The Head's Blog

Friday 8 July 2016

Today is the last day of term, the final day of the academic year and, for me, there is an added significance as my time at Abingdon is drawing to a close. I have the T-shirt in the form of the recent edition of 'Words and That' (good thing that I can take it! ) to prove it!

When, in September 2010, Jane Warne, our Communications Manager, suggested that I write some sort of a diary, I was extremely sceptical. I wondered how on earth I'd achieve this, as it would need to be done regularly and I wondered who would want to read it. Having now kept it up for six years, I have surprised myself. In fact, for me, it has been hugely therapeutic. I've stuck to a few ground rules: 1) it must always be positive 2) be regular and 3) about the daily life of the School. I didn't want to use it as a means to promote my own views on national policy etc or sound off about anything negative.

To focus on the positive and think a bit about what the boys and their teachers are doing, has been the most marvellous distraction, even on the bad days. Yes, there have been a few, of course, but I've never allowed myself to write about them and keeping this blog has lifted my mind from anything negative.

To my great delight, I have been given a bound copy of every entry and perhaps some time in the future, someone in my family might look back over them and wonder at education in a boys' public school in the early 21st century!

So - thank you for reading these musings about this vibrant community. I know that some of you have looked at the blog over the whole period.

I hope that everything goes well for all Abingdonians, both now and in the future. I thank you all for the privilege of leading this wonderful school for six years.

"Whaia e koe te iti kahurangi; ki te tuohu koe me he maunga teitei" (NZ Maori) - Seek the treasure you value most; if you bow let it be to a lofty mountain.

Over and out.

Felicity Lusk, Head 2010-2016

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Lots of boys have been visiting overnight having a boarding taster. It all winds up with lunch for their parents with boarding staff. The boys arrive with back-packs and wheelie bags and are reunited with their parents, having had a good time.

Large picnic rugs are laid out on the lawn at Lacies Court as the Literary Society enjoys the last meeting of the year. Lovely readings, and recitation of a Shakespearean sonnet from memory by Ethan Sarphie. On to amazing antics on the stage at the annual "Be the Best you Can Be" for Lower School boys. Mike Mullen, former BMX world champion, flies over a ramp – and Mr Jenkins, and Mr Hindley on his bike….

Monday 4 July 2016

I stand quietly at 8.35am to listen to the school bell toll 63 times – as it always does on Monday mornings.

63 rings pass… 70… 89… 98…115… I count 122! Not sure of the significance of this new number.

My colleagues on SLT take me punting. A really lovely evening. Our punters are very adept, which is a good thing as we glide along the Cherwell.

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Our two crews get through which is a great start to Henley. The FASBC provide a delicious lunch as usual before we set out to line the river to watch the boys.

Very special evening, a lovely reception at the Divinity School just before our concert at the Sheldonian. Fabulous performances from James Anderson-Besant (Harpsichord), Leon Wu (Piano) and Robert MacLennan who does quite extraordinary things on the xylophone. The Joint Chamber Choir give me two NZ Maori farewell songs "Now is the Hour" (soloist Tom Keogh) and "Pokarekare Ana". Now that's a moment for me which requires considerable self-control.

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Quite a taxing session for the 4 prefects who've been put forward for a leadership race of our own – the two Heads of School 2016/17. A very strong group of prefects have been elected and these four are outstanding. This is going to be tough. I really enjoy hearing about their take on leadership styles and reforms they might initiate, and how they'd follow through. A day later it's announced that George Jeffreys and Jonah Walker are appointed.

Sadly, the Third Year induction tea is held indoors: inclement weather (again) but the spirit of the boys is undiminished.

The questions at the Community Service tea party quiz are all about summer, holidays, beaches:

"Where did Billy Butlin open his first holiday camp, in 1936?" Some of our guests may well have spent holidays there.

"Which British seaside attraction is 158 metres tall?"

Plenty of entertainment from our musicians and the raffle proves popular.

Answers: 1: Skegness; 2: Blackpool Tower

Saturday 25 June 2016

Leavers' Day dawns, the sun shines, but apparently not for long. Early in the day, Second Master and I ponder the thorny question: will we risk having the reception in the Lacies Court garden? Reluctantly, we decide no, although there is no sign of what is to come on the horizon. Very moving Leavers' Service at St Michael's and, as always, a fine sermon from the Chaplain and just a few well-timed jokes at our expense! Lovely singing from Tom Keogh and Gregory Munday, with Anthony Bracey tinkling the ivories in their performance of Dolly Parton's "You Can't Make Old Friends", and a glorious Nunc Dimittis from the chapel choir. We set out for Prize Giving, "Jerusalem" ringing in our ears.

The Rt Hon the Lord Maude of Horsham is guest of honour. Francis is an OA (1971) and former Chairman of Governors. Prize winners receive their well-deserved awards and Second Master romps through the citations. I always think that this is a very nice feature of our Prize Giving: individual boys stand to hear particular praise of their accomplishments. Cramped gathering in the dining hall for the reception, and indeed it is tipping down outside, but it's a happy occasion as parents take photographs of their sons and teachers.

The Leavers' Ball is quite magical this year and along with the gaming tables, chocolate fountain, and magicians, there is a firework display. Fortunately, I knew of this in advance so Dudley is away for the night. We might enjoy the swishing and bangs lighting up the sky – but the canine resident at Lacies Court certainly doesn't. Special thanks to Clare Butcher and her team for their hard work over many weeks to mark the Ball, such a happy event.

Thursday 23 June 2016

How to cook? Yes, the boys need to know how to put together a well-cooked nutritious meal. In my mind it has always been how to extend this opportunity beyond the ad hoc clubs that occasionally pop up. So, it's good to see our younger members of School Council raising this matter and there is general agreement that this is important. I throw in understanding personal finances too. In both these areas, we could do much more to help the boys.

On to the annual Art Exhibition, and I'm immediately struck by how colourful this year's show is! Some years are quite dark, but there is a vibrancy here. Much taken with Gianluca Cau Tait's Parisian Scene, a work in two halves, the modern and historical. Beautifully executed as are his pencil drawings of animals. Exquisite, too, is Peter Wang's paper city – made of laser cut strips of white paper. The result is ethereal.

Masses of Lower School boys take part in their concert. There's a real sense of enjoyment from the choir, some boys look as though they want to dance. Lots of solos and "now for something completely different" in the form of 5 bassoonists playing an improbable "Can-Can for Scarecrows". In Lower School Band, the drummer Alfred Morley wears his sunglasses, but then, they are playing "A Day in Majorca" which has definite jaunty summer overtones. Really enjoy Oskar Muller's original music technology composition "Rise and Fall".

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.

Earlier posts