Letter from the Headmaster, 17 April 2020
17 April 2020
In normal circumstances I would be looking forward to welcoming the boys back to school next week. The school site is looking beautiful; blossom on the trees, the grass on the cricket pitches lush and green. But of course we will have to wait a while longer until we see the school back to its normal, vibrant, self.
I do hope that you and your families are all fit and well. I am conscious that this is a stressful and challenging time for everyone. I am grateful to those in our community who continue to work so hard on the frontline against the coronavirus and am pleased that we have been able to look after the children of key workers over the course of the holiday. This provision will continue and my thanks also go to the staff at Abingdon and Abingdon Prep who have volunteered to supervise.
It was a busy Easter for members of the Design and Technology department who spent a lot of time making protective visors for local hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes. The Abingdon Science Partnership has also been hard at work preparing online resources for teaching science and their endeavours were highlighted by the Daily Telegraph in a recent article describing collaboration between the independent and state sectors.
I think we are all learning that our new ways of working require higher levels of collaboration and cooperation than ever and I know that colleagues have been working together in departments to ensure that resources and ideas are in place to support the boys’ online learning. The School will continue to run to its normal timetable, starting with registration at 8.35am from Tuesday 21 April. There will often be a ‘live’ element to lessons via Zoom but the boys will also be set tasks which give them a break from interacting on screen.
A key focus during the first half of term will be to confirm provisional grades and rank orders for our GCSE and A Level candidates and we will be working hard to ensure that these are fair, realistic and consistent. The exam boards have made it clear that schools should not reveal provisional grades to candidates or their parents.
As you know, at Abingdon we believe that there is much more to education than the acquisition of qualifications and this is particularly important at this time of lockdown. Our staff have therefore been working hard to put together ways of operating our Other Half programme remotely and there will be lots of stimulating and rewarding activities on offer for your son; indeed, it’s been great to see many boys responding to various online challenges over the Easter break. Some of the activities on offer next term will be a continuation of activities that your son may already be involved in; some are quite new and ideally suited to time at home. Boys will receive the list of available activities early next week and I hope you’ll take the time to discuss it with your son.
We have been thinking carefully about the implications of our new ways of working for the health and wellbeing of the boys and Mr Hindley, the Deputy Head (Pastoral) will be in touch shortly with a letter about how we will be managing our online interactions with your son. I hope you will read this carefully; we will also be writing to your sons.
Finally, I would like to reassure you that, although we are working in a different way, everyone at Abingdon is committed to supporting your sons and you as we navigate our way through this crisis. I hope you won’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any concerns that you would like to discuss. Your first port of call would be your son’s tutor or Housemaster and they will certainly be able to pass on concerns to the correct member of staff.
We will continue to communicate regularly with you and I very much look forward to catching up with the boys next week when term gets underway on Tuesday.
Letter from the Headmaster, 27 March 2020
27 March 2020
At times of crisis or challenge, we often turn to the arts for solace or escape. Recent events have certainly brought to my mind these well-known lines by John Donne:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
At times of challenge, we depend on our friendships and relationships more than ever. The particular difficulty we are faced with at this time is that in exceptional and unprecedented times we have been deprived of our normal opportunities for socialising and getting together with our friends and companions, while spending more time than we might be used to with our families! Seeing the School so strangely empty while bathed in sunshine this week just underlines the incredible energy and purpose that the School has when it is in session.
But while I have missed the boys’ physical presence around school, it has also been exciting to see them engaging so positively with their digital learning. I suppose that this is a space in which they have essentially grown up and with which they are familiar. The statistics from Zoom, gathered on Wednesday evening, are staggering in themselves. In the few days of working online, we held more than 4000 meetings. 29,000 participants joined those various meetings, meaning there was an amazing 467,000 minutes (just under a whole year) of participation.
I would like to thank the boys for throwing themselves into their online schooling with such enthusiasm. It’s been great to stay in touch with them via social media. I particularly enjoyed the hockey obstacle courses shared by the hockey club on Twitter (@hockeyabingdon) and am grateful to the parents of the boys concerned for their tolerance at letting their houses and gardens be converted! House debating has also proved to be a great online success.
I am very grateful to my colleagues who have grasped the mettle in moving online with such determination and commitment. It requires considerable time and planning to set up a successful online lesson and I know that teachers have worked extremely hard to ensure that the transition to remote working was successful, often while juggling childcare and family responsibilities. We will be reflecting over Easter on our experiences of the past week to refine further our offering for the Summer term.
I would also like to thank you all for everything that you have done to ensure that the transition has gone well. I am very much aware that many of you are facing very challenging work situations and are also in a period of rapid transition and adjustment. Thank you therefore for supporting your sons and enabling them to thrive. I am also very grateful indeed to the many parents who have written in to thank colleagues and with constructive feedback, which has been much appreciated. My thanks also go to the parents who have been in touch following the letter from the Chairman of Governors and me earlier this week, offering to pay full fees as normal in order to support families who are facing hardship.
The current situation is of course particularly tough for the boys in the Fifth Year and the Upper Sixth. We are very much aware that they are in need of guidance, especially as the Easter break is about to start. We are putting much thought into ensuring that they receive clear direction and support. This is taking some time to put together as we are also waiting for some further information from the exam boards but we will be communicating a detailed plan with these cohorts very soon. Until then, I suggest that the boys concerned enjoy a well-earned break from their studies over the weekend.
We will be sharing further information about the plans for the Summer term for other year groups shortly.
This will be an unusual holiday. Our provision for the children of key workers will continue, with cross-Foundation support available at Abingdon Prep School; please see the separate message in today’s Weekly Mailing for more information. In my podcast, which the pupils will also receive today, I have emphasised the importance of routine, even in the holiday period, and particularly the need to support their parents at this challenging time; I hope they live up to this!
We want to continue to support the boys through the break as we know that some may find it very challenging. Our counsellors will be running their normal service through the first week of the holiday and your son’s tutor is on stand-by should he need support; email will be the best means of contact. Housemasters have shared lots of ideas and challenges with their Houses in case boys need further stimulus during the break and our librarians have shared lots of suggestions for reading with the boys via email and Firefly.
Although the term has inevitably been overshadowed by the coronavirus crisis, it is important that we celebrate everything that the boys have achieved, both on- and off-line. I hope therefore that you will enjoy the ‘Term in Pictures’ which captures many of the highlights of the past few months.
Finally, I would like to express the Foundation’s appreciation for all those people who are integral in helping our countries get through this crisis. Many parents, relatives, partners and OAs are putting their own health at risk to help us. We cannot thank them enough.
Wishing everyone in the Abingdon community all the very best,
Letter from the Headmaster, 13 February 2020
13 February 2020
The first half of term has been packed with highlights, including two tremendous joint drama productions with St Helen’s, some outstanding sporting performances and evidence of great commitment and focus in academic work. Do have a look at the news pages on our website to get an insight into what the school community has been up to.
After half term we are looking forward to our first ever 24-hour Giving Day on 18-19 March. This is a digital fundraising and awareness campaign in support of the Abingdon Bursaries Fund. We are one of the first UK schools to do this and I hope as many of our community as possible will participate. Abingdon has a long tradition of offering free and assisted places and we want to continue to broaden access to the School to as many pupils as possible.
We have set ourselves an ambitious target of raising £3m for bursaries by 2025 and our Giving Day is the first initiative in our campaign. Ahead of Giving Day, I would encourage you to start following the Abingdon Twitter accounts (@abingdonschool and @abingdon_head) and keep an eye out for more information closer to the day. Further information as posted on Weekly Mailing is here.
We continue to monitor the situation very closely and are following the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Public Health England (PHE), the Department of Health & Social Care and the school doctor.
We have advised our boarding community not to return to China and other affected areas during half term. We have also suspended all visits to the school for prospective parents travelling from these areas, unless they are outside the 14-day quarantine period. The situation is dynamic and we urge parents to follow the travel advice given by the FCO and the Department of Health & Social Care.
We ask any parents who have travelled to the UK from China or other affected areas not to have direct contact with their sons until they have been in the UK for at least 14 days and remain free of any symptoms of the coronavirus. Boys who are in direct contact with people from affected areas are asked to take a period of quarantine in which the boy would not be allowed back to school. The quarantine would be the responsibility of the family to organise and not something the School could undertake. Materials will be available via Firefly so that pupils will be able to continue with their learning.
We would remind parents and guardians that boys should not return to school at the end of half term (or at the end of any holiday period throughout the year) if they are feeling unwell. We would advise general hygiene precautions at all times, such as using tissues and washing hands regularly.
Looking ahead to the Easter holidays, we advise families planning to travel that restrictions are very likely to still be in place and periods of quarantine may be needed. We cannot say for certain at this stage, but parents of boarders who live in affected areas should assume that restrictions may prevent their sons travelling home over the Easter holidays, and begin to make contingency plans with guardians accordingly.
I appreciate the added complications that may be caused to Abingdon families by these measures and am grateful for your ongoing support. The wellbeing of the whole school community is our priority and we will ensure that all our pupils are appropriately supported and cared for.
We will continue to monitor the situation and are taking a proactive approach to what is a complex and ever-changing picture. We will continue to update the Abingdon community over the coming weeks.
Despite Storm Ciara, work on the new building on Faringdon Road remains on track for completion by the end of the academic year. We look forward to showing parents in September our new facilities for Economics and Business, and Computer Science, as well as new houserooms for O’Doherty’s and Donnelly’s. The new building will also house a new reception area and the Second Hand Uniform Shop.
Abingdon Prep School
We were delighted that we recently received planning permission for development of our teaching facilities at Abingdon Prep School. This will provide a specialist music school, a second science lab, improved facilities for CDT and much more. Further information about the new development is available here.
I’d like to congratulate the boys on all their hard work so far this term. The mornings and evenings are (finally) beginning to look lighter and there is lots to look forward to in the second half of term.
I hope all the boys who are out on trips over half term enjoy their time away and I will look forward to welcoming everyone back to school on Monday 24 February.
Letter from the Headmaster, 12 December 2019
12 December 2019
As I write, the term is coming to an end in a crescendo of amazing achievements; the Christmas Concerts, the Middle School play Every Brilliant Thing, a hugely successful season for the Rugby Club, second place for our intermediate team at the English Schools’ Cross-Country competition, the Abingdon Film Academy presentation; all this alongside the stories of academic endeavour and focus that are captured by the boys’ end-of-term reports.
Election fever has gripped us too with representatives of the various parties crossing swords at hustings and assemblies over recent weeks. The school poll took place earlier this week and we look forward to the announcement of the results at final assembly on Friday morning, just as we begin to process the results of the General Election.
Every Brilliant Thing, the Middle School play which I referred to earlier, was an interesting choice for us as it was written by Duncan Macmillan in collaboration with an Old Abingdonian (OA), Jonny Donahoe. We were delighted to welcome Jonny back to the School to lead a workshop with the cast. Our dramatic connection with former students does not end there as two more drama productions this year are also by OAs. Next term our senior production is King Charles III by Mike Bartlett while the Lower School are putting on a new adaptation of Macbeth by Ed Rowett.
The close link between our OAs and the School is certainly worth celebrating. We know that some form of alumni association has been in existence since 1743, when ‘The Gentlemen Educated in Abingdon School’ met that year on 6 August. We are now in contact with more than 6,500 Old Abingdonians.
I met some of them at the Sixth Form Careers Evening, which was held at the School in November. There were over 50 OAs, from a wide range of professions, who had happily volunteered to share their wealth of career advice with the 150 pupils who made the most of this valuable opportunity. I am extremely grateful to all the OAs who supported not only this event but also the Medics and Oxbridge advice evenings held earlier in the term.
I was able to meet a lot more OAs at the Club’s very popular London Drinks Reception. This excellent occasion, with 200 OAs and members of staff in attendance, was held at the Cavalry and Guards Club on Piccadilly. It was great to see so many year groups represented, enjoying one another’s company.
The Club regularly hosts networking events for OAs and current parents, such as a recent event at the National Liberal Club in London which included representatives from the law, investment, financial, environmental, technology and public sectors. OAs generously provide opportunities for our students to undertake work experience at their companies and give small grants to support students who are wanting to travel overseas.
The OA Club will look forward to welcoming all our students in time and I hope they will enjoy being part of the OA community and the camaraderie and fellowship that the Club brings – as well as the opportunity to reminisce about their schooldays.
It’s always a pleasure to welcome OAs back to the School and to show them round. Soon they will be able to visit Faringdon Lodge which remains on track for completion at the end of this academic year. Economics and Business, as well as Computer Science, will be moving into the new building over the summer break, and they will be joined by O’Doherty’s and Donnelly’s who will move out of their current houserooms. O’Doherty’s will be converted to provide further space for the boys to access our catering services at break and lunch time, while Franklin’s will expand into the space liberated by Donnelly’s. I will look forward to showing parents round the new space in Michaelmas term 2020.
As the term comes to an end, I’d like to thank all the boys for their commitment and enthusiasm. I am also grateful to parents for the support that they have shown our students and the School all through this term; I hope you have enjoyed it as much as we have. Do have a look at the news pages on our recently revamped website to see more about recent events.
I hope all Abingdon families enjoy a restful Christmas and I wish everyone all the very best for 2020 – and the new decade!
Letter from the Headmaster, 10 October 2019
10 October 2019
I have just emerged from the annual House Singing Competition which is always one of the highlights of the calendar. It was great to see all the boys involved and it’s always really impressive to see the respective conductors rising to the significant challenge of getting a hundred boys or so to sing in time and tune! There was a bit of a retro feel to this year’s event with three Houses opting for songs by Queen, including Bohemian Rhapsody; an ambitious choice!
I’m grateful for the support of parents in ensuring that students made it into school for our Open Day on 28 September. It was a very busy morning and the boys did a fantastic job guiding our visitors around and explaining what they were doing in the different academic departments or Other Half activities. They really were a credit to the School.
I am also really grateful for the terrific support that many parents gave to the campaign being coordinated by the Independent Schools Council and the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference in response to the Labour Party conference motion calling for the abolition of independent schools. So many of you wrote in support and I am delighted that we have collectively been able to make the case against this proposal. I believe that we all want to see the quality of education in the country improved for all our children but I cannot accept that the way to do this is to destroy some of our most successful institutions. Abolition would be damaging to the pupils affected and would place an even greater burden on the state system, and makes no financial sense.
At Abingdon, we believe that the way to improve education for all is through effective and meaningful partnerships between state and independent schools and this is expressed through our burgeoning partnership programme, led by Mr Southwell-Sander. These partnerships yield significant benefits for the pupils and staff from all the schools involved. Our partnership programme is ambitious and wide-ranging, extending from academic mentoring to film-making, from peer mentoring to the Abingdon Science Partnership, from primary school workshops to sports coaching.
We have included further information about the partnerships programme in an Impact Report which will be shared with you shortly. The report celebrates the contribution that pupils, staff, parents and OAs have made both to the School and to the wider community. I hope you will enjoy reading more in the report when you receive it.
With regard to the wider community, the Charity Committee recently selected its charities for the coming academic year. These are The Abingdon Bridge, Close the Gap, Unicef, Save the Children and Mind. The first event in support of these charities is tomorrow’s Home Clothes Day and boys are invited to give £3. I hope the boys will enjoy the chance to wear their own clothes to school, or rather the opportunity to wear their alternative uniform of a hoody, jeans and trainers…
Over half-term, work will continue on our project at the Faringdon Road end of the campus. It’s been exciting to see the steel frame taking shape this week and I’m pleased to report that we are still on schedule to open the building in September 2020.
I hope that you have had the chance to catch up with the latest news from the School on the website or by following the links from the weekly mailing. It’s been a very productive few weeks and I hope the boys enjoy some rest and recuperation over the half-term break.
Letter from the Headmaster, 5 September 2019
5 September 2019
It’s been a great pleasure to welcome the boys back to school this week and to hear about their experiences over the summer. They seem collectively in good heart, refreshed and ready for the new school year.
I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome parents who are new to the School to the Abingdon community. I hope that your sons will be very happy at Abingdon and that you too will feel part of the community. You are very welcome to the many events that take place during the school year – fixtures, concerts, drama productions and so on – and I’d also urge you to take advantage of the great opportunities to meet other parents at events organised by ASPA (our Parents’ Association), Touchliners, the Music Society and the Friends of the Boat Club. I will look forward to getting to know you over the years ahead.
It has been a superb summer for the School with an exciting blend of achievements in the Other Half and in academic life; the hallmark of Abingdon.
We achieved some of our best-ever results in public examinations. Over 30% of A Level results were at A* and just under 70% at A* or A. Over 90% were A*-B. At GCSE, 58% of results were at 9/8 or A* and 87% at 7-9/A-A*. 44 boys in the year group achieved all their results at 9/8/A* and there were some powerful individual stories of endeavour and commitment which allowed boys to achieve results of which they can be very proud. Our new Lower Sixth have certainly established a strong platform for success at A Level. You can see more detail about academic results on the school website.
There were also some wonderful opportunities for the boys in the Other Half over the summer. These included the music tour to Japan and Hong Kong, the CCF Central Camp, the Sixth Form trip to Moldova, sailing at Cowes, shooting at Bisley, the GB rowing trials and the rugby tour to Chile and Argentina. A group of students from Abingdon and St Helen’s also took a production to the Edinburgh Fringe. I’ve received excellent reports of the boys’ conduct on all these trips; they showed themselves to be superb ambassadors for the School. I was also very pleased to see so many pupils taking part in the multi-activity and rowing camps as well as pre-season training for the rugby season.
Work has continued on site on our new building on Faringdon Road. This will be completed by the start of the next academic year in September 2020 and will include facilities for Economics/Business and Computer Science, as well as two day houserooms and a new Reception area and Porters’ Lodge. The zebra crossing on Faringdon Road to the War Memorial pitches has been completed and this will enhance the boys’ safety as they make their way across the road. They have been reminded to take care and also to exercise caution when they use the traffic lights to cross Stratton Way and go into town.
At our beginning of term assembly, I also reminded the boys of the need to use the litter bins around the site as all our rubbish is taken off site for separation and recycling. We are trying to eliminate the use of single-use plastic water bottles in school whenever possible so please encourage your son to bring in a reusable water bottle. There are plenty of water fountains around the school where they can top them up.
We have welcomed a number of new teachers to the School this term and I hope that your sons will enjoy working with them. They are:
Mr Stephen Bates – Rugby Coach
Mrs Maris Elmore – Maths
Mrs Clare Hamilton – Biology
Dr Becca Justice – English
Mr Nick Laws – Boathouse Manager/Rowing Coach
Mr Philip Lowther – Physics
Dr Glyn Meredith – Chemistry
Miss Alix Merrifield – History
Mr Harry Moulder – Physics
Mr Steven Richards – PE
Mr Callum Richardson – Economics/Business
Mrs Behnoosh Sabah – Maths
Mr James Taylor – Physics
A reminder that Mr Morgan has taken on the new role of Director of the Other Half and Mr Donnelly has taken over his day house. Mr Evans, who led the Other Half for over twenty years, has stepped back from full-time teaching but retains a role as Director of Activities.
Finally, I would like to wish you and your families all the very best for the academic year ahead. I will look forward to meeting you over the course of the year.
Letter from the Headmaster, 4 July 2019
4 July 2019
It has been a busy run-up to the end of the academic year and I have enjoyed catching up with parents at the many events that have taken place recently. Lots of pupils have been out and about too, involved in activities ranging from Henley Royal Regatta to Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions, from the cricket festival in Surrey to the music tour to Japan and Hong Kong. I’m looking forward to meeting up with our musicians in Hong Kong this weekend and to spending some time with the parents of some of our Hong Kong-based boarders over the course of next week.
At the Middle School Prize Giving yesterday, I reflected on the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the moon, which will no doubt be dominating the media as the end of July approaches. I spoke about the spirit of curiosity and adventure which informed the mission, a spirit which brings the best out of all of us. I believe it underpins our lives together at Abingdon and it is hugely exciting to see our students engaging so vigorously with the challenges that the curriculum and the Other Half have to offer.
There has been much to savour this year and I’ve enjoyed seeing the progress that has been made; I hope the boys will take collective pride in all that they have done. Many will be involved in school activities over the summer, including the Sixth Form visit to Moldova to undertake teaching and leadership activities with our partners there and the rugby tour to Chile and Argentina. I am sure the boys will make lifelong memories and I look forward to hearing their stories on their return.
A group of upper sixth students from Abingdon and SHSK are also taking a new play called Contact Light to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from 19 to 24 August. If you’re heading that way, do go and support them. Tickets are available here.
While we have held a number of events to mark the departure of our upper sixth leavers over the past weeks, culminating in the Griffen Ball last Saturday, we have also been preparing to welcome the next generation to Abingdon with induction days for new first and third years and boys joining the Sixth Form. Our existing boys had an important role to play hosting these new pupils and I was impressed by the kind and friendly welcome that they offered.
There will be lots of work underway on site over the summer, including the replacement of boilers in Big School which will lead to improved regulation of heat and a higher level of energy efficiency. Work will of course also be continuing on our new building on Faringdon Road, which is scheduled to be completed by September 2020 and which will offer new facilities for two day houserooms, Computer Science and Economics/Business, as well as a Reception area and a new home for the Second Hand Uniform Shop. Happily the work will have limited impact on the rest of the site as the building site is accessed directly from Faringdon Road. We hope too that the final work to complete the zebra crossing across Faringdon Road might take place over the summer and improvements will also be undertaken at the 4G pitch at Tilsley Park. We will soon be hosting our first international event at Tilsley Park when the GB American Football team take on Russia on 19 October!
I am sure that the boys are looking forward to a good break over the summer holiday. I hope that they will seize the opportunity to spend some time reading for pleasure. There are so many benefits to reading. As well as developing vocabulary and understanding, it allows us to escape ourselves, to see the world through different eyes and to develop empathy and broader perspectives. I hope therefore that parents can encourage their sons to make reading part of their holiday plans.
Parents may like to pick up a book I’ve been reading recently called Inventing Ourselves by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, currently Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. It gives a fascinating insight into how the brain develops through adolescence and endeavours to explain some typical behaviours in the teenage years. One of the aspects of my job that I love the most is the opportunity to see how young people change and mature during their school careers and this book explains why that process is so dynamic – and why that change should be celebrated.
Finally, I would like to thank all my colleagues for their commitment and endeavour over the past academic year. I would also like to thank all our parents for their continued support, which is much appreciated.
I look forward to welcoming everyone back to school in September and wish you a restful and happy summer.
Letter from the Headmaster, 23 May 2019
23 May 2019
The School inevitably feels very different now that the Fifth Year and Upper Sixth have departed on study leave. I wish them all the very best with their exams and would remind them that teachers remain on hand if they would like any guidance or support with their revision.
This week has been designated Eco Week and we have focused on questions of sustainability and climate change. This included an excellent forum on Tuesday about climate change which many boys attended, asking some thoughtful questions. As I left the forum, I went to watch the cricket on Upper Field and I couldn’t help noticing a large number of plastic bottles scattered around. As the weather gets warmer and pupils get thirstier, I would encourage every pupil to bring in a reusable bottle so that we can avoid having single-use plastic in school. There are plenty of water fountains around the School where boys can top up their bottles and if everyone could have their own bottle, it would really cut down on our waste.
There’s lots to look forward to in the second half of term as we mark the end of the academic year with concerts, the Lower School ‘Be the Best’ evening, Prize Givings, cricket festivals, Henley and so on. I would particularly like to draw your attention to a new event, a Celebration of the Arts which will take place on Wednesday 19 June from 5 to 8pm. This will be a multi-faceted event, including an exhibition of the work completed for GCSE and A Level Art, poetry readings and drama. There will also be an open-air concert – weather permitting – outside Beech Court, featuring rock and pop music as well as jazz. It will be a great opportunity to hear some of the School’s bands and singer-songwriters. The Arts play such a crucial role in the life of the School, providing a vital outlet for creativity, imagination and emotion, as the recent Lower School production Futures showed, and I am sure the event on 19 June will be a great way to celebrate them.
Many boys also face internal exams during the second half of term. Although these exams are important, we need to keep them in perspective and recognise that they are primarily an opportunity to develop study skills and exam technique, as well as to refresh material covered earlier in the year. There is lots of revision advice available on Firefly and the key message is that simply reading through notes is very rarely effective. Revision needs to be active and I’d urge the boys to use their revision time to make flashcards with which to test themselves, to construct mind-maps, to complete practice questions, and use a program like Quizlet. Each pupil needs to discover what works best for him but the emphasis must be on the active. You might like to read the blog that Sarah Beynon from our Learning Support department recently wrote about revision.
While I hope pupils will spend a suitable amount of time studying over half term, it’s also important that they strike a balance with their other interests and activities, and in particular that they find time for fresh air and exercise. Recent research indicated the beneficial impact that taking part in sport has on academic performance, so I hope pupils are able to give themselves the time to get outside over the half term break.
Finally, I would like to thank you all for your support over this first part of term. I will look forward to catching up with many of you at the events of the second part of term.
Letter from the Headmaster, 28 March 2019
28 March 2019
As I write, the grounds are bathed in spring sunshine as the annual Road Relay comes to a close. This is always one of the highlights of the Abingdon calendar and this year was no exception as we saw a record number of teams participating on the 50th anniversary of the race. The emphasis is very much upon sport for all and it’s heartening to see students cheering one another on as they make their way around the course.
There has been so much to celebrate this term and I would like to congratulate students on their collective commitment to their studies and to the Other Half. It’s a great privilege of my role to be able to drop in and sample what our boys are up to day-by-day and I feel fortunate to be able to revel in the sheer range and diversity of life at Abingdon; be it debating or football, hockey or Young Enterprise, our students show exemplary engagement in everything that the School has to offer.
I have particularly enjoyed seeing boys committing themselves to the activities that we undertake in partnership with local primary and secondary schools. A notable example was the recent Family Science Day that took place in the Yang Science Centre as part of the ATOM Science Festival. A large number of students were involved, conducting experiments and welcoming guests. The Abingdon Science Partnership is just one part (a significant and successful one) of our growing partnership programme which this week included a Humanities day for pupils from six local primary schools. The partnership programme is overseen by Mr Southwell-Sander.
This is the season when we launch the Extended Project Qualification to lower sixth formers. This gives students the opportunity to write an extended piece of work or to produce an artefact related to their A Level studies. The focus is as much on the process as the final product and students are allocated to supervisors who guide them through to completion. I’m excited to be overseeing work in Physics and Psychology this year, which will take me some way away from my specialist subject area, but I’m looking forward to learning much more about black holes and schizophrenia, respectively.
Issues relating to climate change and sustainability have been in the news recently and I continue to work with our eco-committee to address these topics here at Abingdon. Next term we will experiment with a ‘meat-free Monday’ to highlight the impact of western high-protein diets and we are also keen to reduce the amount of single-use plastic that we use in school. We would encourage all students to bring in their own water bottle which can be topped up at one of the many water fountains around the school site. The boys have a long and busy day at school and it is important that they remain hydrated. Using their own water bottles would be an easy way to reduce the amount of waste that we generate.
There are many school trips taking place over the Easter holidays and I wish students and staff all the best with them. Of course the focus for many will be on revision. The key to success is to draw up an achievable revision timetable which allows time for relaxation and exercise alongside study – and then to stick to it. There is plenty of advice available on Firefly, including sample revision timetables. I’d also direct students and parents to a blog about revision recently written by Mrs Beynon from our Learning Support department which is available here.
It will be busy on the school campus over Easter as we get underway with the construction of a new building next to the Yang Science Centre. This building will house the Economics and Business department, as well as Computer Science, and will also provide two day houserooms. It will include a new reception area and the Second Hand Uniform Shop, providing improved access to these facilities both during the school day and out of hours. The building is scheduled for completion by September 2020 and I will ensure parents get regular updates.
You can also find updates on the new facilities and other news items on the school website. Rather than providing a long list of links to news at the end of my letters, we’ve decided to put links to news items in the weekly mailing, together with links to blogs and articles that my colleagues or I have written. You can also follow us on social media if you want more!
I’d like to finish by thanking our parents for the excellent support that you give the School in many different ways. It’s always good to catch up with you on the touchline or at concerts, productions and parents’ evenings and I’m grateful for the collective role that parents play in our community.
I wish you all the very best for Easter and I will look forward to welcoming everyone back to school on Wednesday 24 April.
Letter from the Headmaster, 13 December 2018
13 December 2018
This has certainly been a busy half term for the School and I am very grateful for the fantastic support that you have given us over the past few weeks.
As ever, it’s been a great privilege to witness boys hard at work in lessons and to see their involvement in the many activities and trips that you can read about by following the links below. It seems unfair to mention only one particular item but I would like to emphasise the success of our first ever Abingdon Model United Nations conference, which took place in early December.
This event brought about 150 pupils from nine different schools to Abingdon in order to follow and enact the procedures of the United Nations, and in doing so discussing and debating the key global issues of the day. Different factors combined to make this such a satisfying event. Its planning and organisation were largely driven by Abingdon and St Helen’s students, with the support of members of staff, and pupils chaired the various committees through the day. The level of debate was highly impressive as delegates wrestled with complex issues such as disarmament and the environment and I would like to pay particular tribute to some of our international boarders who spoke with great erudition and fluency; no mean feat in their second language. It was immensely uplifting, at a time of political turmoil and uncertainty, to see young people come together to spend a day engaging with the challenging and controversial issues which face us all.
Congratulations are due to upper sixth former, Alasdair Czaplewski, a founder member of the Model United Nations at Abingdon when he was in the 2nd Year, whose brainchild ‘AbingMUN’ was and who acted as Secretary General for the whole event with great sophistication and clarity.
There were many different ethical issues up for discussion at the Model United Nations conference and everyday school life is full of opportunities to explore our values and discover what is right and wrong. Our programme of assemblies, PSHCE lessons, chapel services and sixth form Mindset lectures and lessons are designed to explore different values and virtues and to emphasise the importance of respect, kindness and courtesy.
By and large, our pupils nurture and embody these values and I am proud of the way they conduct themselves around school and especially when we have visitors, for instance when our Community Service team recently welcomed some older local residents to their Christmas party. From time to time though, young people will, of course, get it wrong. In these cases, it is important that we act with compassion as well as clarity. We need to give pupils the chance to make mistakes – as we all do – as well as the chance to put things right. It is not only events like the Model United Nations or Community Service Christmas Party that gives me faith in the kindness and generosity of spirit of Abingdonians but also the response I see from pupils who might have made a mistake but want to get it right next time.
As part of the reshuffle of departments that was made possible by the completion of Beech Court, my study has moved into Big School and is right next to the chapel. This has meant that I have become increasingly imbued with Christmas spirit as I have heard Advent hymns and choirs rehearsing for our end-of-term services, which promise to be a wonderful way in which to round off the term, along with our traditional dinner for boarders on Thursday night. I also got to see some quite extraordinary Christmas jumpers on Tuesday as part of our fundraising efforts for The Magic Breakfast, a charity that delivers nutritional breakfasts to schools across England and Scotland, ensuring that ‘no child is too hungry to learn’. I’m sure these pullovers will be making an appearance in your homes over the festive season…
Finally, I wish all our families a happy and peaceful Christmas and all the best for 2019. I look forward to welcoming the pupils back to school on Tuesday 8 January.
Outstanding Economics success
Four Arkwright Scholarships won
Senior Team Maths Challenge
Sixth formers lunch with the lords
Physics in Action
Academic scholars visit Oxford
MFL debate at Cheltenham College
ASP shortlisted for Tes Independent School Awards 2019
Lower School: Scrapheap Challenge, Casper Craven, Thinking Supper with St Helen’s, Backpack Challenge, Lunchtime Concert, Inter-tutor group competitions
Beech Court opened by Will Gompertz
Community Christmas Tea Party
Primary Schools’ Business Challenge
Silver DofE canoe practice expedition
Spotlight on Languages – University of Bath
Classics trip to Italy
China – Beijing and Xian
Art trip to Compton Verney
Bellringing Club outing
Geology Day at the Natural History Museum
The Dark Blues train at Abingdon
Boat Club: training in Banyoles, 4’s Head & GB Trials
Cross-country: ESCC Championships Round 1, Abingdon Vale Biathlon, St Albans, Oxford City Schools Championships, ESAA Cup
Rugby: Langley School Festival, U14 tour to Worcestershire, Eton College, U18 NatWest Cup Plate Competition, RGS Guildford, RGS High Wycombe, Senior Rugby Club Dinner
Fencing: International success, Berks, Bucks & Oxon Epee
Rifle Club: Marlborough, Long Range Championship, Small Bore Rifle Competition
Squash: St Edward’s, Radley & National Schools Competition
Sailing: Match racing championships
Chapel Choir sing at the Royal Albert Hall
Festive Music in the Community
Levon Chilingirian masterclass
Joint Choral Society Festival of Remembrance
Senior Solo Instrumental Competition
Solo concert platform 2
Harry the Piano workshop