Head’s Letters

Friday 19 January 2018 

Dear Parents

I started this week in assembly with a favourite quote of mine from the great golfer Gary Player, ‘The more I practise, the luckier I get’. It has been delightful to see that the boys in all areas of the school have been working really hard this week and I have been encouraged by the purposeful atmosphere in their classrooms. 8R have been sitting their mock scholarship exams and I thoroughly enjoyed being invited to see the Year 3s undertaking some science experiments. Year 3 had designed and created a range of parachutes with different shaped canopies and different surface areas. They proceeded to drop them from the top of the stairs and had to time how long it took for them to reach the floor. After that, they had to calculate average times and draw conclusions from the data sets collected. It was pleasing to see them so actively engaged in their own learning.

On Wednesday, our Under 13s kicked off the football season with matches against Davenies. This was our first ever fixture against this school. The A team were involved in a very competitive game and were just edged out 0-2, despite having much of the possession and creating lots of chances. Perhaps a little more shooting practice will be needed this week! The B team had a tougher game against strong opposition but worked hard to the end.

Our Year 4s visited Sulgrave Manor yesterday. The weather was kind (at least, it did not rain), and all of the boys had a wonderful time learning about the Tudors in such an impressive setting, helping to bring history to life. I am told that the boys carried off the Tudor costumes expertly and there were many Tudor themed packed lunches on show! It is hard to beat learning about key periods in history when you are surrounded by history itself.

Yesterday afternoon saw the first swimming gala of the year at Abingdon School for both A and B teams against Moulsford Prep and Abingdon. Our Under 12s had an exciting battle with Abingdon School but were defeated by just 2 points after a series of very tight finishes. Our U13s were extremely impressive and were victorious by a reasonably large margin. There is clearly a great strength in depth in our senior section swimmers and they should all be very pleased with their performances.

I wanted to take this opportunity to let you all know that I will be hosting another ‘Coffee and Pastries’ morning in the Drama studio on Friday 2 February from 8am to 9.15am. I really enjoyed chatting with so many of you last time and I hope that even more of you will be able to drop in on that day. 

And finally, after receiving numerous impressive answers to last week’s offering, here is this week’s Thunk - Is there more future or more past?

I hope you have a relaxing weekend.

Best wishes

Craig 

Friday 12 January 2018 

Dear All

I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas break and have settled back into the routines of the new year. Although I could not quite believe how dark it was, when standing outside on the first morning welcoming the boys back to school, it is good to be back and focused on an exciting term ahead. I have heard many lovely stories about the boys’ holidays and what they got up to, in addition to what their favourite presents were!

I would like to take this opportunity to let you know about our appointment of a Head of French for September. We had an excellent series of applications and from a very strong field we have appointed Mr Russell Macdonald. Russell is currently Head of MFL at Dean Close Prep School in Cheltenham, and he has also taught at a number of other prep schools. He stood out in the interview process as someone who was passionate about his subject and prep school education in general. He is currently a form teacher and also coaches Games. We very much look forward to welcoming him into the Abingdon Prep community in September.

I am also delighted to pass on that Jennifer Brown, who has been with us as Head of English on a maternity cover, has secured an exciting role as Head of English and Drama at Sherborne Prep in Dorset. I know that Jennifer is greatly looking forward to the production of ‘Smike’ which will be an excellent swansong for her.

We started the term with a delightful group of class pairings yesterday. The theme this time was card games. Having visited all the rooms, it was obvious that we have some boys well versed in the art of card games and I certainly wouldn’t have been tempted to join one of the poker tables or the Blackjack group! It is so enjoyable to watch the boys interacting so well and enjoying each other’s company across the different year groups. This was followed today with a well-earned home clothes day for Dragon House pupils after their victory in the House points competition last term.

Pre-season football was a great success with 32 boys in Year 7 and 8 and 36 boys in Year 5 and 6 attending the sessions. It is an event that we are very keen to continue to arrange for the boys prior to the beginning of each term. Thank you to the staff and boys who gave up the final day of the holidays to come in to practise for the season ahead.

I asked the boys in my assembly on Tuesday to consider the statement “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you will keep getting what you’ve always gotten!” but related it to our effort grade descriptors (and some cricketing technique too!). I encouraged them to approach the term with a fresh attitude and desire to change the things they felt they might need to change. After popping into a number of lessons this week, I certainly saw evidence of a renewed desire to learn and improve themselves in areas that they may not previously have been seen as strong points. I really do hope that this positive approach is at the forefront of the boys’ thinking this term. 

As far as thinking goes, I am hoping to include a Thunk in most of my weekly letters as I think it is an excellent way to spark interesting conversations across the dinner table or in the car on the way to or from school. There are sadly, however, no prizes for the best answers! What on earth is a Thunk, you may ask? Well, a Thunk is a simple-looking question about everyday things that stops you in your tracks and hopefully helps you start to look at the world in a new light. So here goes with the first one of the term.... 

Which is heavier - a lie or a promise?

I look forward to hearing some of thoughts on this one at the front gate next week!

Best wishes

Craig 

Friday 15 December 2017

Dear Parents

Perhaps I should not have ended my letter last week with a wish for a flurry of snow! We got a little more than that. However, I will happily include mention of snow again in this letter and hope for a repeat of last Sunday now that we have the holidays ahead of us.

It seems like yesterday that I was welcoming parents and pupils into school on my first day of term. Time has flown by and I feel very much a part of the Abingdon Prep community, especially now I know what people are talking about when they refer to ‘Firestorm’ and ‘The Bazaar’! It has been a great pleasure getting to know the boys.

I would like to take this opportunity to let you all know that Adrian Burn (OA 1963) will be stepping down as Chairman of Governors of the Abingdon Foundation on 31 December 2017 after nearly five years in post. He has given superb service. Over the past three years under his leadership the Governors have appointed new Headmasters both for Abingdon School and Abingdon Prep as well as a new Director of Finance and Operations. This has also been a period of considerable investment in facilities at both schools, including the works undertaken at Abingdon Prep School over the summer. I have been very grateful for the support that Adrian has offered me and Abingdon Prep.

Adrian’s replacement as Chairman of Governors will be Professor Mike Stevens. Professor Stevens is an OA (1968) who qualified in medicine at the University of London. He held senior leadership positions both in the UK and Europe and he is Emeritus Professor at the University of Bristol. He has been a Governor since 2014 and has recently been Vice-Chairman of Governors and Chair of the Education Committee. More information about Mike Stevens and our governing body is available here.

It is also an opportune moment to inform you that Claire Delo, our wonderful Head of Science, has taken the decision to retire at the end of this academic year. Claire has been a huge part of this school for a long time and she will be greatly missed by staff and pupils alike. However, I will save my words about her for the end of the Summer Term.

The House merit cup was awarded on Thursday this week and with just 15 merits separating first and second, it was certainly a close run thing. Dragon, however, were victorious and have earned themselves a home clothes day next term. The final results were as follows:

4th Unicorn, 3rd Phoenix, 2nd Griffin, 1st Dragon

It was a dreadful shame that our annual Carol Service had to be cancelled on Monday evening. However, we were delighted to be able to run a version of it in school this morning, before term ended. The music produced was, as always, of an extremely high standard and I would once again like to thank Debbie and all of her music staff for their outstanding efforts this term. I do apologise to all parents that we were unable to accommodate you for today’s concert, as there was simply not enough space in the School Hall.

I thoroughly enjoyed our colours and awards assembly yesterday. There was much to celebrate after such a busy term and I would like to thank the boys for their efforts throughout the term, both in and out of the classroom. They have achieved so much, and I know they will return in the new year with the same positive approach.

That just leaves me with the task of wishing you all a very merry Christmas and to thank you for all of your support and kind wishes in my first term as Headmaster at Abingdon Prep. I feel lucky to be part of such a warm community.

With best wishes

Craig

Friday 8 December 2017 

Dear Parents 

We have almost arrived at the final week of term. The nights have drawn in and the weather is definitely on the turn. The Christmas tree is up and the decorations are out. Abingdon Prep, however, is showing no signs of slowing down for the holidays.

6S gave an assembly this week where the theme was the selfless spirit of Christmas. During the assembly they explained that they were undertaking a ‘reverse’ advent calendar idea, whereby they would bring to school an item of food when it was their turn to open a door. This collection of food items will be taken to a local charity where, hopefully, it may help struggling families enjoy a more festive Christmas. I believe this shows a very mature and compassionate attitude, and I commend them on their thoughtfulness.

There were a range of matches against Cheltenham College this week. Our U10 A and B both had convincing victories, U11 A and B both lost whilst the U11 C team played superbly in a 9-6 win. Our U13 As, Bs and U12 A s all lost in exciting contests whilst our U12 Bs ran out comfortable winners. This was a competitive and enjoyable final set of rugby matches for the term. I would like to thank our grounds staff publicly for all their hard work in maintaining our pitches to a very high standard, for the boys to enjoy. Three of the Cheltenham staff commented on the good condition of our pitches, considering it was December - not a trace of mud anywhere!

Yesterday it was the turn of 4A to see Jack and The Beanstalk. All came back with broad smiles having thoroughly enjoyed the pantomime. The Christmas period is well and truly upon us.

I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that Linda Rolls will be leaving us at the end of this term to take up a position as a Teaching Assistant in her daughter’s primary school. I would like to thank her for all of the work she has done with our Pre-Prep boys over the years. She will be greatly missed and we wish her all the very best in her new role.

On Thursday next week it is our Christmas Lunch. At the suggestion of one of the Year 5 boys, we have decided that the boys will be allowed to wear Christmas jumpers to the special lunch that day, and would ask that they donate £1 to our school charity for this event, to be collected by the form teacher in registration. Boys should come into school in normal uniform and then put their festive jumpers on for first break. Boys in Years 5 to 8 who are involved in the House Debating Competition after lunch will need to return to their school jumpers for the competition.

I am greatly looking forward to my first Abingdon Prep Carol Service on Monday, and have heard some delightful singing practices as I have walked past the music room this week. I do hope that all parents of boys in Years 3 to 8 will be able to attend. It is always a wonderful way to round off such a busy term, giving the boys a chance to showcase some of their musical talents and also an opportunity to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. I know that St Helen’s Church looks forward to welcoming us but please do bear in mind that parking can be difficult, so please allow plenty of time to get there for a 6.30pm start.

I have my fingers crossed for a little flurry of snow this weekend! It seems to have been a while since we have experienced it in this part of country. I hope you all have a good weekend and I look forward to seeing many of you on Monday at the Carol Service.

Best wishes

Craig 

Friday 1 December 2017 

Dear Parents

I would like to start my mailing this week by extending enormous thanks to everyone who was involved in the Bazaar. It was a wonderful afternoon and the generosity of our parent body is hugely appreciated, with exciting raffle prizes being donated in addition to all the work from our impressive JPA in preparation for the event. The boys certainly enjoyed themselves and the sugar rush seemed to have worn off by the time they all returned to school on Monday morning!

Springfield School, one of our school charities this year, brought three pupils to Abingdon Prep on Wednesday for a Forest School lesson led by Steve. Our Reception boys helped the Springfield pupils enjoy their Forest School experience and further cemented a close relationship between the two schools.

Wednesday’s arctic weather saw every boy in Year 5 and 6 play in matches against Magdalen College School. Despite freezing hands, the boys did Abingdon Prep proud with a strong set of results. Our U10 As, Bs and Cs all won whilst the Ds lost out in a close contest. In the U11s, our As and Ds won, the Bs drew and the C team just lost in another tight match. A day later our U8s and U9s also took on Magdalen College School. The U8A team won a very close game which sees them undefeated for the season, whilst the U8B and C teams both scored lots of tries but narrowly lost. As for the Year 4s, our U9As lost a superb game 14-16, but both the U9B and C teams ran out winners.

The Year 7 and 8 House matches also took place on Wednesday and Dragon finished victorious, unbeaten in both the A and B team tournaments. Again, every boy in those year groups took part and played with a great pride for their House. Rugby continues this Saturday with matches against Cothill and I look forward to greeting all of our supporters on the touchline.

Year 3 and 4AP visited the Oxford Playhouse to see Jack and the Beanstalk this week. The boys returned very enthusiastic about the show. It certainly reinforced that the countdown to Christmas has well and truly begun.

Each of our Houses spent Thursday morning assembly time choosing their House Charities for the year. They have chosen the following: Dragon - Children’s Air Ambulance, Griffin - Great Ormond Street, Phoenix - Help for Heroes, Unicorn - Wild At Heart. I was fortunate to hear a number of our Year 8s explaining why they had chosen to propose certain charities and it was fascinating to hear their personal reasons for wanting to give them our support.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Pre-Prep Nativity today and it was a delight to watch. Our younger boys should be very proud of their performances on stage. We undoubtedly have a number of budding thespians coming through the school. They had learned all of their lines superbly and gave heart-warming entertainment to a packed audience.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind parents to check the weekly mailings as this is one of our main methods of communication, and there are often important documents or information relating to certain events that may need to be returned to school within a specific timeframe. Your support with this would be greatly appreciated.

I hope you all have a relaxing weekend.

Best wishes

Craig 

Friday 24 November 2017 

Dear Parents

It has been another busy week here at Abingdon Prep with a wide range of autumnal weather conditions to contend with.

On Thursday morning, our second ‘class pairings’ of the term took place, this time with a board games session. I witnessed some Year 5s pitting their wits against some Year 8s at Chess, Monopoly, Battleships and Trivial Pursuit, whilst the Year 1s were partnered with Year 7s during which Snakes and Ladders, Connect 4 and Guess Who all featured prominently. Whilst walking round the groups with Mike Windsor, there was a warm feeling of camaraderie between the boys which is such an important element in any successful school. Unlike many of my family games as a child, no one dissolved in a tantrum with Monopoly money being strewn across the room!

Prep-Prep assembly was led by Rachel this week who told an engaging interactive story to the boys about teamwork and cooperation. I had the pleasure of handing out Achievement and Effort Awards which the boys have worked very hard for. Earlier in the week, I presented the first two Headmaster's Certificates for achieving five Golds and I know there are many other boys who have also nearly attained this total. It is one of the highlights of my week when boys bring work to show me that has been rewarded with a Gold.

Another packed week on the games field saw the U10s participate in a strong tournament under lights at Tilsley Park. They won one match, lost one and drew one. As a team they have certainly improved over the course of the term. Our U13As competed at the Pinewood 7s tournament, gaining an excellent win and a draw whilst a combination of an U12/13C team played in a triangular fixture against Christ Church Cathedral School and Pinewood.

House Rugby took centre stage in the Junior Section and the standard of play and commitment to the cause was very impressive indeed. In Year 4, eventual winners Phoenix won all their games by a single try so it shows how closely contested the matches were. The result was as follows: 1st – Phoenix, 2nd – Dragon, 3rd – Unicorn, 4th – Griffin

Year 3 House Rugby matches are still underway, with results hopefully to come next week. The trophy is still all to play for with the Middle and Senior Section competitions to come.

The annual Christmas Bazaar will take place tomorrow and I am looking forward to being involved for the first time. There is a palpable sense of excitement amongst the boys who have been eagerly helping to prepare their stalls over the course of the week. I very much look forward to welcoming everyone into school and starting the long build up to Christmas. Now the John Lewis advert has been released, we are all allowed to start talking about it, especially as the Christmas trees are now on display and fully decorated in school.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the Bazaar.

Best wishes

Craig 

Friday 17 November 2017 

Dear Parents 

Year 6 took great delight in their hands-on Forces Day delivered by Science Oxford this week. There were gravity defying hoops (magnetism I am reliably informed!) and the boys designed and built KNEX cars and had to make them come to a stop in set areas using motors and rubber bands. We certainly have some budding engineers in this group! It is a great pleasure to be able to give the boys more hands-on experience to match the theory that they have been learning in the classroom.

Even though the rain was falling, there were some exciting matches played across our Under 8 and Under 9 age groups this week. Our Under 9 matches with Chandlings were great contests across the board with us winning one by a single try and losing two by the same margin, and I am told that there were some admirable tackles made by both teams. What a wonderful way to be learning about sportsmanship and the joys of matches! Our Under 8s also competed extremely well and finished with two wins and a loss, in another series of very close games.

Continuing the sports theme, today we have our first cross country event of the year at Cokethorpe for our Under 9, Under 10 and Under 11 teams. With all the training they have been doing after school, I am sure that they will acquit themselves well.

I hope you may have seen some photos of our magnificent Silver Coin Trails that took place on Wednesday to support one of our charities, Springfield School. It was an impressive feat to recreate their school logo in shield form and a sincere thank you to all the boys and parents who donated so generously.

Anti-bullying week took place at school this week, with our boys taking on board the important message of ‘All Different, All Equal’. There have been assemblies, PSHCE lessons, workshops and form times devoted to the topic and it is so important, although a focus for this week, that it is always in our minds and not just at certain times of the year. A happy boy is one who is making good progress across all areas of school life.

As autumn comes to a close and winter begins to set in, please do remind your sons to bring in a coat to school. Break times in the drizzle and cold are much more fun with coats and hats, and hopefully the healthy time outside might help to keep those winter sniffles away too.

Please could I also remind you that if you have any queries at the end of the day, please do speak to the staff in the School Office so that they might be able either to answer them or direct you to the right person.

And finally, I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with a number of parents at my informal coffee morning after drop off today. I would very much like to repeat this on a monthly basis, so please do look out for future dates. I hope that those who could not come along this time, may be able to do so next time. The pains au chocolat really were rather delicious and worth coming for!

With best wishes

Craig

Friday 10 November 2017 

Dear Parents

There is only one place I could possibly start my letter this week and that is Firestorm. What an event! I can safely say that I have never seen anything quite like it. The light sabre battles were so obviously enjoyed by all the boys, and it was a pleasure to watch the Pre-Prep pupils playing on their own mound area whilst the older boys jousted on Josca's field. As for the firework display, it was simply stunning. Just when I thought nothing could beat the house figures firing at one another, the unicorn breathed a ten foot flame from its horn, swiftly followed by the griffin shooting flames back! To call it ‘breathtaking’ would be an understatement.

The joy on the children's faces (and on the faces of those experiencing the event for the first time too) was visible. The whole evening was a real show of Abingdon Prep community spirit and I am delighted that everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. As I mentioned last week, these events do not happen without the enormous time and effort from the organisers, and I would once again like to say a huge thank you to Paul Wentworth for putting on his last Firestorm with the support of his wonderful team led by Simon Stanford. Paul certainly went out with a bang! I am sure you will also join me in extending our thanks to all others who gave up their valuable time to make the event run so smoothly, namely our remarkable JPA representatives, and also many other parents who kindly volunteered their help on the night. Our next event will be the Christmas Bazaar on Saturday 25 November, so please do add your donations to the boxes currently outside the School Office.

Our Service of Remembrance today was a very moving event. The boys observed the two minute silence with genuine respect, and it gave them a quiet opportunity to reflect on how lucky we are to live in a world shaped by those who so willingly gave their lives in conflicts so that we might live in peace. The Last Post and Reveille were skilfully played by Ruairi (Year 7) on his trumpet. The service was preceded by a poignant assembly from 5S on Thursday, sharing their thoughts and personal stories about relatives and events in WWI and WWII.

There were three rugby festivals this week involving our U8s, 9s, 10s and 12s, in addition to matches for most of the U11s and U13s. It was wonderful to see so many boys out representing the school this week and performing so well.

The term certainly does not slow down next week, with Science Oxford visiting school to put on a Forces Day for Year 6. Anti-Bullying week commences on Monday with an assembly, and will run through PSHCE lessons, section assemblies, form times and in workshops on Thursday for the boys, hopefully giving them another chance to reflect on attitudes and behaviours towards others. This year's message is 'All Equal, All Different'. Abingdon Prep is a special place to be part of, and all of us should be aware of how important it is to be yourself and be proud of who you are. Do take the opportunity to familiarise yourselves with our anti-bullying charter and our policy, which can be found online and also as a paper copy at Reception and in the Prep-Prep letter rack.

Our Pre-Prep staff visited Springfield Special School on Thursday, one of our charities this year, with the aim of setting up joint events with them in the next couple of terms. Year 1 will be experimenting with some new games in PE lessons over the next few weeks using a jingle ball, and are hoping to teach these games to Springfield pupils next term.

As I write this, Year 4 are out visiting Christ Church, Abingdon, and I am looking forward to finishing off the week listening to some of our boys playing in the Concert Platform this evening. It is encouraging to see so many boys taking the chance to share their musical talent.

On Monday next week we will have a new face in our School Office. Mrs Karen Cornford is joining us as School Secretary. I know that we will all welcome her with open arms into the Abingdon Prep community and help her to settle in to her new role.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to invite parents to join me in the Drama Studio next Friday morning, 17 November, after drop off, for coffee and pastries and an informal catch-up.

I hope you all have an enjoyable weekend planned. I will be going to Uxbridge to play my first game of vets football this season. There could be a great deal of warming up and stretching required before kick off!

With best wishes

Craig

Friday 3 November 2017 

Dear Parents

It seems some time ago now that, on the first Sunday of half term, twelve Abingdon Prep boys participated in the Abingdon Vale Biathlon and achieved a superb set of results in what was a strong competition. Six of the twelve finished in the top three in their respective age groups, with the others narrowly missing out on podium finishes in most cases. This was a commendable effort, especially given that the event took place during the school holidays!

On Monday this week, our Year 1 and Reception boys were treated to a day about Divali, during which they wore traditional dress and ate Indian food, as well as being introduced to the key characters of Rama and Sita. They were very excited to tell me all about it when I saw them later in the day.

In the classroom, or more specifically out of the classroom, I had the pleasure of watching the Year 8 CDT recycled material hovercraft race across the swimming pool. Stormy conditions made the crossing hazardous but a number of vessels were sturdy enough in design to make the crossing successfully and rather quickly too!

Year 3 were excited to be using their pin hole cameras for the first time, framing up the tree line within the school front door, and I had some very clear explanations of how they worked. We clearly have a number of budding scientists in the group.

There was a ‘Free Will’ debate in Year 7s RE lesson to which I thoroughly enjoyed listening, and hearing the perspectives of the boys. An appreciation of others’ points of view was evident, matched with rebuttals and personal opinions. It is great to see the boys being given opportunities to express their views and improve their all-round communication skills.

This week’s Wednesday fixtures produced a very high standard of play across all of the age groups. The Oratory Prep School’s physicality and desire to break the tackle line meant that they just edged out Abingdon Prep across most games, but our boys should take great heart from the way they played and the fact that they were able to match strong opposition in so many of the matches.

House meetings in buddy groups took place yesterday, and I was fortunate enough to see all the Houses competing in their ping pong ball and cup games. It is such a valuable opportunity for the younger boys to get acquainted with the older ones and interact with them, and I know the older boys enjoy running the activities.

Continuing the House theme, Phoenix House have enjoyed the treat of a home clothes day today. They were house points winners for the first half of this term and it is wonderful to see their efforts being rewarded. I know that Griffin, Dragon and Unicorn will all be striving to overtake them in the second half of term, and to earn themselves a home clothes day.

The boys (and most parents to whom I have spoken!) are all looking forward immensely to Firestorm this evening, as indeed am I since it will be my first. I have my fingers crossed for some kind weather and the BBC weather app seems to suggest that we might just be in luck! I would like to take this opportunity to thank Paul Wentworth who will be arranging the fireworks display for the last time tonight. It has clearly been a labour of love and I know all of the Abingdon Prep community is enormously grateful for the time and effort he has put into making it such a special occasion each year. I would also like to thank the countless volunteers from the parent body who help out at this exciting event, as without them it could not take place. I personally cannot wait for the hog roast!

Lastly, I would like to extend a warm invitation to parents to join me after drop-off from 8.15am on the morning of Friday 17 November, for an informal coffee in the Library. I look forward to catching up with some of you there.

In the meantime, I hope you all have a relaxing weekend.

Best wishes

Craig 

Friday 13 October 2017 

Dear Parents

Half-term has arrived! From chatting to the boys over lunch this week, it seems that many of you have exciting trips planned, so fingers crossed for some Autumn sunshine, whether you are staying at home or going further afield for the fortnight.

The ‘Bold and Bright’ theme for Home Clothes Day was certainly taken literally today by the boys, and it was a fun way to raise money for one of our school charities, Springfield School. Sunglasses were a must if you were spending the day with one or two of the boys…and a few of the staff!

Thank you to all of the boys who gave up their Saturday morning last week to be part of our Open Morning. It was a hugely successful event and the boys showed off their school in its best light, demonstrating hard work, ability and personable qualities in equal measure. Our Year 7 guides were exceptional ambassadors and it was a pleasure to see the boys showing such pride in their school.

Fifteen pupils from Years 6 to 8 went to Radley College to participate in their ‘Orchestra Day’ this week. It was an inspirational opportunity for them to play with other high quality musicians from local prep schools, and they had a wonderful time, thoroughly enjoying the challenge of performing difficult pieces with others they had only just met. Debbie reported that the day was spent rehearsing hard in preparation for a final concert including separate brass, string and concert band pieces followed by all one hundred musicians coming together to play Mussorgsky's 'Night On A Bare Mountain'. It was a marvellous day!

Our Reception boys visited Cogges Farm on Monday and had a fantastic time. They learnt how to bake bread in a hot bread oven, grind corn into flour, plant corn seeds in little pots they had made and they retold the story of the Little Red Hen. They followed this with an expedition into the woods, where they had to cross over the rickety bridge with a troll waiting beneath! It was delightful to hear them so enthused about the trip on their return.

Matches were played on Wednesday against Beachborough and a very pleasing set of results were returned. I was lucky enough to referee the Under 11B team who played with pride in their shirt and showed great team spirit, alongside some impressive rugby skills. All matches were closely contested with Abingdon Prep winning the majority of the fixtures.

I very much enjoyed catching up with a number of Year 6 parents at Parents’ Evening this week. It was a valuable opportunity to discuss the term so far. I think it is fair to say that we all felt the term has flown by.

I would like to take this opportunity to let you know that Lynne Hough, our Head of French, will be retiring at the end of this academic year. As a result we will be starting the process of recruiting her successor over the next few weeks. Lynne has been with Abingdon Prep for many years and will be greatly missed. I will, of course, say more about her in the summer. In the meantime, I know that Lynne will continue to inspire and work hard with the boys in the classroom.

We also say a final farewell to Sallie today. She has been an absolutely wonderful School Secretary and she will be greatly missed. I know that you would all join with me in wishing her the very best for her new role.

That just leaves me to wish you all a relaxing and restful half term and to thank you for making my first half term here so enjoyable. It is a lovely place to work and I have certainly been made to feel part of the community. I hope that the boys will get you to look up the National Trust “50 things to do before you are 11 ¾ ” and that you can get them to tick off a few more from the list. I was astounded in my assembly on Monday that not all the boys had had a conker fight. Perhaps that might be the first one to tick off!

Best wishes

Craig

Friday 6 October 2017 

Dear Parents 

As we near the halfway mark of the term, school seems to get busier and busier. On Monday, our Year 8s visited the Natural History Museum in Oxford for a combined Art and Science day. I hope many of you have seen the photos on Twitter or Facebook of the boys sketching some of the exhibits. The boys showed me some of their drawings on their return and I was impressed with the likeness they had created of the creatures they had seen there.

Tuesday saw a very busy Year 5 Parents’ Evening. I very much enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with several parents whilst they waited for their appointments and to chat about their son’s start to the term.

On Wednesday a host of rugby matches against Chandlings took place for the U10 and U11 teams. It was wonderful to see every single boy in both Year 5 and Year 6 representing school in those fixtures and thoroughly enjoying it. Almost every game was very closely contested and the overall results reflected this with three wins, two draws and two losses.

Our Year 5s visited the Black Country Museum yesterday. This was the first time that Abingdon Prep had visited the museum and the feedback from the boys suggested that the trip was very enjoyable, and it should be repeated next year. The two highlights of the trip, according to the boys, were going down into a real coal mine and the sight of their teacher being given ‘six of the best’ by a Victorian schoolmistress! That alone would surely be reason enough to return.

Today, eight of our Year 5 and Year 6 boys are heading to Magdalen College School to represent Abingdon Prep in their annual quiz. Hopefully, they have been swatting up and putting in the hours watching ‘Eggheads’ and ‘Pointless’ as revision! I am sure they will have enjoyed the day and perhaps set themselves up for a life of future quizzing.

Pre-Prep Harvest Festival is also taking place this afternoon. This is a lovely event and I would like to extend a huge thank you to all of the parents who have kindly contributed towards this. I know our offerings are greatly appreciated and hugely valued by those in our community who need them most. This year, they will be donated to the Gatehouse Charity which provides meals for the homeless.

We are busy preparing for our whole school Open Morning which takes place tomorrow, and I look forward to welcoming the boys into school. It is our chance to show off our excellent school to a new group of parents, with the Year 7 boys taking them on tours and answering their questions. This may well have been how so many of you were first introduced to the school yourselves.

Although chronologically out of order, I would also like to mention our Concert Platform that took place last Friday. This was my first opportunity to hear our talented musicians this term and I was thrilled to hear such a range of instruments and the standard to which they were played. Boys just starting out along their musical journeys played alongside more seasoned performers and it was lovely seeing how much they enjoyed the opportunity to play in front of an audience. I would encourage more of you to come along on a Friday afternoon to listen to these events. It is a delightful way to end a week, and there is even coffee and cake to tempt you into the Hall!

As you can see, it certainly has been a busy week but that is exactly what life in a thriving prep school should be like. Busy boys, learning both in and out of the classroom, arriving home tired but fulfilled.

Best wishes

Craig 

Friday 29 September 2017 

Dear Parents 

I was lucky enough to sit in our Charity Assembly on Thursday to hear the Headmistress of Springfield School talk to our boys about the work they do there and how many challenges their pupils face. This year, Springfield School is one of our chosen charities and it was a pleasure to hear Emma talk about inspiring their children, who have a wide range of special needs, and installing key equipment to help their children see what they ‘can’ achieve, not what they can’t. It was lovely to see pictures of them enjoying adapted playground equipment and playing cricket on their fields, in spite of the difficulties they face. Our boys even learnt a little sign language as well! We hope that we will be able to set up a visit between the two schools sometime this year. It is so important that the boys know what they are raising money for in our charity events and how much benefit that can bring.

As I wandered round school popping into lessons this week, I was treated to a huge variety of topics. Our Year 8 classes were given a fascinating talk on Visual Thinking in Art, referencing Romanesque Church architecture with beautiful images of Durham Cathedral, Orthodox Russian Churches and Istanbul’s Mosques. They answered questions about this far more knowledgeably than I could have. This tied in well to a Year 7 Latin lesson about Roman Baths and the names of the different rooms within. Year 6 were writing informal letters based on characters from the novel ‘Holes', whilst the other Year 6 class were in Science discovering the upthrust that water provides to an object. It was delightful to watch our boys answer and ask questions to help further their knowledge.

I was also able to watch a raft of matches this week. Our plucky U13s lost a couple of close games to Abingdon whilst our U12s came away with a win, a draw and a loss - all closely contested games in which the boys really had to push themselves. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the first U8 Tag Rugby matches of term and I must congratulate our parents for turning out in great numbers and supporting the boys, who performed admirably in high scoring matches across the board. Our U9s continued their strong start to the season with another set of victories in the away games against Christ Church Cathedral School.

Thursday and Friday also saw Fundamental British Values workshops in which all of the boys from Reception to Year 6 took part. Pablo involved them all fully to demonstrate what these values meant. The boys loved his energetic style and appreciated the message that he was conveying.

Special thanks should go to the JPA this week for organising such a successful Macmillan Coffee Morning, but also to all the parents who kindly baked cakes to donate to the event. It was lovely to see so many parents chatting away in the Library, and I certainly had to restrain myself from polishing off the remaining cakes at the end of the morning!

Finally, I would like to end my letter by letting you know that Sallie Swain, our wonderful school secretary, has been offered a very exciting new role at Radley College and will be leaving us at half term. I am delighted for her, but know that we will all miss her greatly and I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for everything that she has done for Abingdon Prep and all of the staff, parents and pupils. Nothing has been too much trouble and I know the boys have always been able to go to Sallie about anything and everything. Sallie will be greatly missed but she goes with all of our best wishes and we hope that she will stay in touch.

I hope you all have a good weekend.

Best wishes

Craig

Friday 22 September 2017 

Dear Parents 

I have been greatly encouraged this week by the positive attitude and approach that our Year 8 boys have demonstrated, both in and out of the classroom. In PSHCE lessons, they have been talking about leadership and decided that being a good role model was probably one of the most important aspects of this. One of the key thoughts for them was that they should be demonstrating to the younger boys in school the right way to behave and act, to ensure that everyone gets the most out of life at Abingdon Prep. On that tack, we now have more young leaders in our activities program for Badminton, Tag Rugby, Hockey and Gardening club. It is great to see so many boys seizing their opportunities and broadening their horizons. There might even be the makings of a few young teachers amongst them!

Our Year 4s have been out for the last couple of days, on their first residential trip, trekking along the Ridgeway. Their excitement was palpable as they came into school in home clothes yesterday, all set for a real adventure. School is so much more than just learning in the classroom, and the teamwork skills and bonding opportunities that they will get from this trip will stay with them for years to come.

I was lucky to see great teamwork in action on Wednesday when I refereed my first rugby games at Abingdon Prep. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing our U11Cs and Ds try so hard and make tackles that even they thought they could not make. There were a number of very impressive performances on the rugby pitch on Wednesday, and I hope the boys take on board the attitude that Ben Stokes (England Cricketer) feels is so vital in all aspects of life - “Don’t improve to be better than others, improve to be better than you were yesterday”. If they can consistently do this, they will be able to accomplish so much more than they thought they were capable of, across all aspects of the curriculum.

Knocks on my study door this week have led to me being shown kaleidoscopes made by Year 4s, desk tidies by Year 7s, and buzzer wires by Year 5s, just like the games we play at fairs, but much harder in some cases. The boys were clearly very proud of their creations and keen to explain how they worked and how they made them. A normal week in CDT from what I can see!

It has been Safety Week this week, with important messages about how to keep oneself safe in and out of school, as well as online. These messages are so important for our boys as they start to make sense of the world around them and have access to more and greater technologies than we, the older generation (I speak for myself!), ever could have imagined. An assembly was given by the NSPCC, and workshops too, for our Year 5 and 6 cohorts. Add to that an extremely exciting visit to Pre-Prep by the Fire Engine, and it has been a busy week for all.

With best wishes

Craig

Friday 15 September 2017 

Dear Parents

It was lovely to welcome so many of you to our informal parents’ evening on Tuesday this week. I hope you found it useful to meet with your son’s new form teacher and members of staff, as well as other parents. It certainly demonstrated to me the wonderful sense of community that Abingdon Prep has. I know that Mike Windsor enjoyed meeting many of you as well.

The AGM for the JPA which followed was an absolute eye-opener for me. I did not realise quite how many wonderful events they run, and I am looking forward to being involved in these events, starting with our Fireworks evening at the start of November. The JPA does a fantastic job to raise money for school projects and for charity, and I would encourage you to support them and help out, if you can, at any of the upcoming events.

Wednesday afternoon saw the start of matches for the boys, with a tough set of fixtures against St Hugh’s. I was lucky enough to watch the U13B and C teams, who showed great determination and spirit, even after conceding a number of tries. The U13B team should be very proud of their second half display, which, if they can repeat, will lead to victories later in the season.

The first of our ‘class pairings’ took place yesterday. This is a completely new idea to me and I really enjoyed seeing the camaraderie shown between the classes when engaged with their construction projects. The older boys were eager to help the younger ones with the K’Nex and Lego, and the results were spectacular. Seeing boys in different classes working together and enjoying each other’s company reinforced the strong sense of community that pervades the school.

Last Saturday, our Year 6s returned from their Cornbury bushcraft trip still decorated with camo paint from their activities. Some seemed to be still in the same clothing that they were wearing when they departed, just encased in a layer of caked mud! All of them seemed to have had a great time and there is photographic evidence to prove it!

Jez Fernandez visited Abingdon Prep this week to talk to the boys in Years 5-8 about resilience. It was a fascinating presentation which our boys seemed enthralled by. It sent an important message, very closely aligned with growth mindset and being prepared to fail. ‘FAIL’ is simply the First Attempt In Learning, and we can benefit so much from failing the first time and then having to find a solution. As Thomas Edison said about his lightbulb invention, “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. As the nights begin to draw in, we can all be glad that Thomas Edison did not give up!

I hope you all have a good weekend.

Best wishes

Craig 

Friday 8 September 2017 

Dear Parents

I have had a thoroughly enjoyable first week at Abingdon Prep and would like to thank everyone openly for extending such a warm welcome to me. It has been lovely to see the boys come back into school with such positive attitudes and genuine excitement about the term ahead and to meet so many parents at the front entrance in the mornings.

I believe that a positive approach to all aspects of school life will help the boys make the most of their talents. I really enjoyed seeing this in abundance in a Year 4 Drama lesson (where I was asked to join in) and a Year 7 CDT lesson. The Year 7 boys were so excited watching their ‘Jitterbugs’ crashing into each other on the table! Rolling toy cars down half pipes in the Reception play area was another highlight and reminded me of my own attempts at this along a trackway down the stairs when I was their age. A pile up at the bottom always ensued and that certainly hasn’t changed, judging by the mass of cars at the bottom of the pipes!

My first assembly focused on the importance of good manners and always trying one’s best, no matter what the task in front of you. I have been greatly heartened by seeing the boys put these two messages into practice regularly as I have walked around school.

The Multi Use Sports Area (astroturf) has been an enormous hit with the boys in Years 6, 7 and 8 at break times, although, having personally retrieved a number of footballs which had made their way over the high fences, there may be some additional shooting practice required. The redesigned car park seems to have worked well and it is good to see so many of you utilising the drop and go area.

Our first trip of the year took place this week as Year 6 departed for Cornbury Bushcraft. I look forward to hearing the boys’ stories about creepy crawlies and sleeping in self built dens on their return to school. Trips like this are a great way to foster teamwork and an excellent way to start the year for our Year 6s.

I genuinely feel part of the Abingdon family already and I hope that this is also the case for all of our new boys and parents who, like me, have joined Abingdon Prep this term. I hope lots of you will be able to join us at the Informal Parents’ Evening next Tuesday to meet other parents, both new and old, as well as staff.

Once again, thank you for making my first week here such an enjoyable one. With best wishes

Craig 

Friday 1 September 2017 

Dear Parents

I hope you are well and have enjoyed a lovely summer. The start of term is almost upon us and whilst we have been away, Abingdon Prep has been a hive of activity. A huge amount of work has been undertaken and I am sure you will be as delighted as I am with the improvements to both the fabric of the building, the site and the facilities. The boys will benefit enormously from it.

We have fifty one new pupils joining the Abingdon Prep community this term and I would like to offer a very warm welcome to all of them and their families. I am sure that they will really enjoy being part of such a supportive community. As a new starter myself, I am also looking forward to getting to know the boys and their parents, and I hope you will bear with me as I try to learn everyone's names!

On that note, I would like to draw your attention to the Informal Parents’ Evening on Tuesday 12 September which will be an excellent opportunity for you to meet with me, the staff and other parents. I look forward to welcoming as many of you as possible to that event.

At the start of this academic year we are also welcoming a number of new staff:

Jo Caputo joins us as a Year 3 form teacher
Alison Heaton joins us as a Year 4 form teacher
3 new gap year students - Sam Barder, Edward Cockerham and Jamie Webster

Over the summer, as part of the building project, there has been some changes to the School driveway as detailed in Mike Windsor's letter, which includes important information about parking, drop and go, and exit. I am sure that this will ease much of the congestion at busy times, and it will also make the area much safer for the pupils entering and leaving school. Staff will be on hand on the first morning to offer direction and assistance.

I look forward to meeting you all in the very near future and to welcoming your sons into School on Tuesday.

Yours sincerely

Craig Williams