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.