Introduction to ‘The Other Half’

For an independent school Abingdon is not a place with a great deal of “public school” jargon. However unique to Abingdon is its use of the term “The Other Half” to denote the extra-curricular side of school life. It encapsulates the notion that what a boy does in the classroom is only half of the reason he’s at the school and only half of what is going to be important to him as he matures.

Abingdon’s “Other Half” is impressive by any standards with its range of over 120 activities. Sport no doubt is of huge importance to many boys but there is also a vast range of pursuits for them to get stuck into whilst off of the sports field. For some, it is the excitement and comradeship of the CCF and DofE, for others it’s the cerebral challenges of Chess and Boardgaming. One really distinctive feature of life at Abingdon is that a boy does not have to dedicate himself to one thing: he can have a variety of identities.

In terms of the creative arts, opportunities outside of the classroom are legion. For the budding thespian, the past five years have seen an average of 8 productions per year - and you don’t have to be doing Drama at GCSE or Theatre Studies at A Level to participate. Almost all these productions are in collaboration with our sister school St Helen’s and the range on offer caters for those just beginning to take their first acting steps right up to those keen to take centre stage. Or perhaps cinema is your thing? Formed in 2003, the Abingdon Film Unit has produced over 100 short films, a number of which have won awards and been screened at the NFT and at various festivals, in the UK and abroad. Boys benefit from tuition from industry professionals and the film presentation evening in the summer is a highlight not to be missed. 

If performance is not quite for you, the creative urges of nascent writers and journalists are well served by the writing opportunities available under the English department’s aegis. If it’s newspaper writing you’re after, then there’s The Blazer in Lower School moving onto The Martlet for Middle School and upwards. If you’re wanting something a little more edgy and magazine-like, then Words & That is where you’ll find yourself. For the real highbrow journos, there’s the official school magazine, of course, The Abingdonian, with its brief to act as a chronicle of the year.

There’s not room enough to cover the amazing range of musical and choral ensembles the boys participate in, or the stunning objects d’art crafted by boys caught by the Art or DT bug. When Abingdon changed its timetable three years ago, more time was put into the curriculum for the creative arts (Music, Drama, DT and Art) and it’s a delight to see them prosper with a vibrant, vivid life at the school. Abingdon is often associated with the strength of its sport, but it would be true to say that for many, many Abingdonians, their sport is only the ‘other half’ of their “Other Half”.

Every boy should be actively encouraged to pursue an 'Other Half' timetable that is balanced, physically and mentally absorbing, and demanding. A place should be found in every boy’s weekly 'Other Half' timetable for both sporting and non-sporting activities. No single activity should take up more than four afternoons per week and every boy should be expected to participate in at least two contrasting activities.

There are reasons why this ideal cannot always be achieved; and there may be special cases, involving physical disability, where it cannot be properly applied. These constraints do not invalidate the essential force of the ideal as described above. A full offering of alternatives to sport is important at all levels, especially in years one, two and three, where boys’ attitudes can be permanently affected by a suitable provision of well-run activities.

There may be an argument for the view that the highest competitive standards can only be achieved, in any area, by specialisation and complete commitment. However, over-specialisation should be discouraged, particularly in sport – and we wish to promote a conscious versatility of skill and interest through the 'Other Half' programme at Abingdon School.

The following practicalities are of essential importance:

  1. No boy should undertake the same main activity in all three terms of the year.
  2. No one activity, of any sort, should normally take up more than two-thirds of a boy’s extra-curricular time, except where circumstances require a heavy commitment at periods of intense work or preparation.
  3. It is highly desirable that every boy should undertake a period of service-type activity during his time at Abingdon School.
  4. All boys must take part in an activity during the course of Wednesday afternoon.

Attendance

You must attend at all designated times: a register will be taken at the start of the activity – so you must be on time. All pupils must take part, as follows:

Sport

Please see the Policy on Boys’ Sporting Commitments.

The sports options for each term are:

Michaelmas

Core: Badminton, Cross Country, Rugby, Squash, Swimming, Health Related Exercise

Optional: Climbing, Fencing, Golf, Hockey, Judo Karate, Kayaking, Real Tennis, Rowing, Tennis, Sailing

Lent

Core: Badminton, Cross Country, Football, Hockey, Rowing, Squash, Swimming

Optional: Athletics, Fencing, Golf, Judo, Karate, Real Tennis, Rugby Sevens, Sailing, Tennis,

Summer

Core: Athletics, Cricket, Rowing, Tennis, Waterpolo

Optional: Cycling, Fencing, Golf, Karate, Kayaking, Sailing, Softball, Squash, Swimming, Volleyball, Ultimate Frisbee

N.B. These sports options are provisional, subject to availability of facilities, staffing and pupil numbers

‘Off Games’

If you cannot participate because you are ‘off games’ you must excuse yourself in advance. You must present an off games note/email from parent/Health Centre to member of staff i/c activity, by lunchtime on the day of the activity. If you are not able to do that you should report to the member of staff at the start of the activity to excuse yourself in person. Sending a message via another pupil will not be acceptable. Depending on the state of injury, you might be able to attend and help out, as above.

As a team player, you should attend the practice, to pick up any coaching points, and so that the coach has a chance to talk to you about your likely availability for the next match.

Clothing/Equipment

Make sure you are wearing the correct clothing for the particular activity you are doing.

If for some reason you do not have your kit that day, you should still attend the session; you can still contribute to the activity: e.g. setting out cones, getting out balls, listening to the coaching session.

The School has a very clear policy that wearing of a custom-fitted mouth-guard is strongly recommended whilst playing rugby and hockey.

Interschool Fixtures

The School has a strong tradition of participating in interschool fixtures across the age ranges. All boys are expected to be available for all fixtures advertised in the calendar unless specific written permission has been sought from, and granted by, the Head. Requests must be made at least one week in advance of the fixture.

The Director of Sport and PE should be copied in on any such leave of absence request. See also point 4 under ‘Sanctions’.

Attendance (continued):  

In addition to two compulsory sports sessions, pupils are also required to attend as follows:

  • Wednesday afternoon activity in period 7: sports practice or fixture / any scheduled activity within Other Half programme
  • Service and Citizenship Scheme: compulsory for Third years in Tuesday period 8
  • Lower School: an activity from 2.30 - 3.55 pm (period 7) on Wednesday afternoon and during each of the following lunchbreaks: Monday/Tuesday/Thursday
  • Music groups: regular attendance is expected: a register is taken; make sure you have your instruments and music with you.

N.B. All boys are strongly encouraged to attend at least one non-sporting activity regularly each week.

Some school activities will take place on Saturday mornings, in addition to interschool fixtures on Saturday afternoons.

If you cannot attend an Other Half activity due to: a music lesson; an EFL lesson; a Learning Support lesson; a doctor’s appointment; a driving test; travel difficulties, you must either see the member of staff in person or send them an email - at the earliest opportunity. 24 hours’ notice is required as advance warning for Community Service. Many members of staff give up large amounts of time to provide activities for you and it is your responsibility to attend the activity you have opted for - or excuse yourself properly (which is common courtesy). Otherwise you must expect a sanction to be applied; see ‘Sanctions’.

Sanctions

If you fail to excuse yourself properly, in advance, you can expect to receive a sanction; see following:

  1. If you fail to attend a compulsory ‘Other Half’ activity (i.e. your chosen sports option or Wednesday afternoon activity) or if you fail to excuse or account for yourself properly (e.g. if off games), your tutor (and housemaster) will be notified. If you do not have a valid, acceptable excuse or explanation you will receive a housemasters’ Summons.
  2. If you fail to attend a second time (or again fail to excuse or account for yourself) you can expect to be put in a Friday Detention by your housemaster.
  3. Anyone who infringes subsequently can expect a Head’s Detention. These sanctions will be adjusted for Lower School and Sixth Form pupils, as appropriate. These sanctions are subject to the housemaster’s discretion; they will apply incrementally over the course of one term.
  4. If you are unable to represent the school in an interschool sports fixture due to unforeseen circumstances, having been selected, you must make contact with the member of staff i/c your team immediately: either in person, or if necessary by email/telephone call on Saturday morning. If you fail to attend a fixture or fail to excuse yourself in advance, the standard sanction is a Friday Detention authorised by your housemaster.

Details of Other Half activities are available on these website pages or in the Other Half Activities booklet (also available as a PDF).