The Head's Blog

Monday 8 September 2014

A recurring theme at School Council meetings has been my exhortation that, indeed, the boys really will be getting a café. This had been going on for quite some time, a little like “waiting for Godot”, perhaps a couple of years but – at last – today the café is opening! It’s all been a bit of a pet project for me. I’d been longing to do something with the rather tatty building which graces the side of the Jekyll Garden and also provide a social venue for the boys, serving delicious snacks. I’m not disappointed. The interior has been transformed and has the look of an American diner with its funky mandarin and mauve sleeper style seats and geometric white chairs. The boys look very comfortable and relaxed, and can venture out to tables in the garden. But the real pièce de résistance has to be the selection of mouth-watering cakes, destined to be a sell out: chocolate, toffee, Victoria sponge on offer today. Later I learn that takings on opening day are short by £2.00. This seems odd, how has this happened? I’m then reminded that the Head has an outstanding IOU of exactly £2 for a frothy cappuccino… (now duly paid!)

I pop into the ASPA committee meeting. Kerensa Butler is chairing a committee where most of the parent reps are there for the first time. It’s quite a heavy agenda for ASPA has plans for 6 forthcoming events including the ever-popular Italian dinner (10 October), as well as other items to discuss. ASPA plays a significant role in the life of Abingdon. These parents work tirelessly to create a happy ambience at the many events they arrange for parents.

Saturday 6 September 2014

First Saturday of the rugby season and we’re up against St Edward’s. Our opponents, playing on their home ground in North Oxford, look formidable. A painfully close match for the 1st XV sees Abingdon win by just one point. All a bit close for comfort but a well-fought match.

Friday 5 September 2014

The new scholars are presented with their special ties at a ceremony in the Amey Theatre. Parents watch as each scholar steps onto the stage. Dr Chris Burnand, Master of the Scholars, reads a short citation on the history of the scholarships, many of which hail from days gone by. Next up is Boarders’ Chapel before the boys go on to a formal dinner which will be the first of many they will enjoy at Abingdon.

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Officially, today is the start of term and all the boys are back on deck. We wonder how the buses will manage getting through the roadworks that are a feature of life at present, but all seems well. First up, assembly, lots of news and the new teachers are introduced to the School. A quick break at ten, and the boys set off through the town for the service at St Helen’s Church. The theme is “the beginning is always today” (Mary Wollstonecraft) which is always worth remembering particularly if the day before hasn’t gone quite so well. Time is later spent by the boys at the activities fair where they peruse a huge range of “Other Half” activities and begin to make choices about what they want to do.

Monday 1 September 2014

Picture the first year boys for their first day ever at Abingdon. Boys - in particularly crisp, white shirts, and blazers with plenty of room to grow - are dotted around the chapel at the special service for boys and their parents. We learn about the many ways we say “welcome” in different languages and have a crack at identifying them – tervetuloa, fáilte roimh, dialu-alukan and maligayang pagdating all prove challenging. I wonder about the Maori kia ora which broadly means a greeting of welcome - perhaps that might be added to the list of languages next year. Their day has been busy with ice-breaker activities, tours, a library session and sport. Gathered now for tea, today ends on a high. The 64 new boys come from 45 different schools so the next few weeks as they begin to make new friends will be important as they settle into their new School.

Saturday 30 August 2014

A momentous day indeed for our 30 new boarders who arrive a day before everyone else. What an occasion for them and their parents. Our new boarders come from the UK, Hong Kong, USA, Nigeria, Russia, China, Singapore, Thailand and Spain. We meet for lunch and I speak to the gathering recalling my own early days as a boarder. Life in boarding schools has changed beyond all recognition since then, and not before time too. Today’s boys will find a very different scene, with boarding providing a real sense of community and hopefully a home away from home.

Ed Swanwick, Head of Boarding, speaks and gives parents much reassurance. The time then comes for final farewells and the boys begin their new adventure.

Friday 29 August 2014

All the staff are in today and there is a very nice atmosphere as colleagues greet one another, exchanging holiday experiences, news and views. We begin with prayers in the chapel and then the full staff meeting which is attended by everyone, all admin support and teaching staff. So much has gone on over the summer, so it’s good news with congratulations on the exam results, and news of the many building projects etc. Nick Barnard takes me over the whole estate, pointing out all that has been done – my pet project, the café, is almost there and the furniture has arrived. The Science Centre creeps up and those house rooms and boarders’ rooms which have had a make-over look great. Nick’s real pride and joy is the skylight in an obscure corner of a boarding room in Davies’ House. Even though large and impressive projects catch our eye, it’s the very small things which really matter.

I keep an eye on the weather and decide to go ahead with the annual BBQ for staff and families at Lacies Court. It rains, of course, but everyone migrates to the marquee. It’s a tight squeeze but it doesn’t dampen an otherwise happy event. I’m amazed at how much all the children have grown since they last visited the garden and, of course, there are several new babies in attendance for the very first time.

Thursday 28 August 2014

Welcome back to life at Abingdon at the beginning of a brand new academic year. I hope that you’ve had a great summer. Life at School ticks along very busily over the long summer break, but it’s good to have a bit of a structure around school routines once more. The boys may not yet be here, but today is very special for I welcome 14 new teachers to Abingdon at their induction morning. What is it they say about policemen and teachers getting younger and younger? Later we all gather for lunch at Lacies Court, and the chance for the class of 2014/15 to get to know one another better. I’m much looking forward to visiting our new teachers in class once they’ve settled in a bit.

Friday 4 July 2014

I walk Dudley up to the coach park to greet the boys arriving for the last day of the academic year 2013/14, and everyone seems to be smiling. No wonder, it’s a beautiful day and the prospect of the summer break beckons. We romp through assembly and I introduce the new Heads of School George Hale and Tommy Nicholson. We also farewell those teachers who are leaving us. All that remains now is the staff BBQ which will go on long into the afternoon.

I wish all readers a very happy and enjoyable summer and the luxury of time to spend with family and friends.

Thursday 3 July 2014

The first issue of Timeline, Abingdon’s history publication, arrives on my desk. The feature article “The First World War” asks the question, how necessary was “the war to end all wars?” Sixth formers Fred Clamp-Grey and Will Nash examine the finer details of the debate, looking at the question in depth. The articles explore everything from our own 63 Objects project to the Charge of the Light Brigade to the First Opium War. The magazine is of particularly high quality, not only in the depth of the research and writing but also in presentation. It wouldn’t look out of place in the more serious section of magazine racks in WH Smith. Head Editor, Adam Pearson, and senior editors Liam Frahm, Max Finch and Jake Buffery draw together the work of 16 staff writers from all levels of the School. Asten Yeo as creative/design director has done a great job with the presentation.

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