond me, such is the milieu at the handover point. It’s quite a long haul for each runner, two laps around the park and through the school, and they come in in varying shades of puce. Much acclaim to so many staff who join the fray and do very well indeed with the Biology department team (Richard Taylor, Steve Brenchley, Simon Bliss and Ben Whitworth) taking the honours for the staff – and there is always friendly rivalry between the Physics and Biology departments. Fastest by year:

1st Year: Alexander Pennington
2nd Year: David Bunn
3rd Year: Nick Webster
4th year: Ivo Brown
5th Year: Michael Fabes
L6: Christian Von Eitzen
U6: Tom Fabes
Staff: Richard Taylor
Overall fastest: Christian Von Eitzen

Saturday 15 March 2014

The Saturday routine of taster mornings is now well-established and 48 boys, from 15 different schools, are here having a taste of Abingdon. Their parents attend the Q and A and hopefully discover more about us and how Abingdon works. By evening, it’s the turn of the FASBC to hold their annual dinner. Tom Aggar, holder of several gold medals, amongst many other achievements, gives a remarkable address full of inspiration and reflects on his great determination to overcome adversity. We listen, absorbed, and there are good questions to follow.

Luke Derrick, Head of Boats, also speaks very well indeed, always daunting, these are big occasions and I’m always so impressed by the boys who speak at these events. Special thanks to Amanda Wood and the FASBC committee for organising such an enjoyable evening.

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