The Head's Blog

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Polyglot issue 2, the publication from the Modern Languages Department, lands on my desk. "The limits of my language are the limits of my world" is stated in the editorial. I have a quick look before Year 3 assembly and discover that fortune cookies are not a traditional Chinese custom. They were invented in early 1900 in San Francisco.

At the assembly, 35 boys in Year 3 get a special mention for achievements including "coordinating the shopping and logistics when 12 members of the class "Lived below the line". It must have been a tremendous challenge living on £1 per person for 24 hours.

On to the governors' education committee early evening. We hear two excellent presentations on our partnerships: Robin Southwell-Sander on the growing relationship with Fitzharrys School, and Richard Fisher on our rapidly expanding science partnerships. It won't be long before our new outreach laboratory will be in action and we'll be welcoming many pupils from the community for joint science activities.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

I set out along Marcham Road for the Unicorn School to have coffee with Andrew Day who recently took up the post of Head there. I've often wondered what lies behind the gracious frontage of this building. The Unicorn is a specialist school which helps young pupils who are dyslexic. Much of the teaching is 1:1 and groups are very small to give maximum benefit. I spend a happy hour or so there before a brisk walk back to Abingdon in time for a special event. There are tours of the Science Centre, to give donors to the appeal the opportunity to see the building as it nears completion. It is thrilling to gain a clear impression of the layout of the labs, breakout spaces and the enormity of the space which will house the sculpture. Already one lab has furniture, so the project is really motoring along. Lots of good questions about energy efficiency, whether the surfaces are boy proof and how technology will be used. I note that 3 current boys have managed to slip in with their parents, so are in on the inside story long before their peers!

Saturday 16 May 2015

A beautiful afternoon over at Teddies (St Edward's) to watch the cricket. How much I've always admired that cricket pavilion which stands sentinel overlooking the 1st XI at play. It's not looking great for us when I pass by en route to see where our other teams are, but I later receive very full and excited accounts of the finale from both James Golding (Director of Cricket) and Chris Burnand, who is assistant coach for the 1st XI. Apparently, as tense a finish as might be imagined, with all results possible right up until the last ball bowled. All members of the 1st XI are worthy of a mention here: Soumya Bhadra, Callum Russell, Alex Davies, James Fitzjohn (captain), Aadam Samiullah, Duncan Grant, Adam Spears, Conor Graney, Max Mortimer, Max Mannering, Matthew Butcher.

An exciting finish to a busy day, which began with a taster morning for 42 boys exploring life at Abingdon.

Friday 15 May 2015

"A Midsummer Night's Dream … sort of …", the title itself sums up the liberties the Lower School have taken with Shakespeare's text and characters. For here is a production with a difference, reminding us how Shakespeare's texts continue to appeal to each generation in engaging and memorable ways. From the bursting onto the stage at the beginning to the final scene, this performance oozes energy and dynamism. No doubt we'll see more of our youngest thespians as they hone their skills on the Amey Theatre stage. Particularly strong performances from Daniel McNamara as Oberon, Archie Baker (Puck), Joshua Roche (Lysander), Liam Deegan (Demetrius), Jake Ginks (Hermia), Matthew Buhler (Helena) and Charlie Masters as that old theatrical rogue, Bottom, but overall a stunning cast. Directed by Jeremy Taylor, Director of Drama, and Max Hutchinson (OA) our professional actor-in-residence took his first tentative steps on our stage way back in 2000. Who knows where tonight's cast will end up, perhaps amongst the profusion of OAs receiving awards at the recent Olivier and BAFTA ceremonies.

As I emerge into the night, rain tipping down, I come across a lonely prep diary, lying face down in a puddle and looking very much the worse for wear. Gingerly, I lift it from the puddle and carry it dripping to Lacies Court, where I spread it across a radiator in the forlorn hope of a successful rescue mission. Hopeless of course, too far gone, so I arrange to contact its owner who must surely be distraught at the loss? Said owner is on the ball, he'd noticed its absence a few days ago and has already replaced the errant diary with a shiny cerise new model. Bad luck, though, having to write out all the timetables and information so close to the end of the year.

Thursday 14 May 2015

So many boys here for Head's Praise that we have two sittings. The chocolate tin starts out very full but soon empties to a handful of a few orange and pink chocolates. These are always the least favoured of the offering. I wonder why chocolate manufacturers don't just put in more caramel, hazelnut, dairy milk and peppermint crème chocolates? We could certainly provide a case study to establish which flavours are the most popular.

Very pleased to be able to visit the Trinity Thursday Group, a group of women who are retired who meet at the Trinity Methodist Church. I've been invited to speak to them at their monthly meeting about my life in education. The group was established 42 years ago and today there are at least two members who hail from that period, although one owns up to a break of two years. Turns out, a good proportion of those attending are retired teachers, so the questions and discussion after hearing what I have to say are particularly interesting, insightful and thought provoking. Over the tea and biscuits, what emerges is the diversity of our experience, from teaching in Kenya to 1:1 tuition, primary and secondary. Without exception though everyone says how great it is to be retired!

Wednesday 13 May 2015

If seniors are embroiled in exams, life continues with comparative ease for the younger boys and, for many, Wednesday afternoon is spent outside in the sun. I open the front door of Lacies Court and out darts Dudley before I can catch him. He's off to try his luck at the croquet on the lawn where the boys are honing their skill at this rather treacherous game. Fortunately he bypasses the temptation to realign all the balls sitting in strategic positions in front of the loops. Apparently we now have the possibility of a fixture with another school. The status of the Croquet Club now warrants a tie which I understand is on the design board.

Tuesday 12 May 2015

I set out for the Frilford Golf Course just before lunch, and this year I don't take a wrong turning. Last year I'd trundled many miles in the wrong direction before I'd realised my folly and was then noticeably late for lunch… Today I'm on time and the OAs, who've gathered for a pre-prandial drink before lunch, are enjoying a well earned rest from a vigorous and probably quite competitive morning of golf. Many wear cerise, which must mark them out from other golfers, and the conversation is spirited over lunch. Before they set out for afternoon play, we have the photograph and for a very brief moment our OAs are silent, as we all concentrate on our deportment and smiling at the iPhone recording the image forever.

Monday 11 May 2015

There is a real sense of exams being the chief preoccupation for many today. Examinations Officer Rebecca Cottam is running up many miles in the buggy, ferrying piles of exam papers around the School. It crosses my mind that said buggy could be vulnerable to hi-jacking… There are signs up all over the place exhorting those fortunate enough not to be sitting exams to be silent and considerate, and there is a general air of heads down permeating the School.

Friday 8 May 2015

We have an election result. With a turnout of exactly 700 voters, Abingdon returns a Conservative MP, Jonathan Goves, with 268 votes. Other results: Green 118, Labour 92, Liberal Democrat 104, UKIP 108, none 10.

Over to the Prep School for the afternoon. It's always a delight seeing our younger boys. There's a spontaneity in the way they go about their daily business but also a calm dignity. On one classroom door there are sayings and advice about good manners, the art work about the place is vibrant, carefully executed and simply uplifting. Outside the boys jostle for position to get onto the field to play football. The youngest in reception sit in a circle listening with quiet respect to one another, although there is a sense of those silenced getting ready to have their say. They are confident, articulate and full of energy.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

A regular sort of day but the highlight is welcoming a group of colleagues and their partners to dinner at Lacies Court. The chef tries out something a bit adventurous, yellow beetroot…

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