Letters from the Headmaster

11 October 2018

Dear Parents

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.

Best wishes

Michael Windsor

News

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

Boarders

Getting to know Oxford
Blackwell adventure
Abingdon Orientation
Murder Mystery
Football v Warwick

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

Music

Steinway Piano Inaugural Concert

Sport

Rugby – Colston and Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Cranleigh; Craighouse on tour from Chile; Caldicott Prep, Abingdon PrepBerkhamsted; Oratory Prep, Sherborne
Cross-country – Abingdon Relays, Longworth 10km
Badminton - Harrow & Oratory, Cheltenham College
Sailing Training at Farmoor

6 September 2018

Dear Parents

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.

Best wishes

Michael Windsor
Headmaster

News from the summer:

Trips

Madagascar Biology Field Trip
Moldova - volunteering
Sailing in Greece
Second years try zorbing
Costa Rica - trekking and conservation

Sport

Football – Gothia Cup
Sailing – pre-season training
National swimming success
 

4 July 2018

Dear Parents

The last few weeks have seen the School come together for a range of enjoyable events with which to end the academic year. The Prize-giving and Griffen Ball marked the final farewell to our Leavers who we look forward to welcoming back as OAs in the future. There have been many trips and visits taking place recently too and a number of excellent music events for us to attend. It has also been a good term for sport and we all look forward to Henley Regatta taking place this week, and wish our rowers all the very best.

The final completion of Beech Court is now imminent, and we will welcome all parents to view the new building when we return in September. The building will be officially opened on Friday 9 November, and we are delighted to announce that the guest of honour that day will be Will Gompertz, the BBC Arts editor.  Over the holidays there will be substantial refurbishment of parts of the school vacated with the move to the new building, so facilities will be refreshed and renewed for the new school year. My thanks to the Estates Team who will be working very hard throughout the summer on this project.

We say farewell at the end of term to a number of teachers who are moving on. Mrs Downer, Miss McCutcheon and Mrs Lord are moving to new schools; Mr Mason is returning to Cokethorpe School as Head of eLearning; Mr Cotton is moving to Portsmouth Grammar School to be Assistant Director of Music; and Mr Hallinan will be Head of History at Winchester. Mrs King, Mrs Mansfield, Mrs Wigmore and Dr May are retiring after many years’ service to the school. Mr Moody is leaving us to become a team vicar in Somerset. I am very grateful for the excellent service that these colleagues have given to Abingdon.

There has been a great deal of collective endeavour over the past term and I am sure pupils will be ready for rest and relaxation over the summer. I am all in favour of this, and I hope pupils will take the opportunity to read, exercise, and generally refresh themselves in every way during the holiday. Many boys have been on study leave for some time of course, and I wish them all the best for GCSE and A level results later in August.

It is a great privilege to lead this school and I am looking forward to another exciting year in 2018-19. I wish all Abingdon families a wonderful summer.

Best wishes

Michael Windsor

News since Half Term

Trips

Music

Sport

24 May 2018

Dear Parents

This is a rather unusual time of year for the School as our normal rhythms are disrupted by the departure of year groups on study leave and public examinations.

Last Friday the Upper Sixth had their last day of formal teaching when they were welcomed into the Old Abingdonian Club and enjoyed their final Chapel service together. The leavers had selected their three all-time favourite hymns and almost lifted the roof off with the volume of their singing. Seeing them gathered in the Chapel gave me a great opportunity to reflect on the significant contribution that these pupils have made to so many different areas of school life. It is the real strength of Abingdon that pupils can achieve a balance between high levels of academic achievement and meaningful engagement in the Other Half in an atmosphere of mutual respect and support. I wish our leavers all the very best for the A Level exams and am delighted that many of them will continue their involvement in wider school life over the coming weeks, be it on the water, on the cricket pitch or through music, with our summer concert to look forward to on Thursday 28 June.

I am also experiencing a public examination season from the perspective of a parent for the first time as my daughter is tackling her GCSEs this summer. I hope this has given me an even better perspective of what the pupils - and also the parents - are going through! I hope too that the pupils continue to be able to achieve a healthy balance between revision and other activities and that they enjoy their Work Experience when they come to it once their exams are over.

I am pleased to be able to report that we have now completed our staffing for September and I am delighted that we have a strong team in place for the coming academic year. There are too many changes to list here but many parents will be aware that we have appointed Mr Southwell-Sander to the position of Partnerships Director. This reflects our growing commitment to a programme of partnerships with maintained primary and secondary schools and the wider community which is of great mutual benefit to both pupils and members of staff. We have also recruited a very strong team of Assistants to support Mrs Reading in her role as Director of Teaching and Learning. This team will help us keep focused on pedagogy and ensure that we are doing all that we can to improve pupil learning.

We also want to ensure that we provide an optimal environment in which pupils can flourish. We are moving towards completion of the Beech Court project and indeed we hope to start showing pupils round the new building towards the end of term. We are also scheduling opportunities for parents to visit in the first half of the Michaelmas term. The new building will allow a significant reshuffle of departments around the School. Work on this will start over half term.

I hope you will enjoy the many highlights of this half term - please follow the links below to find out more.

I look forward to seeing you during the many events that will take place towards the end of term but for now I wish you a very happy half term.

Best wishes

Michael Windsor

News

Leavers’ day
CCF Biennial Inspection
Race For The Line Regional Final
Chess Megafinal
Moldova Project fundraising
YE teams win awards at County Final
Lower School Assistants at work
Boarders: Cinema trip
Exciting new workshops for ASP

Trips

Lower sixth biology field trip to Wales
DofE: Gold practice expedition in Snowdonia, Bronze practice expedition on Boars Hill

Music

Solo Concert platform No 5

Sport

U15A County Cricket Champions
Oxfordshire Schools’ Golf Championships
Independent Schools Football Association representation
Croquet: Portsmouth Grammar, Winchester and Radley
Athletics: Achilles Relays, Marlborough, Radley Relays, Multi Event
Cricket: Pre-season in Barbados, Reading Blue Coat & Stowe, Warwick, Cheltenham College
Rowing: Boat Club BASHER, Wallingford Regatta
Tennis update

26 April 2018

Dear Parents

It was good to welcome pupils back to school earlier this week and I hope that they and you were able to have a good break over Easter.

I am conscious that for many families the holidays involved revision for internal or external exams. I do hope though that your sons were able to achieve a good balance between work and relaxation. This sense of balance between academic commitments and the Other Half is key to life at Abingdon and I encourage pupils to sustain involvement in the Other Half through the exam period whenever possible. With effective planning, boys should be able to find time for leisure and relaxation alongside their study, and I would particularly recommend finding time for fresh air and exercise when revising or recovering from examinations.

The exam period can be a stressful time for pupils and parents alike. The staff are on hand to offer support and guidance and I would urge your son to seek advice if he is having difficulties with revision or exams; likewise, I hope parents will not hesitate to get in touch if you have concerns. Support may well come from your son’s tutor, Housemaster or a particular subject teacher but we also have a team of counsellors on hand who can offer support with a greater sense of detachment from day-to-day school life. The boys can make appointments with the counsellors through the Medical Centre. It is not unusual for pupils to feel anxious during the exam season but I hope they do not feel that they have to deal with this on their own.

I would also want to reassure our pupils that they will have been very well prepared for their examinations. Collectively they can be proud of the way they have got on with their work over the course of the year to make sure they are ready for the challenges to come.

We were delighted as we started the new term to hear that the School had been shortlisted for the Times Educational Supplement Community and Collaboration Award for 2018, reflecting the work of the Abingdon Science Partnership. Many pupils volunteer their time to support the Science Partnership, as do our staff, and I hope they will take pride in this nomination; it’s a great achievement.

There was considerable activity on site over the Easter break as the Beech Court project reaches its conclusion. Once the Sixth Form, library and Art department move into Beech Court, this will trigger a significant reshuffle of other departments as we make the best use of the liberated space to provide better opportunities to pupils. We will ensure that parents have the opportunity to explore our new facilities early in the coming academic year.

It was great to see so many pupils involved with school trips over the holiday too. I’ve been delighted to see emails and comments from members of the public who were staying in the same accommodation as our pupils commending them on their courtesy and conduct.

I am looking forward to the Foundation photograph on Monday (30 April) which will bring together all the pupils and staff from Abingdon and Abingdon Prep School. It really should be quite a sight and a great opportunity to celebrate the fellowship across the Foundation - so let’s hope the weather is kind…

I wish everyone all the best for the term ahead and I look forward to catching up with you at the many events of the coming weeks.

Best wishes

Michael Windsor

News from the Easter Holiday

Andy Ibbot inspires second years to “be the best you can be
Boat Club trains in Bordeaux​
CCF Easter Camp
International Biology Olympiad Finalist
ASP shortlisted for prestigious Tes awards 2018
Silver DofE sailing expedition - Plymouth
Fourth Year French exchange to Aix-en-Provence
First Year residential trip to PGL Liddington
Second Year explore Plas Pencelli
Strong windsurfing performance

28 March 2018

Dear Parents

I am writing this having just watched a number of Abingdon teams give their presentations in the Young Enterprise Area Finals in the Amey Theatre. I was impressed by the quality of the presentations, as boys spoke with considerable confidence and poise in outlining the development of their campaigns. I also enjoyed the fact that teams were able to reflect maturely and frankly on what had not gone so well.

Their admission that they had got things wrong sometimes was refreshing. In a high-achieving school like Abingdon, pupils can often give the impression that success comes effortlessly. I hope though that the School can also be an environment where the boys can be honest about their difficulties and not be afraid to admit when they got it wrong. It’s no secret that the most lasting and profound successes can grow out of our biggest failures. I hope our pupils can learn to fail in a supportive environment like Abingdon where there will be someone around to pick up the pieces and help them get back on track.

The Lent term is a busy time of recruitment for schools. We look forward to welcoming to Abingdon the pupils who have successfully progressed through this term’s 11+ and 16+ processes and who will join us in September.

We have also been busy ensuring that our staffing will be in place for September. I will give you a full rundown of all the moves in a future letter but I thought you might be interested in three posts which will be new to Abingdon next year.

Mr Gooding will move from his current position as Middle Master to the new role of Head of Wellbeing. He will oversee our programme of Personal Development which includes the PSHCE curriculum and the Mindsets programme in the Sixth Form but he will more importantly be a champion for wellbeing - in the broadest sense - for all members of the school community. Although we are conscious of the pressures on young people today, we want pupils to emerge from school with the ability to bounce back from difficulty and with the sense of joy that should be a natural part of growing up. We want to work with parents as we seek to help our pupils and we look forward to collaborating with you in this area.

Another new appointment sees Mr Southwell-Sander standing down as Housemaster to take over the new position of Partnerships Director. Although he will be much missed by pupils and parents in his House, Mr Southwell-Sander will have the task of giving our burgeoning partnerships programme renewed focus and direction. There have been exciting developments in this area in recent years in Abingdon through initiatives such as our partnership with Fitzharrys School and the Abingdon Science Partnership and I have been delighted to see our pupils contributing so much and working so effectively with children from other local schools. This will be an exciting new role for Mr Southwell-Sander and I have no doubt that he will achieve substantial developments.

Finally, we have appointed a team of four Assistant Directors of Teaching and Learning to support Mrs Reading, our Director of Teaching and Learning. Alongside their subject teaching, this team will support our mission to ensure the highest possible standards of teaching and learning at Abingdon, providing support, on-going training and challenge, while also encouraging creativity and innovation. The team will help ensure that we benefit from the latest educational research, while resisting fads and bandwagons, and ultimately help ensure Abingdon is a place where there is a real buzz about learning.

During the course of the term, considerable progress has been made on the Beech Court project and pupils can now get a real sense of the scale and look of the building as the hoarding around the cafe has now come down. We are on track for completion of this building late in the summer term which means that the summer break will be a particularly busy one as we shuffle departments to make the best possible use of the space that will be freed up. We will look forward to showing parents round the new building in September.

At the end of this letter, you will find links to news items which capture the highlights of this relatively short but busy term. The pupils have shown fortitude and resilience in coping with some unusual weather and I would like to congratulate them on their collective enthusiasm and endurance.

I am aware that our Upper Sixth and Fifth Year pupils have public exams on the horizon. I wish them all the best with their revision and urge them to plan the remaining weeks carefully so that they can also make time for rest, fresh air and exercise.

I hope the weather might be a little kinder as the School breaks up for Easter and I wish all Abingdon families a happy and restful holiday.

Best wishes

Michael Windsor

News

Institute of Engineering & Technology's Faraday Challenge
Oxford University Telescope Evening
UKMT Team Challenge Regional Final Winners
Model United Nations Lent update, Haileybury Conference
Sixth form physicists Blott Matthews Engineering Challenge
World Poetry Day
Rocket car racers
YE success at Banbury Trade Fair
Chess: National Schools’ Chess Championship Egham, Reading Blue Coat, Regional Final, Wellington College Tournament, Knockout Tournament Finals
AS Physics Olympiad
GCSE Drama
Lower School: Quiz Night, Lunchtime concert, Inter-Tutor Hockey
Sixth form artists explore paint
AFU Tutors win BAFTA
Gardening Club
Re-enacting the Battle of Hastings
ASP: ATOM Science Festival, British Science Week, Primarily Science Club - magnetic slime
Fitzharrys Partnership: Science lessons
Primary School Pottery Throwdown
Community Service: Old Station House, Easter Tea Party
Boarders: cookery - hot dogs, parsnip crisps, Easter nests, football and pizza social, gifts for Older and Bolder

Trips

Third years to Seville
Spanish exchange visit Abingdon
Half term skiing in Saint Gervais
German exchange to Bielefeld
Boarders explore London
Second years at Aquae Sulis
Physicists tour BMW Mini factory
Second years visit the Satellite Applications Catapult
Compton Verney art gallery

Music

Ben Schoeman masterclass
Singers’ Platform
Evensong at Dorchester Abbey
Intermediate Solo Competition
Solo Concert Platform
Choral Concert

Sport

Rugby Sevens: Warwick, Wellington, Caldicott, Charlie Atkinson plays for Wasps, Berkhamsted
Football: Our Lady’s, Dragon/Haileybury, Bedford Modern/Cheltenham College, Abingdon Prep/St John's Leatherhead, OA Football
Hockey: Internationals Coaching, Cheltenham College/New College, Wellington/St Georges 6s/DragonU13 regionalsBradfieldMCS
Rowing: Winter Heads, Junior Inter-Regional National Regatta
Swimming: Abingdon Sprints, Bath and Otter Cup
Squash Nationals Competition
East Midlands Open Racketlon
Merlyn Bowling Machine
Gold at Taekwondo English Open
Public Schools Fencing Championships
English Schools National Cross-country Championships

8 February 2018

Dear Parents, Colleagues, Governors and Boys of Abingdon,

It has been a short first half of term but there has certainly been plenty packed into it. I have been very grateful for parents’ support, whether braving the cold supporting rowing, hockey or football or relishing some wonderful drama and music both here and at St Helen and St Katharine’s. The (relatively) dry weather has allowed continued good progress on the Beech Court project and gradually the scaffolding is coming down to allow us the first good view of the building. We remain on track to move into the new facilities in time for the new academic year in September.

This has been a busy few weeks for the Admissions department as we have recently sent out offers to 11+ entrants for September following their exam in January. I would like to express my thanks to all the older pupils who have assisted on the assessment day and with tours for prospective pupils. They play a very significant role in welcoming visitors to the School and in particular in calming the nerves of some apprehensive candidates and I am grateful to them for giving up their time to assist.

Parents are no doubt aware that Tuesday 6 February marked the centenary of women receiving the right to vote in the UK. We have been considering this milestone in tutor groups and across the school and it has been a valuable opportunity for pupils to reflect more widely on the changing role of women in society. This forms an important part of our Personal, Social, Citizenship and Health Education programme, where boys are also challenged to consider changing models of masculinity. I thought the following article contained some interesting reflections on how the rights and roles of women have changed over the past century and you may want to discuss these issues with your son: How far have women’s rights advanced in a century?

We have also recently marked Safer Internet Day, which was an excellent opportunity to remind pupils throughout the School of the do’s and don’ts of the online world. More information is available here and I hope again this might be a trigger for conversations at home.

There are further links below which describe many more of the highlights of the term, including an update on university offers for our upper sixth boys who will be taking their mocks after half term.

I wish them all the best with their revision and I hope that they will also find some time for rest and relaxation over the coming week. I also wish all Abingdon families a restful few days before term recommences on 19 February.

Best wishes

Michael Windsor
Headmaster

News

University places update
Sixth former wins GCHQ prize
Top marks in British Physics Olympiads
Spanish Pre U visit Barcelona
Ultimate Triathlete inspires
Visit to T.S. Eliot Prize
History Society victors
Big Physics Quiz
National Schools Chess Championships
Young Enterprise trade at Templar Square
Boarders meet the guinea pigs
Chinese New Year with St Helen’s
Professor Michael Duff explores M-theory
Primary Schools enjoy MFL
Science Live with Professor Robert Winston
Senior Team Maths Challenge - 17th out of 1300 national teams
A Level Chemistry Live

Drama

A Matter of life and Death
Before Sunrise
Fiddler on the Roof

Music

Internationally acclaimed Fitzroy Quartet coach ensembles
New Year Charity Concert

Sport

Football: Berkhamsted, Corinthian Casuals, MCS, U15 County Cup, Hampton, Reading
Hockey: St Edward’s, Stowe, St Hugh’s, U16 County Tournament, Eton, New College, U12 & U13 County Championships, Marlborough
Cross-country: Lower School, Knole run, Abingdon 10km, Abingdon Cross-country run, Country Championships, Wellington relays
Lower School swimming gala
Rugby: Sevens, Wasps
Rowing update
Canoe polo

Abingdon Science Partnership 

Primarily Science
Woodstock
Ocean Grabbers

11 January 2018

Dear Parents, Colleagues, Governors and Boys of Abingdon,

I hope all Abingdon families were able to enjoy a restful and peaceful break over Christmas. I think it’s still early enough in the year to wish everyone all the very best for 2018.

It was good to welcome pupils back to school earlier this week. They were remarkably cheerful considering the gloomy weather but I hope they are excited about the term ahead and the many opportunities that will be available to them. A good number of pupils were involved with school trips and events over the holiday and please do have a look at the links below to learn more about what has been going on.

Work continued on the Beech Court project over the holiday. I visited the site just before Christmas and can confirm that our contractors are making excellent progress and the building is really beginning to take shape. We believe that the new building will not only offer advantages to the Sixth Form, the Library and the Art department, all of whom will be housed there from September, but to the rest of the School as well as space will be freed up elsewhere on the school site. This will allow us to expand the Music and Drama departments in the Amey Theatre complex, as well as providing more space for day house rooms, which will give better bases where pupils can work, socialise and - importantly - store their kit. I will also be moving my office into Big School from its current location on the edge of the site and I look forward to being nearer to the heart of the action.

The teaching staff launched the new term by sharing a day of professional development with the staff from the School of St Helen and St Katharine. This was a great opportunity to focus on approaches to teaching and learning with our SHSK colleagues and the day included time for departments to compare practice in their respective subjects. There were also opportunities for staff to discuss areas in which our two schools could collaborate more effectively, with a particular focus on projects where pupils can work together, and I expect to build upon those discussions over the course of the year.

Parents may be familiar with the Good Schools Guide and indeed may have used it to inform their choice of school. The Guide recently visited us so that they could update their report and this should be available soon. We will inform parents when the new report is published and I hope you enjoy reading it.

We welcome a small number of new staff to the School. Mr Adam Hepworth joins us as our new Head of Economics while Mr Adam Simmons will be a temporary member of the English department. Mr Charles Cousins has been appointed as an Assistant Rowing Coach and he will also be undertaking boarding duties in Austin House.

There is a tremendous amount happening in the short space of time before half term so I look forward to meeting parents on the touchline/riverbank or at concerts or drama productions over the next few weeks. There are a number of parents’ evenings too and I will look forward to talking to you then. Do keep a close eye on the weekly mailings for updates and further information.

Finally, I wish all Abingdon families the very best for the term ahead.

Kind regards

Michael Windsor

News

Physicists explore CERN, hydroelectrics, the observatory and the Swiss Plasma centre in Geneva.
Austin House ski trip
Top marks in Physics Olympiad

Sport

Senior football squad on tour to Villarreal, Spain
Pre-season football & OA football news
Canoe polo success in British Canoeing Southwest tournament
U18 ISRFC Lambs selection

14 December 2017

Dear Parents, Colleagues, Governors and Boys of Abingdon,

As I write, there is certainly a festive feel to the School, with snow on the ground and many pupils marking Christmas Jumper Day with a selection of quite extraordinary knitwear. I have the sense that the school community is looking forward to the celebrations over the holiday ahead…

Certainly pupils can reflect on a busy and successful term and I hope you might be able to get a flavour of it by looking at the news links below. It is unfair to pick out particular highlights from an impressive list but the recent drama productions and Christmas concerts have featured significant numbers of pupils performing at a high level, while there has been great success on the sports pitch too. In all arenas, pupils have shown impressive leadership, ability and resilience, and they can be proud of their efforts.

I would like to share some significant news about our board of Governors. Adrian Burn (OA 1963) has announced his decision to step down as Chairman of Governors of the Abingdon Foundation after nearly five years in post. He has given superb service. Over the past three years under his leadership the Governors have appointed new Headmasters both for Abingdon School and Abingdon Prep as well as a new Director of Finance and Operations. This has also been a period of considerable investment in our facilities, which has included the opening of the Yang Science Centre, the complete refurbishment of Greening Court and the launch of the Beech Court project, as well as significant works at Abingdon Prep School. I have been hugely grateful for the support that Adrian has offered me and the Foundation.

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

Our Governors recently held a strategy day to plan for the future of the School. An important aspect of this day was the opportunity to reflect upon the findings of the affordability survey that was conducted earlier this term by Baines Cutler. I am grateful that many parents responded to the survey, as this yielded useful information that will assist greatly with our planning in the future.

There are changes on the staff too. Mr Swarbrick is retiring after assisting with the UCAS process for our Upper Sixth this term, while Mr Ponniah is leaving to take up a post at Winchester College. We also wish Ms Vickers well as she and her family move to Canada.

On the school site, significant progress is being made on Beech Court which we expect to open in September. The new building will include a Sixth Form Centre on the ground floor, with facilities for studying and relaxing, while the first floor will house a greatly expanded library, which we believe will provide an ideal setting for independent study, homework and for pupils to develop their love of reading. The top floor will be the new home for the Art department, who will be able to benefit from the natural light. The new development will free up significant spaces around the site, allowing, for example, for the expansion of facilities for Music and Drama and the Lower School house-room.

I am conscious that over the holiday, pupils in the Fifth Year will be combining their rest and relaxation with revision for the approaching mocks. Upper Sixth mocks follow after half term. I hope that these boys are able to achieve a successful balance and that they keep to their revision timetables. I hope too that all Abingdon families have a happy and restful break. I will look forward to welcoming pupils back to school on Tuesday 9 January.

Finally, I wish everyone in the Abingdon community a very merry Christmas!

Best wishes

Michael Windsor

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Trips

Drama

Music

Sport

Boarding news

Abingdon Science Partnership

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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Boarding news

Music

Sport

7 September 2017

Dear Parents, Colleagues, Governors and Boys of Abingdon,

It has been a great pleasure to welcome the pupils back to school this week. They seem well-rested and ready for the challenges of the year ahead and I do hope that all our families were able to enjoy a good summer. As I start my second year here at Abingdon, it is good to have my feet firmly under the desk and to be able to revisit everything that was a ‘first’ for me last year.

There was a lot to celebrate over the summer. Our leavers performed strongly in their A Level exams, with over a quarter of all results at A* and nearly two-thirds at A* or A; indeed, over 80 boys achieved straight A*/As. This has led to some excellent outcomes in terms of university places, with seventeen students going on to Oxbridge - one pupil declined his place at Oxford to take up a place at Yale in the US. It was a strong year for medics too, with twelve students going on to study medicine. It is also exciting to see some of our students take on entrepreneurial and vocational challenges outside university this year.  

GCSE results were excellent, with just under 60% at A* and 86% at A* or A grade. Parents may have seen press coverage of new numerical grades at GCSE. We were not affected by this as boys were studying IGCSEs in the relevant subjects. From next summer, pupils will be awarded numerical grades in some subjects and we will ensure parents of boys in the relevant year groups know what to expect.

Work has continued on the Beech Court project over the summer. We are making good progress and are on track to open this new facility, which will include a Sixth Form Centre, Library and Art department, in September 2018. The fitness suite was completely refurbished over the summer and now features equipment better designed to develop pupils’ strength and conditioning; we hope that we will see the benefits in terms of the pupils’ overall fitness and health. We are in the process of completing a new pavilion between the MUSA (tennis courts) and the Waste Court pitch, which we hope might eventually also be a place from which to serve welcome refreshments during matches! Significant work has gone into improving the quality of our playing surfaces too and I hope you will see the benefits as the rugby season starts.

In recent months, we have been working on a new school prospectus and giving a fresher look to the website. The prospectus will be available to prospective parents at the end of the month but you can already get a taste of the theme and feel of the new document via the website at www.abingdon.org.uk/be_you. Also on the website you can view a new 2-minute film that we have commissioned for the Abingdon Foundation: www.abingdon.org.uk/abingdon_foundation_video. We will continue to post the latest news to the website and don’t forget that you can follow what’s going on at the School via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

As we start the new academic year, I am very pleased to welcome our new colleagues to the School:

  • Mrs Amy Downer joins us as our new Head of Art;
  • Mr Andrew Jamison joins the English department;
  • Mrs Jennifer Overton (Geography) is covering Rev Gooding’s absence on sabbatical this term;
  • Mr Richard Pygott joins the Geography department;
  • Mr Timothy Chase joins the History department;
  • Mr Nick Ball, Mrs Mary Lord and Mr Harry Williams all join the Mathematics department;
  • Miss Raquel Fraile and Miss Rachel Nicholson join the Modern Languages department;
  • Our new Director of Teaching and Learning, Mrs Ronnie Reading, is also a linguist.

We also welcome a new team of language assistants to the Modern Languages department, as well as Miss Megan Milarski who will be assisting with the Abingdon Science Partnership. Mr Ben Phillips is covering as Middle Master for Rev Gooding this term. Finally, I am pleased to welcome Mr John Cotton back to the school as our Assistant Director of Music.

The links below will take you to some accounts of summer highlights. It was also great to see so many boys in for pre-season training and sports camps over the past few weeks.

I would like to remind parents that you are very welcome to join us for concerts, sports fixtures and productions. Indeed, we are always very grateful for your strong - and vocal - support! I will look forward to meeting you at these events during the course of the year, as well as at the various parents’ evenings that will take place.

I wish your sons and indeed all Abingdon families the very best for the coming academic year; there is a great deal to look forward to.

Best wishes

Michael Windsor

Latest News:

Sport:

6 July 2017

Dear Parents, Colleagues, Governors and Boys of Abingdon,

The last couple of weeks have seen us enjoy some great events with which to finish off the academic year and in particular to say farewell to our Leavers. The Leavers’ service and then last Saturday’s Griffen Ball will in particular remain long in the memory. There have been many trips and visits taking place recently too and the spirit of adventure thrives at Abingdon, with large numbers taking part in expeditions to go towards the various Duke of Edinburgh Awards. It is clear that our Leavers have a keen interest in travel too with many of them set for exciting trips both in Europe and further afield, and I wish them all the very best for these journeys, as well as for A Level results day on 17 August.

We say farewell at the end of term to a number of teachers who are moving on. Mr Aitken and Mr Swarbrick are retiring after nineteen years’ service to the school, though Mr Swarbrick will be returning on a part-time basis next term to offer support with UCAS applications. Mr Davies is taking up the post of Deputy Head (Academic) at Kingswood School in Bath, while Mr Edgar and Mr Stuart are moving on to City of London School and Cokethorpe respectively. Mr Green is leaving to take up a post at Bradfield while Mr Pemberton moves on to the Royal Agricultural College for further study. Finally, we wish well to Mr Domm, Mr Jones and Mr Griffin in their new roles. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all these teachers, and indeed all my colleagues both in teaching and support roles, for their hard work over the past academic year.

Construction will continue over the summer of the Beech Court project, which will include a Sixth Form Centre and Art department, as well as a library which will be approximately twice the size of our current facility. The first steels have now been erected and we are all excited to see the scale of the new building, which is due to open in September 2018. The summer break will also see a complete revamp of our gym with new equipment designed to support a programme of strength and conditioning, which we hope will give pupils the chance to improve in their sport while also giving them strong foundations for health and flexibility in later life.

There has been a great deal of collective endeavour over the past term and I am sure pupils will be ready for rest and relaxation over the summer. I am all in favour of this but I would urge every pupil to take advantage of the time freed up over the next few weeks to read widely and freely. There are of course many and varied benefits to reading but a good selection of books over the summer should give ample opportunities for escapism, reflection and excitement. The English department and the Library have set all our pupils a reading challenge featuring some wonderful books and I really hope that many boys will engage with this.

I have very much enjoyed getting to know so many Abingdon parents over the past year. It is a great privilege to lead this school and I am looking forward to sharing our vision for the future with parents early next term. I wish all Abingdon families a wonderful summer, confident that 2017-18 will be another action-packed and exciting year for the school.

Best wishes,

Michael Windsor

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Sport

Out & About

25 May 2017

Dear Parents, Colleagues, Governors and Boys of Abingdon,

Our collective thoughts over the past few days have been dominated by the dreadful attack that took place in Manchester on Monday night. It is hard for anyone to understand or explain this sort of event but tutor time has given colleagues and pupils an opportunity to reflect together. Our Chapel services have provided another chance for us to come together as a community in solidarity with those who have been affected. In difficult times, this sense of community is vital in providing succour to those who are feeling fearful or uncertain.

The Chapel service was certainly a key part of the events that we held to mark the final day of teaching for our Upper Sixth pupils last week. It was a hugely uplifting occasion, marked by the Leavers’ strong sense of companionship and measured words of advice from Mr O’Doherty, the Upper Master, as well as by some truly rousing hymn-singing as the Upper Sixth gave full voice to favourites like Guide me O Thou Great Redeemer and Jerusalem.  I wish the boys the very best as they undertake the challenge of A Levels and look forward to rounding off their Abingdon career with them in style at Prize Giving on Saturday 24 June and finally at the Griffen Ball on Saturday 1 July.

The departure on revision leave of our Upper Sixth means that our next crop of Prefects has duly been appointed to take over duties around the School. We were impressed with the quality of the field for the post of Prefect and I am confident we have brought together a strong team, representing the many constituencies of the School, that will serve Abingdon extremely well for the next twelve months.

I would like to wish everyone taking exams over the coming weeks - be they external or internal - every success. I hope our pupils have by now taken on board the message that the best revision is focused and active, and intermingled with breaks to allow exercise, fresh air and social interaction. Indeed, I have been delighted to see the Other Half continue to thrive through the exam season and I hope you enjoy reading about our pupils’ achievements by following the links below.

I wish all our Abingdon families a happy half-term next week and look forward to welcoming the pupils back to school on Monday 5 June.

Best wishes

Michael Windsor

Latest News:

Sport

Music

27 April 2017

Dear Parents, Colleagues, Governors and Boys of Abingdon,

I hope all Abingdon families were able to have a restful and refreshing Easter. As you will see from the links below, a large number of our pupils were out on various trips that took place over the holiday, ranging from a language exchange in France to cricket in Sri Lanka. It is great to see so many pupils taking advantage of these opportunities for personal development and I am grateful to my colleagues who put so much time and effort into organising these trips.

The summer term is always rather overshadowed by the public examination season, as well as our internal exams. I hope our pupils will heed the advice that they have been given about revision as they undertake exam preparation. Although exams are undoubtedly important, our pupils need to develop a balanced approach to revision that gives them time for fresh air and exercise alongside their work; research confirms the value of exercise in improving memory and recall and it will help keep our boys happy and relaxed through the exam season. Please do get in touch with your son’s tutor or Housemaster if you have any concern about exam preparation or if you feel that your son is struggling; we all want to help and see your sons do their very best.

Of course there are many other events to enjoy over the course of this term. It’s been great to see our cricketers and tennis-players out already enjoying the sunshine, even though the temperature appears to be plummeting as I write…  It’s a busy term for our rowers, of course, with the National Schools’ Regatta and Henley to look forward to, while on the arts front our musicians will be in action in the Spring Concert and again later in the term. I’m sure not least that the boys will be looking forward to Abingdon’s Got Talent in the Amey Theatre on 10 May, when they will be performing alongside girls from St Helen and St Katharine’s.

Our contractors have made good progress on the Beech Court project over Easter. The demolition of the former Geography department is now complete and preparations are being made for the laying of the foundations of the new building. Over on War Memorial field our cricketers will soon be able to hone their skills on the new cricket nets and artificial surface, as this facility is due to open in the next ten days.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank those parents who have given sponsorship for my abseil down the tower of Dorchester Abbey to raise funds for the Dorchester Festival and the Sue Ryder Home in Nettlebed. I will be going over the top at 12.15pm on Saturday 29 April. Spectators are welcome… I hope not to let the School down and if you would like to provide some sponsorship, you can do so at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Michael-Windsor2.

I wish you and your family well for the coming term and look forward to meeting many of you in school soon.

Best wishes

Michael Windsor

Abingdon School News: 29 March – 26 April 2017

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News

Sport

30 March 2017

Dear Parents, Colleagues, Governors and Boys of Abingdon,

It has been great to see pupils and staff out and about enjoying the warmer weather recently. A particular highlight this week was the annual Road Relay, which saw a huge number of teams racing round the School and Albert Park. I was delighted to see so many pupils volunteering to take part and the remaining boys voicing cheerful and enthusiastic support. It was a terrific whole-school event and a fine example of the strength of the Abingdon community; do have a look at the photos on the website. I was able to withstand the pressure to compete this year and, having seen the quality of the runners, I think I’ll try and retain my position as starter in future years too…

The Road Relay comes at the end of a short but successful term and I hope parents will enjoy reading about the many highlights via the links below and in the next edition of Abingdon News. I’ve been particularly pleased to see Abingdon boys prepared to look outside our own community and commit themselves to other causes. It was impressive to see so many pupils signing up for a night in the cold as part of the Charity Sleep-Out, which did an excellent job in raising funds for local charities as well as building awareness of the issue of homelessness. It was also good to see pupils and staff taking part in the Reading Half-Marathon to raise money for the charity Blue Skye Thinking. On both occasions the participants seemed remarkably fresh and cheerful the next day in school.

I am keen to do my bit too and have therefore joined a team that will be abseiling down the 100ft tower of Dorchester Abbey on Saturday 29 April at midday. I am not overly keen on heights but I hope not to let the School down… The abseiling is part of the Dorchester Festival and we will be raising funds for the Abbey and also for Sue Ryder in Nettlebed. If you would like to support these causes, please follow this link.

I am grateful to the many parents who responded to the parental questionnaire earlier this term. I have just received the final analysis of these responses and I hope to share this with parents early next term. Do please get in touch directly if you have any matters that you would like to raise with me in the meantime.

Contractors are making good progress with the enabling works for the Beech Court project, which is scheduled for completion in September 2018 and will provide a new Sixth Form Centre, library and Art department. This very week, the former Geography department is being demolished as we clear the site for the new building; I will keep parents updated as the new building takes shape.

I am conscious that a good number of our pupils will be using this Easter break to prepare for public or internal examinations. I hope that they will make sensible use of their time, and also make sure that they get some fresh air and exercise alongside their studies. I wish them all the very best with their revision.

I would like to wish all our parents and families a restful and refreshing break over Easter. I look forward to welcoming the boys back to school in time for registration at 8.35am on Tuesday 25 April.

Best wishes

Michael Windsor

Abingdon School News: 9 – 29 March

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Sport

Music

9 March 2017

Dear Parents, Colleagues, Governors and Boys of Abingdon,

As the mornings and evenings grow lighter and the temperature gradually creeps up, it feels as if spring is on its way and it’s great to see pupils out and about enjoying their Period 8 activities every day.

Many of our pupils were away with the School over half term and I was delighted to be able to join our German exchange at the Ratsgymnasium in Bielefeld to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the partnership between our two schools. The German exchange had organised a wonderful celebration which, alongside speeches and reminiscences, featured interviews with previous participants, including a pair who had first met in the early ‘80s and who are now firm family friends. The event was further enhanced by the brilliant performances from musicians from Bielefeld and our own First Orchestra, who were there as part of their tour of northern Germany.

It has been a pleasure this term also to welcome our exchange partners from France and Spain. It is perhaps easy to overlook the significance of language exchanges when there are so many amazing opportunities available as school trips but they are of great educational value, not just in terms of the linguistic advantages but also with regard to the broader benefits of developing cultural awareness and building confidence. Although organising exchanges presents significant challenges today in a climate of safeguarding and child protection, I hope we will sustain them in the future - and I appreciate parents’ patience in going through the DBS process.

I am conscious that parents had some holiday homework to complete over half term in the form of the questionnaires from School Pulse. I am very grateful to the many parents who completed the questionnaires. These responses will be of great value as I work with colleagues and Governors over the coming weeks to set the strategic course for Abingdon. I will of course keep parents informed about our conclusions. In the meantime, I can confirm that our contractors are making good progress with the enabling works for our new Beech Court development, which will include a Sixth Form Centre, Library and the Art department.

There is much to look forward to over the remaining few weeks of term - not least, I’m sure, will be the finals of Abingdon’s Got Talent. Another highlight is the ATOM Festival of Science and Technology which is running from 22 to 26 March in Abingdon. There is a very exciting programme of talks, workshops and other activities so do visit the website to find out more.

Please do also follow the links below to see what has been happening at Abingdon so far this half term.

Kind regards

Michael Windsor

Abingdon School News - 13 February to 9 March

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Music

Sport

10 February 2017

Dear Parents, Colleagues, Governors and Boys of Abingdon,

This first half of term seems to have flown by and happily the vast majority of our pupils and staff seem to be recovering from the various illnesses that have been doing the rounds.

I hope parents are able to find the time to complete the questionnaire that was sent out earlier this week. I am very keen to gather parents’ opinions as we plan for the future of the School.

The last few weeks of this half term have been dominated by two outstanding drama productions from extremely talented senior students at Abingdon and St Helen’s. Much Ado About Nothing was immensely enjoyable to watch, lively, witty and very well received by the sell-out audiences. The ambitious and challenging production of London Road was superbly acted by the young cast and expertly accompanied by a demanding musical score. The audiences were enthralled. My thanks go to the drama departments at St Helen’s and at Abingdon.

The School’s musicians have also been taking to the stage with the New Year Charity concert featuring boys from all year groups. The music was impressive, ranging from Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Cellos (soloists: Alex Reynolds and Carl Olavesen) to variations on the James Bond theme from the Lower School and Brass Bands. The First Orchestra ended the concert with the first movement of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, a work that features in their tour over half term to Germany. The tour celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the School’s exchange programme, which was established by Sir James Cobban, with the Bielefeld Ratsgymnasium. It is a tremendous partnership to have between the two schools, much valued by all involved, and I look forward to hearing the boys play on tour.

The music department also welcomed the Fitzroy Quartet to school to give a chamber music workshop for musicians in preparation for the first round of the National Chamber Music Festival For Schools, which took place this week.

Besides the Bielefeld tour over half term we also have boys on the usual German language exchange and a skiing trip to France. In addition, in what sounds like a fascinating experience, 12 boys together with 18 girls from St Helen’s will be visiting the Cosmonaut Training Centre at Star City in Russia and spending time with former NASA astronaut Mike Foale.  

Over the last three weeks boys have been involved with an interesting array of activities. A group of third years took part in the First Lego League Animal Allies Challenge and learnt how to programme a robot. The annual Big Physics Quiz at Birmingham University was a success with boys also enjoying a tour of the campus and a lecture on gravitational waves. Parents joined boys and staff for a trip to Reading to see professional artists from China’s Jiangsu Province Department of Culture perform “Culture of China, Festival of Spring.” And in the first stage of this year’s Young Enterprise competition, three teams tempted the crowds with their innovative ideas at Oxford’s Templars Square shopping centre.

The boarders are enjoying their weekend activity programme that saw fourth years from Crescent and School House taking on the girls from Downe House at ten-pin bowling. Third years, as part of their community service activities, made shortbread hearts as Valentine gifts for the ladies at the Older and Bolder exercise club. I am sure they were very much appreciated - and with the 14th February looming and living in a predominantly female household - I wonder if there were any left over?

Under the guidance of Jeremy Taylor, our Director of Drama, and professional filmmaker Duncan Pickstock, students from the AFU are working with Sobell House to produce a film about the hospice. It is not an easy project for the young students and one that will stretch them in many ways. I wish them all the best with the film and look forward to seeing it once completed.

On the football pitch there were excellent wins for the senior teams against St Edward’s and Shiplake but more mixed results against Reading Blue Coat and Reading Grammar. The Hockey Club recorded very impressive victories over Eton for the 1st XI, 16A, 14A and 13A teams and further wins against Bloxham. The 1st XI and the U15 and U14 A and B teams finish the first half of term unbeaten, an excellent record and best of luck for the next half.

The Swimming Club is looking particularly strong with an impressive victory for the U14 squad at the Warwick 100s last week and the Cross-country Club picked up a clean sweep at the Vale Championships at Radley College, winning the U13, U15, U17 and U19 races. The Cross-country teams went on to run well in the Wellington relays and the County Championships. Congratulations to the five athletes who were selected for the county team to represent Oxfordshire in the English National Schools Championships. In other sports, the Squash Club progress through the National Schools Trophy with a good win against John Hampden and a further win against Bradfield, and the Badminton Club, not to be outdone, secured victories over Wellington and Bromsgrove.

We wish our rowers every success in the GB trials over half term and individual congratulations go to Henry Isherwood and Harvey Jupp. Henry has been selected for the U18 South West Rugby squad and fifth year Harvey, a promising spin-bowler, was voted ‘Young Cricketer of the Year’ by the Wiltshire and Gloucester Standard.

I wish everyone in the Abingdon community all the very best for the break, and I look forward to a busy second half of term.

Yours sincerely

Michael Windsor

20 January 2017

Dear Parents, Colleagues, Governors and Boys of Abingdon,

It was good to welcome pupils and staff back to the School after the Christmas break. Although the first day of this week now seems to be known to the media as ‘Blue Monday’ - supposedly the most depressing day of the year - there is no sign of that at Abingdon as pupils have engaged with their work and Other Half activities with characteristic enthusiasm and good humour.

It was a very positive start to the New Year with some excellent news as we heard that planning permission had been granted for Beech Court. This exciting development, which will be situated next to Greening Court will transform our Sixth Form, Library and Art facilities. It will also enable Music, Drama and other departments to benefit from expanded and improved workspaces. We hope to open these new facilities in the autumn of 2018 and a detailed plan has been put together to ensure minimal disruption for pupils and parents during construction.

University offers have now begun to come through to upper sixth students who have applied for an exciting range of courses at a selection of excellent universities. I would like to congratulate the 22 pupils who have received offers from Oxford or Cambridge. This is an impressive number of Oxbridge offers and they come as the result of commitment, enthusiasm and endeavour.

I am pleased to welcome three new teaching colleagues to the School this term. Mr David James joins the Design Technology department, while Ms Kathryn Yarker and Mr John Marjot join Geography.

Students were involved in two trips over the Christmas holiday. The first was a joint Abingdon and St Helen’s visit to Strasbourg to practise French, visit the sites and enjoy the festivities. It was a great success from all accounts. The second trip was to Finland’s Arctic wilderness and the photographs taken show what an incredible landscape this is. The boys and staff found the scenery breath-taking and have returned with much appreciation and respect for this beautiful environment.

Abingdon students continue to take part and flourish in a wide variety of activities. I would like to congratulate Jamie Farrow who, amid fierce competition, has won a place as a tenor in the National Youth Choir of Great Britain. We have also seen success for James Hogge who finished second in the National Cipher Challenge, run by the University of Southampton Mathematics Department. James has also been extremely helpful in assisting with the School’s Code-breaking Club.

The CCF is through to the national stage of the Air Squadron Trophy competition after a very impressive day at RAF Cosford. The cadets finished first overall following some tremendous individual and team efforts. Congratulations also go to fifth year, Sam Christie, who has been selected to play for the Oxfordshire County Tennis Team at the U18 County Cup in Norwich at the end of February.

Football and hockey are well underway with both sports enjoying the facilities at Tilsley Park. Footballers benefited from the new 4G pitch for pre-season training and the 1st XI’s hard work paid off with an excellent win at the Rugby School pre-season tournament where they emerged unbeaten. In their first fixture of the term against St John’s, Leatherhead there were some spirited matches including a hard-fought victory for the 1st XI. The Hockey Club enjoyed an excellent first fixture against St Edward’s, winning nine out of ten matches including convincing victories for the 1st and 2nd XIs. Best of luck for what will be a tough fixture against Eton this weekend. The Cross-Country team travelled to a snow covered Sevenoaks to compete in the Knole run, the most competitive race in the school calendar. With a young team it was always going to be a baptism of fire but the boys ran valiantly coming a respectable 15th out of 41 teams competing.

The Abingdon Science Partnership is continuing to do fascinating work not only in furthering interest in science outside the curriculum at School but also in the wider community. My thanks to all the Science Ambassadors who are excellent advocates not only for science but also for Abingdon School. In particular I would like to thank Carl Olavesen who is running an after school club at St Edmund’s Primary School. The Club is very popular with children at the School and the Science Co-ordinator there has passed on her appreciation for all that Carl is doing.

This is a short but very busy term and I wish all the pupils the best for the weeks ahead. I will also look forward to catching up with parents at the many events that will take place between now and Easter.

Yours sincerely

Michael Windsor

16 December 2016

Dear Parents, Colleagues, Governors and Boys of Abingdon,

I have very much enjoyed attending many events and meeting pupils and parents this term. I am grateful to everyone who has made me feel so welcome and I am excited about the future for this great school. 

A significant task this autumn has been the appointment of a new Head for Abingdon Prep and I am pleased to be able to inform you that the Governors announced on Monday that Craig Williams has accepted this position from September 2017. Craig comes to Abingdon from the Senior Deputy Headship at Thorngrove School. Craig has a Geography degree from Oxford and is an accomplished sportsman. He represented the University at 2nd XI level at both cricket and football, and he continues to enjoy playing cricket. Other interests include golf, historical novels and Manchester United. We will look forward to welcoming Craig and his family to the Abingdon community.

Over the course of the year, I will be working with the Senior Leadership Team to produce a development plan that will outline the strategic direction of both Abingdon School and Abingdon Prep School. I am keen to hear parents’ views and so have engaged RSAcademics to produce a parental questionnaire that will come out next term. I hope parents will be willing to share their views via the questionnaire or directly to me if they would prefer.

The range and diversity of activities over the last few weeks at Abingdon has been exceptional. Students have taken part in a Particle Physics Masterclass at the Rutherford Appleton Lab, workshops from world-renowned musicians bass-baritone, Richard Burkhard and violinist Levon Chilingirian, a chess simultaneous display with Grandmaster Peter Wells plus a wide range of sporting activities including a British Regional Canoe Polo Competition. The opportunities available are outstanding, as is the boys’ enthusiasm to embrace them. My thanks to all staff who go to great lengths to make this possible.

Our senior mathematicians came a very impressive sixth out of all worldwide postal entries in the Princeton University Maths Competition. In a second global challenge - Computational Thinking with 40 countries taking part - first year, Philip Grotjahn scored the highest mark in the School and gained a distinction. Congratulations are also due to first year, Oliver Glover, who has again won a place in the National Children's Orchestra. Oliver is an exceptional oboist for his age, playing Principal Oboe in the School's first orchestra.

Following the Model United Nations practice day with St Helen’s, 18 boys went on to pick up a host of awards at the conference including Hayden Ramm who was awarded the accolade of Outstanding Delegate. Lower School boys have also been in lively debate with their counterparts from St Helen’s who joined them for a ‘curry and dinner debate’ (a pastime well worth practising!).

I will watch with interest the progress of two sixth form teams who have entered the BlottMatthews Airport to Airport, A2A, challenge to solve the aviation problems in the south of England. The competition winners will be announced in March and it should be a fascinating project to be involved with.

I thoroughly enjoyed the productions of Treasure Island from the Lower School and the Third Year’s And Then There Weren’t Any Left. The engaging performance from the younger boys was enhanced by an imaginative set and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. OA Ed Rowett’s spoof murder mystery was demanding for the talented third year cast who successfully pulled it off. I look forward to the senior students from Abingdon and St Helen’s in action next term. There is much to enjoy from our close link with St Helen’s. Drama and Music in particular benefit enormously from this excellent partnership and this year’s Joint Choral Society was a fine example of the synergy between the two schools.

Last weekend saw the end of the rugby season and final matches for the boys in the Upper Sixth. My thanks for their determination and hard work representing the School and I hope they enjoy the game for many years to come. I cannot help but mention the 1st XV win over Radley - always a pleasure - and the excellent end of season results against Marlborough and RGS Guildford.

In other sport, the U15 squad swam brilliantly at the ESSA national relay finals improving enormously on their qualifying position in both relays. Very well done. Cross-country Club has also seen a good start to the season with the seniors and inters coming third at Harrow. Lower school fencers enjoyed their school tournament with Jacob Drew picking up the trophy.

Boarders have been embracing Christmas, decorating trees and turning their hand to making cards and gingerbread houses for the local community, many of whom joined us for our annual Christmas Tea Party. Sixty residents were entertained by school bands and choirs and everyone entered into the festive spirit. Carol services have been in abundance this week and term will come to a fitting end at St Helen’s Church with the whole school gathering together.

I wish everyone in the Abingdon community a peaceful and happy Christmas and all the very best for 2017.

Yours sincerely

Michael Windsor

18 November 2016

Dear Parents, Colleagues, Governors and Boys of Abingdon,

The School took time to pause and reflect collectively on Friday 11 November, when we remembered the sacrifice made by our former pupils and teachers in conflict. To prepare for this event, I visited the archive pages on the School’s website, which contain fascinating information about the Old Abingdonians who perished in the First World War. 2016 marks of course the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, a battle which in many ways encapsulates the suffering and loss in the Great War, and in his address on Remembrance Day, the Chaplain reflected on our former pupils who died on the Somme. The CCF did the School proud with their turnout and drill in their Remembrance Day parade and then represented us with distinction in the Abingdon Town parade on Remembrance Sunday.

Although half term is rapidly fading in the memory, as we focus on some busy weeks in the run-up to Christmas, I hope that all Abingdon families had a restful time. Many of the boys were involved in trips. The classicists fully appreciated the history and sites of ancient and modern Greece and linguists enjoyed improving their skills in Spain when 51 students from Abingdon and St Helen’s visited Galicia. The Boat Club also spent half term in Spain training on the Banyoles lake (used in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics) and then competed very successfully at the Upper Thames Autumn Head.

In other activities, sailors completed silver and gold practice expeditions on the south coast where poor weather prevented the gold expedition sailing to France, opting for Poole instead. The silver expedition took on the extremely busy Solent water. The Sailing Club impressed at the National Schools’ Sailing Match where both teams reached the semi-finals and Abingdon A went on to win the event. The U14 rugby squad played some good matches during their tour of Sussex while the U15s enjoyed taking part in the Langley Festival in Norfolk.

Congratulations to Charlie Quarterman, Ethan Moody, Louis Heard, Max Carter Keall and Rob MacLennan for their recent sporting successes. Charlie has been signed by the Luxembourg based cycling team Leopard Pro for next year and Ethan represented Great Britain at the Techno293 windsurfing championships. Louis has been selected for a British junior polo development course and earlier this year received the Most Promising Player award at the schools and universities national polo championships. Max has been selected to trial for the first stage of the England U18 hockey team. He represented England over the summer at U16 level and has been called up a year early for the chance to play against Holland in April. Following a​n impressive​ competition on Sunday to make the final of the Welsh Open Men’s Senior Epee competition, Rob ​MacLennan ​has been selected to fence for the GBR Junior Epee Team​.

Rugby results since half term have been mixed for the senior teams with the 2nd XV securing two good wins against Sherborne and Rugby but the 1st XV narrowly losing on both occasions. The overall results were excellent with Abingdon picking up both block wins with all teams from the U16Bs to the U14Ds victorious against Rugby with some impressive score lines in the younger years.

I was intrigued to witness part of the second years’ combat workshop taken by Kev McCurdy, fight director for the National Theatre, the RSC and the Globe. The boys enthusiastically embraced the art of stage conflicts and were very attentive learners when it came to controlled fight manoeuvres!

Our senior mathematicians came a very credible third out of 18 teams at the annual regional final of the Senior Team Maths Challenge held at Wheatley Park at the beginning of November. Many congratulations.

It was a great pleasure to hear the 16 solo performances from senior musicians at the second Scholars’ concert of the term. Chapel Choir sang Evensong at Tewkesbury Abbey last week, to a very appreciative congregation and many thanks to James Anderson-Besant (OA 2016) for accompanying them on the organ. Following last year’s success, the Music department held the second Senior Solo Competition and 11 very talented musicians performed to an exceptional standard on a variety of instruments – five pianists, two violinists, a cellist and a flautist. Dr Benjamin Skipp, a fine oboist, pianist, ABRSM examiner and Lecturer and Director of Studies in Music at Hertford and Somerville Colleges, had the unenviable task of adjudication. The standard was extremely high and many congratulations to fifth former, Didier Delgorge, who won the competition.

I was delighted that we were able to welcome pupils from St Helen’s to join 40 Abingdon pupils at our Model United Nations conference recently. This event was organised almost entirely by our pupils, with George Aylard taking the leading role, and those involved showed an impressive grasp of detail and nuance in debating the major global issues facing us today.

I was also very pleased to hear that participants in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme at Abingdon had completed 2230 hours of volunteering in our local community over the last year. I am keen to see our pupils playing their part as service to others is an important component in our ethos. 

I congratulate all our pupils on their endeavour and commitment during the past few weeks and hope that parents and friends of the School will be able to join us for some of the many events that will take place over the coming weeks.

Yours sincerely

Mike Windsor

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