The Head's Blog

Friday 3 July 2015

Last day of term, last day of the academic year. Mr Nick Pritchard gets a great send off at assembly. He's retiring after 46 years teaching Maths at Abingdon! I wish him every happiness in retirement.

The bell goes, the boys disappear and we get on with the business of our own staff BBQ with the long summer break just in sight.

Wishing you an enjoyable and happy summer.

Thursday 2 July 2015

It's what I call a nuts and bolts day for me. Masses of little jobs, piles of signing, thinking ahead to September, preparing for the last day of term. With the summer break so close, there might be a sense of shutting down but it's business as usual, classes in full swing and a sense of relief after the soaring high temperature of yesterday.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

The FASBC put on a super lunch at Henley Regatta under our marquee pitched in its usual spot on the cricket ground. This year, I'm very lucky to get a car park space right alongside which makes things easier, for I set out late in the day, after the announcement of my successor, Mike Windsor, at 11am. I know that he'll love coming to Abingdon in September 2016 and I wish him well in what is a truly fantastic headship at a great school.

Tuesday 30 June 2015

The speaker Talan Skeels-Piggins is inspirational; he has the ear of every lower school boy. The descriptions of the training, the crashes, the exhilaration, the long, hard route to winning the motorcycling 600cc Paralysed Rider World Champion title, captures their imagination. The messages are clear. You can't become good at something without time, training and drive. And when the knocks come along, as they always do, then you have to get up and get on with it. "Be the Best You Can Be" continues to be a fantastic programme for our Lower School boys. Talan's mantra is "We are all amazing, we can all achieve, we have the ability to be anything we can be". He's living proof!

Monday 29 June 2015

The housemasters are each visiting to brief me on how their boys are doing at the end of this academic year. Most boys are settled and have had a good few weeks since their exams. For some, there are issues bubbling, most relatively minor. It's all part of growing up. The long break is in sight and I'm always struck by how the passage of time resolves most things; not least, boys mature. The housemasters do a great job, know their boys well and work in tandem with tutors and subject teachers to guide and support the boys.

Saturday 27 June 2015

Is there a dry eye in the house, or rather the church as leavers Hugh Cutting, Jamie Blackwell and Mitch Keely sing "For Good" by Stephen Schwartz? Probably not. We are rescued by the singing of the hymns, listening to the Chapel Choir, readings and sermon, but there's no denying that this is an occasion well up on the scale for emotional content.

On to Prize Giving, the timbres of the brass fanfare and the special moment for each prize winner as they step across the stage. Adrian Mutton OA is an inspirational guest speaker and at the reception afterwards a leaver confides that he thinks he may change direction next year and do what he really wants…

A glorious evening for the Griffen Ball, masterminded by Clare Butcher, and it's a resounding success. This year a bucking brunco has been added to the entertainment… not for me. I can see that after 50 seconds or so, the fate of the rider is very certain. There's only one possible eventuality and that's to be unceremoniously tipped off!

Friday 26 June 2015

I really do see young men who are of outstanding character and talent when I interview those short-listed for Head of School. By this stage of the prefect selection process, any one of these outstanding young men could be appointed. We look set to have a great team of prefects again next year too. Heads of School 2015/16 are Tom Digby and Solomon English.

A quick sprint up to the Athletics at Tilsley Park and back later for a truly stunning Gala Concert. Mitch Keely conducts First Orchestra for his Fantasia "The Snow Queen". The boys really respond and want to do their best for the premiere of this remarkable work. Joseph Barber, Hugh Cutting and Alexander Foster all have star spots. We know that we are losing many fine musicians amongst our 18 musical leavers, but their influence will be felt for years to come.

Thursday 25 June 2015

The dog hoovers up the crumbs from the tea for parents and boys joining us in the First Year in September. It's with real optimism and expectation that we all set out on what will be a seven year journey. During this time, the boys will change seemingly beyond recognition but always retaining the kernel of who they are today.

The "Abingdon Anthology" is a serious publication. Jason Hewitt, our Writer-in–Residence, is here for the launch. We are treated to readings and the evening is magical. Prepare yourself for being gripped as you read the 37 stories written by boys and their teachers, if you are lucky enough to get your hands on a copy. Jason Hewitt himself has written his own story for the anthology "Of Endings and Beginnings". Great summer reading and highly recommended as a present for Christmas.

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!

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