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
Abingdon Science Partnership
Letter from the Headmaster, 8 November 2018
Thursday 8 November 2018
On Friday 9 November we will be marking Remembrance at Abingdon. We will hold services and assemblies and then gather at 11am in front of Big School, where the Combined Cadet Force will parade and we will share two minutes of silence.
The Combined Cadet Force will also be represented at the service in St Helen’s Church, Abingdon, at 10am on Sunday 11 November, after which they will form part of the parade to the town war memorial for a short service at 11am. There will also be a joint concert of music and readings at St Helen’s and St Katharine’s, starting at 7pm, where the Joint Choral Society will perform Mozart’s extraordinary Requiem. Tickets are free and can be obtained here. There will be a retiring collection in support of the Poppy Appeal.
This evening, 8 November, at 7pm in the Amey Theatre our senior drama scholars will tell the story of the Great War, as experienced by the Abingdon School community. It is told in a selection of readings drawn from the School's archive, supported by photographs, images and music to evoke the experience of a school community as it attempts to make sense of events unfolding in France and beyond. This is a free event; no booking is necessary and all are welcome. Our History department will also be giving a lecture at the end of the school day, today, on the local history of the Great War.
Remembrance is always a powerful and poignant occasion and of course this year we mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice and the end of the Great War. A memorial in the School Chapel lists the names of Abingdon pupils and staff who died in the First and Second World Wars and it is always enormously moving to read the names and reflect on their sacrifice. It is extraordinary to reflect on the sheer number of names on the memorial; the School was far smaller than it is today. Parents may be interested to read more about Abingdon during the First World War on our archive pages on the website. This includes a remarkable photo of 21 members of the Boat Club, taken in March 1914. By the end of the war, nine of those had been killed.
An Abingdon parent has made a powerful short film focusing on the four boys who made up the 1st crew in 1914 and their coach; three of the crew and the coach perished in the Great War. It intercuts narrative about the boys and their teacher with footage of our Boat Club today, reminding us of just how young the combatants were who went off to war, and how terrible the effect of their demise must have been on their families and the school community. You can view the film on the school website.
The School’s archivist, Sarah Wearne, has also recently finished work on a book that records the war memorials in schools like Abingdon up and down the country. It is fascinating to see how different schools of differing faiths and traditions have remembered their fallen. Seeing these memorials together reminds us of the need to continue to remember those who came before us and gave so much, and also challenges us to ensure that future generations are raised in the ways of justice and peace. We will share details of the book once it has been published.
Letter from the Headmaster, 11 October 2018
11 October 2018
One of my personal highlights of a busy first half of term was the sponsored walk, which saw the entire school take part in a ten-mile outing along the banks of the Thames. The event raised money for two important charities, Crisis UK, supporting homeless people in the UK, and Mary’s Meals, which gives a meal to over a million chronically hungry children every day. We were blessed with perfect weather and it was great to spend the day with various groups of pupils who were all excellent company. I particularly enjoyed walking part of the course with some of our third year boarders who were experiencing the Thames Valley countryside – and a ten-mile walk – for the very first time. The next charitable initiative will be the home clothes day on Friday 12 October, when boys are invited to make a suggested donation of £2, to raise funds for the support of victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia.
The spirit of service is a key part of the Abingdon ethos. A powerful expression of this is our long-standing partnership with Moldova which sees sixth formers visiting this country, the poorest in Europe, to assist in a school and then run a summer camp for Moldovan children. But there is also plenty going on closer to home. The Third Year Service scheme currently involves about 135 pupils, while Community Service is a popular Other Half option which involves pupils visiting local old people’s homes, organising a board game club in a local community centre and volunteering at Abingdon Community Hospital. Our end-of-term parties for local senior residents are always particularly popular and well-attended events. Other key parts of the Other Half such as CCF and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award have strong elements of service at their heart and it was good to hear stories of our current Lower Sixth taking part in the National Citizen Service over the summer. It is crucial for the successful education of our pupils that we remain outward-looking and aware of the wider society in which we live, and conscious of the part that we can play to make our society better.
Our pupils also give significant service to the School including at our recent Open Day, for which I am very grateful. We welcomed a record number of visitors and the pupils did a fantastic job of showing them round. Many of our guests commented on how impressed they had been by the boys.
Beech Court was very well received by our open day visitors. The new library has been a hive of activity since September, with younger pupil librarians learning the ropes from their older counterparts, while groups of journalists beaver away on the next round of publications like The Abingdonian, The Martlet and Words and That.
As ever at Abingdon, there is no shortage of highlights to reflect upon, even from a comparatively short half of term. We were treated to some magnificent piano playing at the inaugural outing for the new Steinway piano in the Amey Theatre, where I also recently enjoyed some outstanding academic presentations from middle school pupils. The topics were certainly diverse, ranging from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia to dissociative disorders, from the Black Death to the rise of populism. A presentation on the history of the atom confirmed to me that my understanding is probably situated in about 1850… I certainly have work to do to catch up with quantum mechanics.
Our rugby players have dealt admirably with the frustrations of overly dry and tough pitches, and have put in some committed and courageous performances. I hope you’ll enjoy reading more about the highlights of the term by following the links below.
The formal opening of Beech Court will take place on 9 November although of course pupils and staff have been enjoying use of the building since the start of term. We have also submitted planning permission for a new building that will be known as Faringdon Lodge and will occupy the site next to the Yang Science Centre, where the (temporary) Porters’ Lodge is currently situated. This building will include two larger houserooms as well as a home for Economics and Business and the Computer Science department. It will provide improved Reception facilities, as well as a new home for the Second Hand Uniform Shop. If permission is given, we hope to begin development during the later stages of this academic year, with a view to opening the building in September 2020. I hope to be able to share plans for this building with parents at forthcoming parents’ evenings and school events.
I also wanted to take this opportunity to share some exciting news from our catering team. A new executive head chef, Steve Unwin, has just joined the School and he will be managing all food production within Abingdon School and Abingdon Prep. He brings a wealth of experience and culinary knowledge. He joins us from Chateau Impney, a luxury hotel, wedding venue and exhibition centre in Worcestershire, where he spent five years as Executive Head Chef. His extensive CV also includes time as Executive Chef at Malvern College. His focus will be to review our current offer, implement menus that contain good, hearty and nutritious meals and build a strong culinary team in both schools. We are also joined by Ewa Jankwoska who will be focusing on patisserie, desserts, baking and so on. Ewa’s previous employment includes the Gourmet Handcrafted Cake Company, Hilton Hotels and the Ox and Finch in Glasgow, where she was senior pastry chef. We can look forward to some wonderful puddings!
There is a wide variety of trips and visits taking place over the half-term break and I wish all the best to pupils and staff taking part in them. Indeed, I wish everyone in the Abingdon community an enjoyable break and look forward to welcoming everyone back, refreshed and re-energised, for the second half of term on Monday 29 October.
First years’ first impressions
Staff and students enjoy whole school sponsored walk
Pupils celebrate National Poetry Day
Eleven films debut at AFU annual screening
CCF walk, run, cycle, swim and row 1253km
Lower School – Be the Best You Can Be 2018/19 Launch, Team Building & Rugby, Lower School Assistants on duty
Dr Ben Still talks particle physics to the Sixth Form
Fourth year aspiring engineers visit Crofton Beam Engine
Pre Senior Baccalaureate Philosophy Conference
Moldova project update
National Schools Croquet Championship
Abingdon Science Partnership
Ogden Trust's Abingdon Primary Science Partnership
Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine Podcast
OA Carl Olaveson inspires Science Ambassadors
Royal Society Partnership Grant
Primary School Inspiration Day
Rugby – Colston and Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Cranleigh; Craighouse on tour from Chile; Caldicott Prep, Abingdon Prep; Berkhamsted; Oratory Prep, Sherborne
Cross-country – Abingdon Relays, Longworth 10km
Badminton – Harrow & Oratory, Cheltenham College
Sailing Training at Farmoor
Letter from the Headmaster, 6 September 2018
6 September 2018
I hope all our families had an enjoyable and restful summer. It has been great to welcome pupils back to school this week and I’ve enjoyed hearing their stories of the holidays. Many boys have been involved in school trips and I have heard nothing but positive reports about their conduct and attitude. I’ve been delighted to see so many pupils involved in pre-season training too and I am grateful to parents who have made travel arrangements to ensure that they could take part.
I would like to extend a particular welcome to parents who are new to the School. I hope you will soon feel part of the Abingdon community and that you will be able to take advantage of the opportunities to support your son, be it at concerts, drama productions or sports fixtures. I would also recommend strongly the activities of our Parents’ Association, as well as the Music Society, Touchliners, the Friends of the Boat Club, and the other organisations which exist to strengthen the bonds of community here at Abingdon.
We have welcomed a number of new teachers to the School and I wish them every happiness and success in their new posts. I am sure you will enjoy meeting them during the course of the year.
It has been a particularly busy summer on the school site and we have completed some significant projects. We were delighted to be able to show first year boys and their parents round Beech Court on their induction day, and we are looking forward to showing all of you this wonderful building soon. It’s been great to see the boys settling into the new accommodation this week, and this building, which houses the Art department, the Library and the Sixth Form, is proving to be a fantastic addition to our site. There are some lovely photos of the boys enjoying the new facilities on the website.
We are equally excited about the significant refurbishment that has taken place in Big School and Mercers’ Court, with over 40 classrooms being upgraded into light, airy spaces with improved acoustics. I believe this will have a palpable effect on the quality of learning and I hope the pupils enjoy the feel of these spaces. A number of departments have moved their location around the School and my office has moved too, and can now be found next to the Chapel on the first floor of Big School. Work is ongoing round the Amey Theatre as Music and Drama expand into the space left vacant since Art moved into Beech Court.
The latter stages of the summer break also saw results days for GCSE and A Level candidates. I would like to extend my congratulations to our lower sixth students on their fine achievements at GCSE. Abingdon pupils were taking on a number of new specifications for the first time, which included a number of subjects based on the new 9-1 grading scheme. They responded to these challenges impressively, and it was encouraging to see that nearly 40% of our results in numerical subjects came in at 9, effectively an A**. Our leavers celebrated some outstanding outcomes at A Level, with just under two-thirds of all results coming in at either A* or A and well over a quarter of all results A*. This has enabled the leavers to move on to a very exciting range of options, including 21 who have places at Oxford or Cambridge. Full details of GCSE and A Level results are available at www.abingdon.org.uk/academic_results and university destinations at www.abingdon.org.uk/university_destinations.
When I addressed pupils at the very start of term, I spoke to them about the importance of establishing a strong routine for themselves, one that allows a healthy balance between their studies, the Other Half and family and social life. I know only too well the challenge of getting going again after the summer break but I hope that the pupils will find plenty of support and advice available to them in school as they strive for that balance. Their tutors have a key role to play in this process and I would also remind parents that tutors are available as the first point of contact if there is anything that you would like to talk over with the School. Our recommended method of communication is email but please do be aware that teachers will often be teaching during the day and therefore will not be able to reply immediately. Our staff work very hard but also need to achieve a healthy balance between work and home life, so emails sent in the evening are unlikely to receive a response till the next day. You can be confident though that we will take any concerns seriously and act swiftly to resolve them.
There is much to look forward to in the year ahead and I am confident that your sons will quickly settle into the rhythms and routines of the academic year. I look forward to catching up with you over the coming months and I wish you all the best for 2018-19.