Letter from the Headmaster, 12 October 2017

12 October 2017

Dear Parents, Colleagues, Governors and Boys of Abingdon,

I write this letter with the sound of House Singing fresh in my ears… It was wonderful to see every single pupil gathered to enjoy this communal activity, some of which was notably ambitious and of a high standard. House singing is a great institution in our annual calendar. It’s good to see some of the boys who might not be the most enthusiastic singers taking part so vigorously and a particular pleasure is seeing the musicians in each House taking on significant responsibility in leading the various ensembles.

There have been many highlights over the first half of term and you can read about some of them below. We’ve been very pleased with the way in which our new pupils have settled into school life. They are clearly making the most of the opportunities at Abingdon and they bring notable talent, energy and commitment to the School.

At the start of term, we launched our new Foundation Development Plan which sets a direction for the next five years. The plan articulates a determination to build upon the School’s traditions and recent successes in order to make it even better and to ensure that our pupils are able to benefit from a wholly exceptional education. It is therefore underpinned by a powerful sense of ambition and a shared determination to make the School the very best it can be.

The plan starts with an updated statement of our Aims and Ethos which you can read below. I hope you will be able to identify with this statement of our aspirations for the School.

The development plan is quite lengthy and detailed but the headlines are as follows:

  • Teaching and Learning: We will continue to employ a rigorous and focused approach to teaching and learning that ensures the highest standards from teachers and pupils alike, with a sustained focus on professional development so that our staff continue to develop and improve.
  • Pastoral care: We endorse our continued commitment to the House system as a structure that ensures individual care for pupils throughout their school career and helps them make informed choices while supporting them as they deal with issues relating, for example, to mental health and the use of technology.
  • Other Half: This is already a particular strength of Abingdon but we want to ensure that we invest in the right staff and facilities to sustain and build further achievements in this area.
  • Staff engagement and development: We will create the conditions that allow us to recruit and then develop the very best staff, resulting in an elite team of teachers and support staff.
  • Building the Foundation: We want to further the strong partnership with Abingdon Prep School and to ensure that the Prep School has the investment to continue to provide an exceptional education.

Six further areas are highlighted for attention:

  • Sixth Form: All pupils should see the Sixth Form as an exciting step into a new educational experience. As we prepare to move into new facilities in Beech Court, we will create a sense of opportunity and build on our existing strengths to ensure an innovative, challenging and dynamic experience.
  • Boarding: Our boarding community is a valuable part of the make-up of our school. We will improve the boarding experience by investing in facilities, improving communication between school and home and by ensuring that provision, from food to the enrichment programme, is of the highest standard.
  • Collaboration with St Helen and St Katharine: While we recognise the advantages provided by a single-sex education, we aim to ensure that we do offer the best of both worlds by developing meaningful partnerships with St Helen and St Katharine that give pupils from both schools greater opportunities to study, plan and socialise with pupils of both genders.
  • Bursaries: We will put in place strong bursary provision that allows a healthy social mix in the School while also taking into account issues around affordability.
  • Facilities: We will draw up a masterplan for the development of Abingdon School, Abingdon Prep and Tilsley Park over the next five years that will be based firmly in the educational priorities for the Foundation.
  • Partnerships: We will build upon recent successes such as our partnership with Fitzharrys and the Abingdon Science Partnership to improve our outreach programme and strengthen our links with the local community. 

This is a very brief summary of the development plan. Parents will see progress across all these sectors and I will focus on different areas in my regular letters to you to explain in more detail our aspirations and how we plan to go about fulfilling them. In all that we do, I aim to pursue an open and meaningful collaboration with parents so that you have all the information you need about your son’s progress and are able to make informed choices at the various stages in his education.

I certainly valued parents’ responses to the parental survey last year which has informed some of the areas chosen for development above. You may recall that the quality and quantity of food did not score as strongly as other areas in responses to that survey. Our caterers have been working very hard to address this after running a substantial consultation exercise at the end of last term. At a recent School Council meeting, pupils were very positive about the improvement that they had seen, while also making some useful suggestions. I know the caterers really do welcome feedback from the boys themselves - both positive and negative - and I hope they will pass on comments to the duty manager.

I wish all our pupils and their families a restful and enjoyable break over half term.

Best wishes

Michael Windsor

The Abingdon Foundation – Aims and Ethos

Though proud of its considerable successes, Abingdon enjoys a down-to-earth atmosphere that stems from being a school that knows itself well, does not seek to be what it is not and eschews the flashy, the false and the arrogant. There is a constant eye on innovation to reflect the needs of a rapidly-changing world but the school is also careful not to dispense with the traditional where tried and tested practice proves still to be the most effective.

While Abingdon is certainly academically selective and vigorously promotes the life of the mind, academic achievement is far from being the sole criterion either for entry or for success whilst at the school. The choice of title for our formidable extra-curricular programme – the Other Half – symbolises the importance to the school of nurturing well-rounded boys and our belief that the development of their skills and characters is of equal importance with their academic progress and achievements.

We offer exceptional facilities but recognise that the success of the Foundation rests upon the quality of our staff, so we recruit and develop highly qualified colleagues of diverse talents and strong commitment. We value our powerful links with the wider community and nourish them through active and effective partnerships; this includes our commitment to keeping access to an Abingdon education as wide as possible.

Underpinning all that the school does is a remarkably strong pastoral system. The house and tutor structure anchors day boys and boarders alike with a powerful sense of belonging and ensures they are known individually and feel genuinely and personally supported by a range of people in their journey towards adulthood.

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