The Head's Blog

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Nick Digby, Chairman of FASBC, pops in for coffee, bringing "The Story of Abingdon School Boat Club", which he has written and published. This comprehensive history brings the record of our fabulous boat club up to date. Lovely photographs from days gone by, including Hugh Mountjoy Digby (OA 1882) – great great grandfather of Tom, current Head of School and rower supreme, having recently broken the World Record for indoor rowing at 5000m. Just shows how talents, interests and characteristics filter across generations.

My final Governors' board meeting at Abingdon, and then a splendid dinner. Lovely to meet Governors from my earlier days. I'm finding the farewells rather poignant.

Tuesday 21 June 2016

The Amey Theatre is packed for the Roysse Society Debate on "Brexit" with Peter Hitchens and Wolfgang Munchau. Chaired by Jonah Walker and Archie Williams, our speakers certainly give food for thought. A straw poll at the beginning shows Remain ahead maybe 2:1 with little change at the end.

Monday 20 June 2016

I don my pink hard hat and wellies for a tour of Greening Court with Director of Estates Martin McKenna. I'm amazed at the transformation unfolding before my eyes. Classics, Geography and History will be well served come September, and those two new houserooms will be a big step up. Lovely plans for massive images to go on walls of communal areas. Spectacular. I'm sure that the boys will love it all.

Up to present medals and certificates to boys at the Prep School Swimming Gala. Lots of healthy competition, and this year Abingdon Prep win for the first time.

More awards at Boarders' Prize Giving. This year 15 boarders have won prizes which will be presented at Prize Giving on Saturday. It is always lovely hearing the citations for the boys.

Thursday 16 June 2016

How to keep a straight face at 3rd Year Assembly as I read out citations about the boys' sporting prowess in cricket. It seems that my colleagues have really taken on the challenge to make these reports more… well… interesting? Memorable? For example:

"Jake Blackwell with a swash-buckling 39 against Cheltenham (despite batting with what can best be described as a broken plank of wood!)…"

"Nikhil 'Ralph Lauren' Vyas top scorer this term with a fine 52 against St Edward's…"

"The 14Cs do not believe that winning is the only thing. This is very fortunate as we have yet to taste victory. The good news is that we are now losing less calamitously than we did at the start of the season, and at the current rate of progress we are almost certain to win a game at some point in the 2019 season. Inconsequential matters like results apart, the team has played with great spirit and enthusiasm and have been a pleasure to coach!"

More play on words at my farewell party with staff held at Lacies Court. The rendition of "Goodnight Sweetheart" beautifully executed by seven colleagues, with just enough artistic licence with the lyrics to significantly alter the meaning – very funny! I had a really lovely evening – thank you to all my colleagues.

Earlier, 16 boys are up for Head's Praise for a whole range of remarkable achievements…

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Thought-provoking chapel for Lower School led by Sarah Beynon with a rather jaunty Powerpoint clip on the relentless nature of the treadmill. Final quote sums it all up: "We make a living by what we get – we make a life by what we give." Churchill.

Very pleased to meet Hayley Meredith and Gary Grieve who are here for the Duke of Edinburgh scheme inspection, and to know that we've got through with flying colours. Lots of praise for how our scheme is organised and the huge number of boys taking part.

Saturday 11 June 2016

My last ever termly meeting of the Old Abingdonian Committee at Lacies Court. I do feel huge affection for these OAs. Today we welcome back several to join us for lunch who'd been on the committee during my earlier years. On the wall of the porch is a plaque reminding us that Lacies Court was a gift to the School from Herbert Young (OA 1894) and, in part, members of the OA Club 1950. What a gift. The OAs who return to their alma mater are similar to governors, in that they give of their time and expertise voluntarily. Indeed, several on the committee are also, or have been, governors. I'm delighted with the present of two watercolours of Lacies Court, painted from unexpected angles. The artist has also popped in a painting of Dudley hurtling across the lawn… I'm enchanted!

Thursday 9 June 2016

Feel a touch apprehensive as the day begins. Today we are hosting the termly meeting of Heads from HMC South Region. I love visiting other HMC schools and seeing their Heads in situ. It's a different deal when they are visiting us!

Our meetings always begin with lunch and that's where the real conversations take place – an exchange of views on national policy, who might get which job, interesting pieces of news dotted amongst general conviviality. For only Heads, because we all share the same highs and lows in our daily work, really understand what it's like to walk in the shoes of a fellow Head.

We sit down to lunch at Lacies Court, and there is a little toing and froing as some arrive knowing that they were coming, but we didn't… but this is a detail and everyone has a place around the table. On to the meeting proper over in the Sports Centre and working through a set agenda and then more controversial items from the Heads. On the way out someone accidentally backs into a sapling but whether that's one of our visitors will never be known!

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Assembly is a rather smaller event this morning with so many boys out for exams. For the first time ever, I get to the bottom of the stairs of the Amey Theatre before the boys realise assembly has begun. This has been my aim for the past six years and at the penultimate assembly of term I achieve my goal. Jonah Walker (Chairman of School Council) is the student leading on lots of the announcements as we are in between prefects – the process is already underway to elect the next group. Jonah finds himself reading out his own name for an award and has to leave the lectern to receive his certificate. As has become customary I read the final notice from Mr Dawswell and we all know what to expect: "Please remember to register", and I realise that this has become a tradition.

Tuesday 7 June 2016

A Year 4 parent reminds me that this is my last parents' evening – ever. Actually I'd forgotten that, and he encourages me to take the opportunity to say something really outrageous. I shall have to disappoint on this occasion. Parents' Evenings have been part of the routine of school life for 40 years, as a teacher, as Head and as a parent. These were the most anxious ones, so I do know how it feels to be on the other side of the table! Yet what is so amazing is that over 40 years, how these events are conducted hasn't really changed at all. Parents are allocated a 5 minute slot, their sons are in attendance, and the art of the snapshot of a boys' progress (or otherwise) in a multitude of subjects is played out again and again, in discussion with teachers over a 5 hour marathon. Considering how much education has changed over 4 decades, what's gone, come back and gone again with successive governments, the parents' evening remains virtually untouched. There's something rather wonderful about that and maybe it's because it serves its purpose remarkably well, so no-one's really bothered to change it in any radical way.

Monday 6 June 2016

"Head's Shout" is the term I inherited from my predecessors for my weekly meeting at Monday break with Common Room. Not that I'd ever shout at my colleagues! As is also a tradition, hailing from the days of Michael St John Parker (Headmaster, 1975- 2001) I bang a pewter mug on the mantelpiece to gain the attention of my colleagues. Usually, it's an authoritative, resonant clunk which elicits an immediate hush but today – what's this? – it's a very dead, flabby, muffled clunk, and everyone laughs. I sense I'm losing control of the gathering. I look inside the pewter mug and find it's full to the brim with… M and Ms, as is the next mug in the line of these historic vessels, and the next! Nice touch, but the donor remains anonymous and afterwards I surreptitiously help myself to a multi-coloured handful of very sweet nuggets. I shall look next Monday to see if there are any left!

Earlier posts