The Head's Blog

Wednesday 24 June 2015

A strange creature has appeared on the wall outside the Amey Theatre. It could just be a griffen. I ask Common Room: do they know where it came from? No. A complete mystery, blank faces all round. I ask the boys: can they shed light on the origins of our visitor? "No Miss, but he's cute," is one response. I ask the grounds staff – a slight frisson of recognition passes across Dawn's face but she's not giving anything away. Will more appear? Will there be an invasion? He sits calmly surveying Upper Field, observing the marquee rising from close cut lawns. It's his empire, he seems very comfortable. I hope he stays. I also hope that he hasn't been borrowed from someone else's garden…

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Our bell is back in action having been off for a month or so to be refurbished by White's of Appleton, the same company that installed it way back in 1880. Edgar Summers, the headmaster who commissioned the bell, had inscribed on it "Cum voco venite" (come when I call). Not sure everyone would oblige today! We enjoy the tolling of 63 chimes, a number of particular significance to all Abingdonians and very much part of our history. I like to hear the bell tolling at major events, commemorations and at the beginning of the School day, knowing that it's been part of life here for 135 years, and will continue to be so across generations in the future.

I pick up "A Rough Guide to the Middle School" left in the garden at Lacies Court following our tea for parents and boys entering the 3rd Year in September. It's full of useful advice and tips for survival in the Middle School. I hope that the owner of this copy eventually gets his hands on a replacement!

On to my second tea party of the afternoon, part of the community service the boys offer the senior citizens of Abingdon. Lots of sports questions in the quiz which will require a wide general knowledge: horse racing, athletics, cycling, football all feature. I'm sure that the boys could answer the questions with ease, but I get them only because the multi-choice answers trigger the correct responses!

Monday 22 June 2015

Lots of prep school boys buzzing around. They're here from our own Prep School, Moulsford, Chandlings and Oratory Prep for a swimming gala. Very tough competition this year with just a couple of points between the overall winners, Oratory, and Moulsford. The four teams come up for recognition and I distribute bronze, silver and gold medals just like the Olympics. I'm sure that the medals are destined for pride of place on bedroom walls.

Monday 15 June 2015

I've invited School Council over to Lacies Court for our meeting. We just fit around the table in the dining room as seniors are away sitting the last of their exams. The proposed radio station has morphed into developing podcasts about life at Abingdon. Good idea. The Cycling Club is still under discussion; it would be good to make some progress on this but there's so much to be considered (safety, equipment etc). Lots of talk about the programme "Abingdon developing leaders". Wouldn't it be good to see more boy-led activities as a result, teachers don't need to lead on everything. A huge tray of cookies is consumed with a few left over which I pop into plastic bags for Ilya and Felipe to take to their friends in the boarding houses.

Talking of boarders, next up is the boarders' prize giving in the chapel. It's lovely having this special opportunity to recognise the boarders who've won prizes this year. Warmest congratulations to Weihang Huang, Jeffrey Hang, Agamemnon Crumpton, Adrian Lei, Brett Chung, Henry Hart, Boladale Babalakin, Ryan Ling, Callum Russell, Churk Chung, Luca Rampin, Jack Dong, Anthony Chang, Justin Wilson, John Cheung and Aim Wonghirundacha. It will be good seeing them come up on the stage at Prize Giving in a couple of weeks.

Saturday 13 June 2015

The cricket is cancelled, so is the tennis… oh the great and fickle English summer, but the rowers are on the river anyway where the effects of rain aren't such an issue in the same way. These summer sports have to contend, not only with the vagaries of the weather, but also the impact of exams and the comparative short length of the summer term. It will be interesting to observe the impact of no L6 AS exams next year on our Other Half programme generally. I hope that there will be even more opportunity and time for these boys to enjoy their Other Half.

Friday 12 June 2015

I stand holding my Abingdon umbrella so that it covers the person in front, who is holding an umbrella over the person in front – who happens to be Jackie Smith, Abingdon town's honorary archivist. Jackie is telling the assembled gathering of dignitaries about Arthur Preston. It is gently drizzling but that doesn't diminish the spirits of our visitors. For today, a blue plaque is being unveiled in honour of Arthur Preston. There it is, hidden for the moment behind a curtain, up high on the wall of Whitefield, currently our Health Centre but previously the home of Arthur Edwin Preston (1852 – 1942), Mayor, antiquarian and historian of the borough. Professor Robert Evans, Chair of the Oxfordshire Blue Plaque Board, speaks after my welcome, talking about the Blue Plaque scheme. It's a huge privilege having a blue plaque gracing one of our buildings at Abingdon, and I've always wondered how the scheme works and how those honoured are chosen. All thanks this time around to Eda Forbes, Secretary of Oxfordshire Blue Plaques, and our own Sarah Wearne, School Archivist, who've made today's recognition of the remarkable life and work of Arthur Preston known. On to tea at Lacies Court and although it is drizzling outside, it's very humid – perhaps lighting the fires was a mistake!

Thursday 11 June 2015

Out on a journey with my usual potential to override satnav, but I do get to Lord Wandsworth College without mishap for our divisional HMC meeting. Not so fortunate on the way back however for I somehow head the wrong way on the M4 towards London and then have to wend my way back through rush hour traffic in Reading… but that comes after the usual very enjoyable meeting and lunch with fellow HMC heads. What strikes me is how frequently those sitting around the table change. No sooner have I caught up with who's leading a school, than I find someone else in post. Lots of retirements in recent times, that's the nature of headship, we all tend to step down at much the same age. I volunteer Abingdon as the venue for the meeting this time next year. By then I too will be about to step aside. It's great visiting other HMC schools, learning how other schools approach things and of course seeing their facilities which are always a very high standard.

Saturday 6 June 2015

What's got into Dudley? He's certainly taking liberties, jumping onto the lap of OA Chairman Gareth Morris at the termly OA Committee meeting after having sniffed around his brief case checking out the contents! He knows he's not allowed on the furniture… the dog that is. So much is going on in the OA Club and it's great hearing about all the activity. Those OA internships for current 6th formers are going down well and planning for next year's OA events is underway.

It's a real OA Saturday for we welcome back OAs who are here for decade reunions. OAs from 1945 (that's the end of WWII) along with 24 leavers from 2013 - which is particularly special as they hail from my era - but there is representation from across the decades. The evening kicks off with a service in the chapel and reflection on the memories that place holds for OAs. Great hymn singing too in typical Abingdon style. On to the drinks, photographs and the reminiscences that are always a feature of these occasions, before the OAs embark on tours of the School to see what's changed but also remains unchanged. The essence of Abingdon School remains the same across the generations I believe.

Thursday 4 June 2015

I slip out to stock up on my reading, always a very happy pleasure. On my return a draft of some of the stories which are to appear in the Abingdon Anthology grace my desk. The consequence? My new books are put to one side, and I dive into these exquisite short stories. I'm so absorbed by them that I'm up late reading into the night (when I could be working or even sleeping!) - these stories are real page turners. Abingdon School as a place proves to be the catalyst for the realms of fantasy and imagination that fill these pages. I'm charmed by the reference in one story "Mr Bernhardt's personal favourite was a cast iron statuette of a lady in a fur coat carrying a small dog", apparently the find from an archaeological dig some 2000 years in the future. More anon, we have yet to have the official launch of these gems created by the boys and colleagues supported by writer-in-residence Jason Hewitt. Do look out for the anthology and I heartily recommend adding it to your pile of summer reading.

Wednesday 3 June 2015

I almost get to the bottom of the steps in the Amey Theatre before the School realises assembly has begun.

Alongside me are Hamish Roper (L6) and Alasdair Czaplewski (3rd Year) and they carry off their part of the proceedings reading announcements with confidence. I do think, indeed I know (!) that taking assembly is actually quite daunting and there can be potential for things to deviate unexpectedly from plan, but this adds to the flavour of the occasion. It's good to let the boys know about our latest venture at Tilsley Park, as we've put in for planning permission for an all-weather 3G football/rugby pitch. This is very exciting and it's great seeing how the facility is developing and improving. With planning consent we hope that this facility will be ready after the summer. Let's hope!

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