Letters from the Headmaster
Letter from the Headmaster, 10 October 2019
10 October 2019
I have just emerged from the annual House Singing Competition which is always one of the highlights of the calendar. It was great to see all the boys involved and it’s always really impressive to see the respective conductors rising to the significant challenge of getting a hundred boys or so to sing in time and tune! There was a bit of a retro feel to this year’s event with three Houses opting for songs by Queen, including Bohemian Rhapsody; an ambitious choice!
I’m grateful for the support of parents in ensuring that students made it into school for our Open Day on 28 September. It was a very busy morning and the boys did a fantastic job guiding our visitors around and explaining what they were doing in the different academic departments or Other Half activities. They really were a credit to the School.
I am also really grateful for the terrific support that many parents gave to the campaign being coordinated by the Independent Schools Council and the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference in response to the Labour Party conference motion calling for the abolition of independent schools. So many of you wrote in support and I am delighted that we have collectively been able to make the case against this proposal. I believe that we all want to see the quality of education in the country improved for all our children but I cannot accept that the way to do this is to destroy some of our most successful institutions. Abolition would be damaging to the pupils affected and would place an even greater burden on the state system, and makes no financial sense.
At Abingdon, we believe that the way to improve education for all is through effective and meaningful partnerships between state and independent schools and this is expressed through our burgeoning partnership programme, led by Mr Southwell-Sander. These partnerships yield significant benefits for the pupils and staff from all the schools involved. Our partnership programme is ambitious and wide-ranging, extending from academic mentoring to film-making, from peer mentoring to the Abingdon Science Partnership, from primary school workshops to sports coaching.
We have included further information about the partnerships programme in an Impact Report which will be shared with you shortly. The report celebrates the contribution that pupils, staff, parents and OAs have made both to the School and to the wider community. I hope you will enjoy reading more in the report when you receive it.
With regard to the wider community, the Charity Committee recently selected its charities for the coming academic year. These are The Abingdon Bridge, Close the Gap, Unicef, Save the Children and Mind. The first event in support of these charities is tomorrow’s Home Clothes Day and boys are invited to give £3. I hope the boys will enjoy the chance to wear their own clothes to school, or rather the opportunity to wear their alternative uniform of a hoody, jeans and trainers…
Over half-term, work will continue on our project at the Faringdon Road end of the campus. It’s been exciting to see the steel frame taking shape this week and I’m pleased to report that we are still on schedule to open the building in September 2020.
I hope that you have had the chance to catch up with the latest news from the School on the website or by following the links from the weekly mailing. It’s been a very productive few weeks and I hope the boys enjoy some rest and recuperation over the half-term break.
Letter from the Headmaster, 5 September 2019
5 September 2019
It’s been a great pleasure to welcome the boys back to school this week and to hear about their experiences over the summer. They seem collectively in good heart, refreshed and ready for the new school year.
I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome parents who are new to the School to the Abingdon community. I hope that your sons will be very happy at Abingdon and that you too will feel part of the community. You are very welcome to the many events that take place during the school year - fixtures, concerts, drama productions and so on - and I’d also urge you to take advantage of the great opportunities to meet other parents at events organised by ASPA (our Parents’ Association), Touchliners, the Music Society and the Friends of the Boat Club. I will look forward to getting to know you over the years ahead.
It has been a superb summer for the School with an exciting blend of achievements in the Other Half and in academic life; the hallmark of Abingdon.
We achieved some of our best-ever results in public examinations. Over 30% of A Level results were at A* and just under 70% at A* or A. Over 90% were A*-B. At GCSE, 58% of results were at 9/8 or A* and 87% at 7-9/A-A*. 44 boys in the year group achieved all their results at 9/8/A* and there were some powerful individual stories of endeavour and commitment which allowed boys to achieve results of which they can be very proud. Our new Lower Sixth have certainly established a strong platform for success at A Level. You can see more detail about academic results on the school website.
There were also some wonderful opportunities for the boys in the Other Half over the summer. These included the music tour to Japan and Hong Kong, the CCF Central Camp, the Sixth Form trip to Moldova, sailing at Cowes, shooting at Bisley, the GB rowing trials and the rugby tour to Chile and Argentina. A group of students from Abingdon and St Helen’s also took a production to the Edinburgh Fringe. I’ve received excellent reports of the boys’ conduct on all these trips; they showed themselves to be superb ambassadors for the School. I was also very pleased to see so many pupils taking part in the multi-activity and rowing camps as well as pre-season training for the rugby season.
Work has continued on site on our new building on Faringdon Road. This will be completed by the start of the next academic year in September 2020 and will include facilities for Economics/Business and Computer Science, as well as two day houserooms and a new Reception area and Porters’ Lodge. The zebra crossing on Faringdon Road to the War Memorial pitches has been completed and this will enhance the boys’ safety as they make their way across the road. They have been reminded to take care and also to exercise caution when they use the traffic lights to cross Stratton Way and go into town.
At our beginning of term assembly, I also reminded the boys of the need to use the litter bins around the site as all our rubbish is taken off site for separation and recycling. We are trying to eliminate the use of single-use plastic water bottles in school whenever possible so please encourage your son to bring in a reusable water bottle. There are plenty of water fountains around the school where they can top them up.
We have welcomed a number of new teachers to the School this term and I hope that your sons will enjoy working with them. They are:
Mr Stephen Bates - Rugby Coach
Mrs Maris Elmore - Maths
Mrs Clare Hamilton - Biology
Dr Becca Justice - English
Mr Nick Laws - Boathouse Manager/Rowing Coach
Mr Philip Lowther - Physics
Dr Glyn Meredith - Chemistry
Miss Alix Merrifield - History
Mr Harry Moulder - Physics
Mr Steven Richards - PE
Mr Callum Richardson - Economics/Business
Mrs Behnoosh Sabah - Maths
Mr James Taylor - Physics
A reminder that Mr Morgan has taken on the new role of Director of the Other Half and Mr Donnelly has taken over his day house. Mr Evans, who led the Other Half for over twenty years, has stepped back from full-time teaching but retains a role as Director of Activities.
Finally, I would like to wish you and your families all the very best for the academic year ahead. I will look forward to meeting you over the course of the year.
Letter from the Headmaster, 4 July 2019
4 July 2019
It has been a busy run-up to the end of the academic year and I have enjoyed catching up with parents at the many events that have taken place recently. Lots of pupils have been out and about too, involved in activities ranging from Henley Royal Regatta to Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions, from the cricket festival in Surrey to the music tour to Japan and Hong Kong. I’m looking forward to meeting up with our musicians in Hong Kong this weekend and to spending some time with the parents of some of our Hong Kong-based boarders over the course of next week.
At the Middle School Prize Giving yesterday, I reflected on the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the moon, which will no doubt be dominating the media as the end of July approaches. I spoke about the spirit of curiosity and adventure which informed the mission, a spirit which brings the best out of all of us. I believe it underpins our lives together at Abingdon and it is hugely exciting to see our students engaging so vigorously with the challenges that the curriculum and the Other Half have to offer.
There has been much to savour this year and I’ve enjoyed seeing the progress that has been made; I hope the boys will take collective pride in all that they have done. Many will be involved in school activities over the summer, including the Sixth Form visit to Moldova to undertake teaching and leadership activities with our partners there and the rugby tour to Chile and Argentina. I am sure the boys will make lifelong memories and I look forward to hearing their stories on their return.
A group of upper sixth students from Abingdon and SHSK are also taking a new play called Contact Light to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from 19 to 24 August. If you’re heading that way, do go and support them. Tickets are available here.
While we have held a number of events to mark the departure of our upper sixth leavers over the past weeks, culminating in the Griffen Ball last Saturday, we have also been preparing to welcome the next generation to Abingdon with induction days for new first and third years and boys joining the Sixth Form. Our existing boys had an important role to play hosting these new pupils and I was impressed by the kind and friendly welcome that they offered.
There will be lots of work underway on site over the summer, including the replacement of boilers in Big School which will lead to improved regulation of heat and a higher level of energy efficiency. Work will of course also be continuing on our new building on Faringdon Road, which is scheduled to be completed by September 2020 and which will offer new facilities for two day houserooms, Computer Science and Economics/Business, as well as a Reception area and a new home for the Second Hand Uniform Shop. Happily the work will have limited impact on the rest of the site as the building site is accessed directly from Faringdon Road. We hope too that the final work to complete the zebra crossing across Faringdon Road might take place over the summer and improvements will also be undertaken at the 4G pitch at Tilsley Park. We will soon be hosting our first international event at Tilsley Park when the GB American Football team take on Russia on 19 October!
I am sure that the boys are looking forward to a good break over the summer holiday. I hope that they will seize the opportunity to spend some time reading for pleasure. There are so many benefits to reading. As well as developing vocabulary and understanding, it allows us to escape ourselves, to see the world through different eyes and to develop empathy and broader perspectives. I hope therefore that parents can encourage their sons to make reading part of their holiday plans.
Parents may like to pick up a book I’ve been reading recently called Inventing Ourselves by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, currently Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. It gives a fascinating insight into how the brain develops through adolescence and endeavours to explain some typical behaviours in the teenage years. One of the aspects of my job that I love the most is the opportunity to see how young people change and mature during their school careers and this book explains why that process is so dynamic - and why that change should be celebrated.
Finally, I would like to thank all my colleagues for their commitment and endeavour over the past academic year. I would also like to thank all our parents for their continued support, which is much appreciated.
I look forward to welcoming everyone back to school in September and wish you a restful and happy summer.
Letter from the Headmaster, 23 May 2019
23 May 2019
The School inevitably feels very different now that the Fifth Year and Upper Sixth have departed on study leave. I wish them all the very best with their exams and would remind them that teachers remain on hand if they would like any guidance or support with their revision.
This week has been designated Eco Week and we have focused on questions of sustainability and climate change. This included an excellent forum on Tuesday about climate change which many boys attended, asking some thoughtful questions. As I left the forum, I went to watch the cricket on Upper Field and I couldn’t help noticing a large number of plastic bottles scattered around. As the weather gets warmer and pupils get thirstier, I would encourage every pupil to bring in a reusable bottle so that we can avoid having single-use plastic in school. There are plenty of water fountains around the School where boys can top up their bottles and if everyone could have their own bottle, it would really cut down on our waste.
There’s lots to look forward to in the second half of term as we mark the end of the academic year with concerts, the Lower School ‘Be the Best’ evening, Prize Givings, cricket festivals, Henley and so on. I would particularly like to draw your attention to a new event, a Celebration of the Arts which will take place on Wednesday 19 June from 5 to 8pm. This will be a multi-faceted event, including an exhibition of the work completed for GCSE and A Level Art, poetry readings and drama. There will also be an open-air concert - weather permitting - outside Beech Court, featuring rock and pop music as well as jazz. It will be a great opportunity to hear some of the School’s bands and singer-songwriters. The Arts play such a crucial role in the life of the School, providing a vital outlet for creativity, imagination and emotion, as the recent Lower School production Futures showed, and I am sure the event on 19 June will be a great way to celebrate them.
Many boys also face internal exams during the second half of term. Although these exams are important, we need to keep them in perspective and recognise that they are primarily an opportunity to develop study skills and exam technique, as well as to refresh material covered earlier in the year. There is lots of revision advice available on Firefly and the key message is that simply reading through notes is very rarely effective. Revision needs to be active and I’d urge the boys to use their revision time to make flashcards with which to test themselves, to construct mind-maps, to complete practice questions, and use a program like Quizlet. Each pupil needs to discover what works best for him but the emphasis must be on the active. You might like to read the blog that Sarah Beynon from our Learning Support department recently wrote about revision.
While I hope pupils will spend a suitable amount of time studying over half term, it’s also important that they strike a balance with their other interests and activities, and in particular that they find time for fresh air and exercise. Recent research indicated the beneficial impact that taking part in sport has on academic performance, so I hope pupils are able to give themselves the time to get outside over the half term break.
Finally, I would like to thank you all for your support over this first part of term. I will look forward to catching up with many of you at the events of the second part of term.
Letter from the Headmaster, 28 March 2019
28 March 2019
As I write, the grounds are bathed in spring sunshine as the annual Road Relay comes to a close. This is always one of the highlights of the Abingdon calendar and this year was no exception as we saw a record number of teams participating on the 50th anniversary of the race. The emphasis is very much upon sport for all and it’s heartening to see students cheering one another on as they make their way around the course.
There has been so much to celebrate this term and I would like to congratulate students on their collective commitment to their studies and to the Other Half. It’s a great privilege of my role to be able to drop in and sample what our boys are up to day-by-day and I feel fortunate to be able to revel in the sheer range and diversity of life at Abingdon; be it debating or football, hockey or Young Enterprise, our students show exemplary engagement in everything that the School has to offer.
I have particularly enjoyed seeing boys committing themselves to the activities that we undertake in partnership with local primary and secondary schools. A notable example was the recent Family Science Day that took place in the Yang Science Centre as part of the ATOM Science Festival. A large number of students were involved, conducting experiments and welcoming guests. The Abingdon Science Partnership is just one part (a significant and successful one) of our growing partnership programme which this week included a Humanities day for pupils from six local primary schools. The partnership programme is overseen by Mr Southwell-Sander.
This is the season when we launch the Extended Project Qualification to lower sixth formers. This gives students the opportunity to write an extended piece of work or to produce an artefact related to their A Level studies. The focus is as much on the process as the final product and students are allocated to supervisors who guide them through to completion. I’m excited to be overseeing work in Physics and Psychology this year, which will take me some way away from my specialist subject area, but I’m looking forward to learning much more about black holes and schizophrenia, respectively.
Issues relating to climate change and sustainability have been in the news recently and I continue to work with our eco-committee to address these topics here at Abingdon. Next term we will experiment with a ‘meat-free Monday’ to highlight the impact of western high-protein diets and we are also keen to reduce the amount of single-use plastic that we use in school. We would encourage all students to bring in their own water bottle which can be topped up at one of the many water fountains around the school site. The boys have a long and busy day at school and it is important that they remain hydrated. Using their own water bottles would be an easy way to reduce the amount of waste that we generate.
There are many school trips taking place over the Easter holidays and I wish students and staff all the best with them. Of course the focus for many will be on revision. The key to success is to draw up an achievable revision timetable which allows time for relaxation and exercise alongside study - and then to stick to it. There is plenty of advice available on Firefly, including sample revision timetables. I’d also direct students and parents to a blog about revision recently written by Mrs Beynon from our Learning Support department which is available here.
It will be busy on the school campus over Easter as we get underway with the construction of a new building next to the Yang Science Centre. This building will house the Economics and Business department, as well as Computer Science, and will also provide two day houserooms. It will include a new reception area and the Second Hand Uniform Shop, providing improved access to these facilities both during the school day and out of hours. The building is scheduled for completion by September 2020 and I will ensure parents get regular updates.
You can also find updates on the new facilities and other news items on the school website. Rather than providing a long list of links to news at the end of my letters, we’ve decided to put links to news items in the weekly mailing, together with links to blogs and articles that my colleagues or I have written. You can also follow us on social media if you want more!
I’d like to finish by thanking our parents for the excellent support that you give the School in many different ways. It’s always good to catch up with you on the touchline or at concerts, productions and parents’ evenings and I’m grateful for the collective role that parents play in our community.
I wish you all the very best for Easter and I will look forward to welcoming everyone back to school on Wednesday 24 April.
Letter from the Headmaster, 13 December 2018
13 December 2018
This has certainly been a busy half term for the School and I am very grateful for the fantastic support that you have given us over the past few weeks.
As ever, it’s been a great privilege to witness boys hard at work in lessons and to see their involvement in the many activities and trips that you can read about by following the links below. It seems unfair to mention only one particular item but I would like to emphasise the success of our first ever Abingdon Model United Nations conference, which took place in early December.
This event brought about 150 pupils from nine different schools to Abingdon in order to follow and enact the procedures of the United Nations, and in doing so discussing and debating the key global issues of the day. Different factors combined to make this such a satisfying event. Its planning and organisation were largely driven by Abingdon and St Helen’s students, with the support of members of staff, and pupils chaired the various committees through the day. The level of debate was highly impressive as delegates wrestled with complex issues such as disarmament and the environment and I would like to pay particular tribute to some of our international boarders who spoke with great erudition and fluency; no mean feat in their second language. It was immensely uplifting, at a time of political turmoil and uncertainty, to see young people come together to spend a day engaging with the challenging and controversial issues which face us all.
Congratulations are due to upper sixth former, Alasdair Czaplewski, a founder member of the Model United Nations at Abingdon when he was in the 2nd Year, whose brainchild ‘AbingMUN’ was and who acted as Secretary General for the whole event with great sophistication and clarity.
There were many different ethical issues up for discussion at the Model United Nations conference and everyday school life is full of opportunities to explore our values and discover what is right and wrong. Our programme of assemblies, PSHCE lessons, chapel services and sixth form Mindset lectures and lessons are designed to explore different values and virtues and to emphasise the importance of respect, kindness and courtesy.
By and large, our pupils nurture and embody these values and I am proud of the way they conduct themselves around school and especially when we have visitors, for instance when our Community Service team recently welcomed some older local residents to their Christmas party. From time to time though, young people will, of course, get it wrong. In these cases, it is important that we act with compassion as well as clarity. We need to give pupils the chance to make mistakes - as we all do - as well as the chance to put things right. It is not only events like the Model United Nations or Community Service Christmas Party that gives me faith in the kindness and generosity of spirit of Abingdonians but also the response I see from pupils who might have made a mistake but want to get it right next time.
As part of the reshuffle of departments that was made possible by the completion of Beech Court, my study has moved into Big School and is right next to the chapel. This has meant that I have become increasingly imbued with Christmas spirit as I have heard Advent hymns and choirs rehearsing for our end-of-term services, which promise to be a wonderful way in which to round off the term, along with our traditional dinner for boarders on Thursday night. I also got to see some quite extraordinary Christmas jumpers on Tuesday as part of our fundraising efforts for The Magic Breakfast, a charity that delivers nutritional breakfasts to schools across England and Scotland, ensuring that ‘no child is too hungry to learn’. I’m sure these pullovers will be making an appearance in your homes over the festive season…
Finally, I wish all our families a happy and peaceful Christmas and all the best for 2019. I look forward to welcoming the pupils back to school on Tuesday 8 January.
Outstanding Economics success
Four Arkwright Scholarships won
Senior Team Maths Challenge
Sixth formers lunch with the lords
Physics in Action
Academic scholars visit Oxford
MFL debate at Cheltenham College
ASP shortlisted for Tes Independent School Awards 2019
Lower School: Scrapheap Challenge, Casper Craven, Thinking Supper with St Helen’s, Backpack Challenge, Lunchtime Concert, Inter-tutor group competitions
Beech Court opened by Will Gompertz
Community Christmas Tea Party
Primary Schools’ Business Challenge
Silver DofE canoe practice expedition
Spotlight on Languages – University of Bath
Classics trip to Italy
China – Beijing and Xian
Art trip to Compton Verney
Bellringing Club outing
Geology Day at the Natural History Museum
The Dark Blues train at Abingdon
Boat Club: training in Banyoles, 4’s Head & GB Trials
Cross-country: ESCC Championships Round 1, Abingdon Vale Biathlon, St Albans, Oxford City Schools Championships, ESAA Cup
Rugby: Langley School Festival, U14 tour to Worcestershire, Eton College, U18 NatWest Cup Plate Competition, RGS Guildford, RGS High Wycombe, Senior Rugby Club Dinner
Fencing: International success, Berks, Bucks & Oxon Epee
Rifle Club: Marlborough, Long Range Championship, Small Bore Rifle Competition
Squash: St Edward’s, Radley & National Schools Competition
Sailing: Match racing championships
Chapel Choir sing at the Royal Albert Hall
Festive Music in the Community
Levon Chilingirian masterclass
Joint Choral Society Festival of Remembrance
Senior Solo Instrumental Competition
Solo concert platform 2
Harry the Piano workshop
Abingdon Science Partnership
Letter from the Headmaster, 8 November 2018
Thursday 8 November 2018
On Friday 9 November we will be marking Remembrance at Abingdon. We will hold services and assemblies and then gather at 11am in front of Big School, where the Combined Cadet Force will parade and we will share two minutes of silence.
The Combined Cadet Force will also be represented at the service in St Helen’s Church, Abingdon, at 10am on Sunday 11 November, after which they will form part of the parade to the town war memorial for a short service at 11am. There will also be a joint concert of music and readings at St Helen’s and St Katharine’s, starting at 7pm, where the Joint Choral Society will perform Mozart’s extraordinary Requiem. Tickets are free and can be obtained here. There will be a retiring collection in support of the Poppy Appeal.
This evening, 8 November, at 7pm in the Amey Theatre our senior drama scholars will tell the story of the Great War, as experienced by the Abingdon School community. It is told in a selection of readings drawn from the School's archive, supported by photographs, images and music to evoke the experience of a school community as it attempts to make sense of events unfolding in France and beyond. This is a free event; no booking is necessary and all are welcome. Our History department will also be giving a lecture at the end of the school day, today, on the local history of the Great War.
Remembrance is always a powerful and poignant occasion and of course this year we mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice and the end of the Great War. A memorial in the School Chapel lists the names of Abingdon pupils and staff who died in the First and Second World Wars and it is always enormously moving to read the names and reflect on their sacrifice. It is extraordinary to reflect on the sheer number of names on the memorial; the School was far smaller than it is today. Parents may be interested to read more about Abingdon during the First World War on our archive pages on the website. This includes a remarkable photo of 21 members of the Boat Club, taken in March 1914. By the end of the war, nine of those had been killed.
An Abingdon parent has made a powerful short film focusing on the four boys who made up the 1st crew in 1914 and their coach; three of the crew and the coach perished in the Great War. It intercuts narrative about the boys and their teacher with footage of our Boat Club today, reminding us of just how young the combatants were who went off to war, and how terrible the effect of their demise must have been on their families and the school community. You can view the film on the school website.
The School’s archivist, Sarah Wearne, has also recently finished work on a book that records the war memorials in schools like Abingdon up and down the country. It is fascinating to see how different schools of differing faiths and traditions have remembered their fallen. Seeing these memorials together reminds us of the need to continue to remember those who came before us and gave so much, and also challenges us to ensure that future generations are raised in the ways of justice and peace. We will share details of the book once it has been published.
Letter from the Headmaster, 11 October 2018
11 October 2018
One of my personal highlights of a busy first half of term was the sponsored walk, which saw the entire school take part in a ten-mile outing along the banks of the Thames. The event raised money for two important charities, Crisis UK, supporting homeless people in the UK, and Mary’s Meals, which gives a meal to over a million chronically hungry children every day. We were blessed with perfect weather and it was great to spend the day with various groups of pupils who were all excellent company. I particularly enjoyed walking part of the course with some of our third year boarders who were experiencing the Thames Valley countryside - and a ten-mile walk - for the very first time. The next charitable initiative will be the home clothes day on Friday 12 October, when boys are invited to make a suggested donation of £2, to raise funds for the support of victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia.
The spirit of service is a key part of the Abingdon ethos. A powerful expression of this is our long-standing partnership with Moldova which sees sixth formers visiting this country, the poorest in Europe, to assist in a school and then run a summer camp for Moldovan children. But there is also plenty going on closer to home. The Third Year Service scheme currently involves about 135 pupils, while Community Service is a popular Other Half option which involves pupils visiting local old people’s homes, organising a board game club in a local community centre and volunteering at Abingdon Community Hospital. Our end-of-term parties for local senior residents are always particularly popular and well-attended events. Other key parts of the Other Half such as CCF and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award have strong elements of service at their heart and it was good to hear stories of our current Lower Sixth taking part in the National Citizen Service over the summer. It is crucial for the successful education of our pupils that we remain outward-looking and aware of the wider society in which we live, and conscious of the part that we can play to make our society better.
Our pupils also give significant service to the School including at our recent Open Day, for which I am very grateful. We welcomed a record number of visitors and the pupils did a fantastic job of showing them round. Many of our guests commented on how impressed they had been by the boys.
Beech Court was very well received by our open day visitors. The new library has been a hive of activity since September, with younger pupil librarians learning the ropes from their older counterparts, while groups of journalists beaver away on the next round of publications like The Abingdonian, The Martlet and Words and That.
As ever at Abingdon, there is no shortage of highlights to reflect upon, even from a comparatively short half of term. We were treated to some magnificent piano playing at the inaugural outing for the new Steinway piano in the Amey Theatre, where I also recently enjoyed some outstanding academic presentations from middle school pupils. The topics were certainly diverse, ranging from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia to dissociative disorders, from the Black Death to the rise of populism. A presentation on the history of the atom confirmed to me that my understanding is probably situated in about 1850… I certainly have work to do to catch up with quantum mechanics.
Our rugby players have dealt admirably with the frustrations of overly dry and tough pitches, and have put in some committed and courageous performances. I hope you’ll enjoy reading more about the highlights of the term by following the links below.
The formal opening of Beech Court will take place on 9 November although of course pupils and staff have been enjoying use of the building since the start of term. We have also submitted planning permission for a new building that will be known as Faringdon Lodge and will occupy the site next to the Yang Science Centre, where the (temporary) Porters’ Lodge is currently situated. This building will include two larger houserooms as well as a home for Economics and Business and the Computer Science department. It will provide improved Reception facilities, as well as a new home for the Second Hand Uniform Shop. If permission is given, we hope to begin development during the later stages of this academic year, with a view to opening the building in September 2020. I hope to be able to share plans for this building with parents at forthcoming parents’ evenings and school events.
I also wanted to take this opportunity to share some exciting news from our catering team. A new executive head chef, Steve Unwin, has just joined the School and he will be managing all food production within Abingdon School and Abingdon Prep. He brings a wealth of experience and culinary knowledge. He joins us from Chateau Impney, a luxury hotel, wedding venue and exhibition centre in Worcestershire, where he spent five years as Executive Head Chef. His extensive CV also includes time as Executive Chef at Malvern College. His focus will be to review our current offer, implement menus that contain good, hearty and nutritious meals and build a strong culinary team in both schools. We are also joined by Ewa Jankwoska who will be focusing on patisserie, desserts, baking and so on. Ewa’s previous employment includes the Gourmet Handcrafted Cake Company, Hilton Hotels and the Ox and Finch in Glasgow, where she was senior pastry chef. We can look forward to some wonderful puddings!
There is a wide variety of trips and visits taking place over the half-term break and I wish all the best to pupils and staff taking part in them. Indeed, I wish everyone in the Abingdon community an enjoyable break and look forward to welcoming everyone back, refreshed and re-energised, for the second half of term on Monday 29 October.
First years’ first impressions
Staff and students enjoy whole school sponsored walk
Pupils celebrate National Poetry Day
Eleven films debut at AFU annual screening
CCF walk, run, cycle, swim and row 1253km
Lower School – Be the Best You Can Be 2018/19 Launch, Team Building & Rugby, Lower School Assistants on duty
Dr Ben Still talks particle physics to the Sixth Form
Fourth year aspiring engineers visit Crofton Beam Engine
Pre Senior Baccalaureate Philosophy Conference
Moldova project update
National Schools Croquet Championship
Abingdon Science Partnership
Ogden Trust's Abingdon Primary Science Partnership
Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine Podcast
OA Carl Olaveson inspires Science Ambassadors
Royal Society Partnership Grant
Primary School Inspiration Day
Rugby – Colston and Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Cranleigh; Craighouse on tour from Chile; Caldicott Prep, Abingdon Prep; Berkhamsted; Oratory Prep, Sherborne
Cross-country – Abingdon Relays, Longworth 10km
Badminton - Harrow & Oratory, Cheltenham College
Sailing Training at Farmoor
Letter from the Headmaster, 6 September 2018
6 September 2018
I hope all our families had an enjoyable and restful summer. It has been great to welcome pupils back to school this week and I’ve enjoyed hearing their stories of the holidays. Many boys have been involved in school trips and I have heard nothing but positive reports about their conduct and attitude. I’ve been delighted to see so many pupils involved in pre-season training too and I am grateful to parents who have made travel arrangements to ensure that they could take part.
I would like to extend a particular welcome to parents who are new to the School. I hope you will soon feel part of the Abingdon community and that you will be able to take advantage of the opportunities to support your son, be it at concerts, drama productions or sports fixtures. I would also recommend strongly the activities of our Parents’ Association, as well as the Music Society, Touchliners, the Friends of the Boat Club, and the other organisations which exist to strengthen the bonds of community here at Abingdon.
We have welcomed a number of new teachers to the School and I wish them every happiness and success in their new posts. I am sure you will enjoy meeting them during the course of the year.
It has been a particularly busy summer on the school site and we have completed some significant projects. We were delighted to be able to show first year boys and their parents round Beech Court on their induction day, and we are looking forward to showing all of you this wonderful building soon. It’s been great to see the boys settling into the new accommodation this week, and this building, which houses the Art department, the Library and the Sixth Form, is proving to be a fantastic addition to our site. There are some lovely photos of the boys enjoying the new facilities on the website.
We are equally excited about the significant refurbishment that has taken place in Big School and Mercers’ Court, with over 40 classrooms being upgraded into light, airy spaces with improved acoustics. I believe this will have a palpable effect on the quality of learning and I hope the pupils enjoy the feel of these spaces. A number of departments have moved their location around the School and my office has moved too, and can now be found next to the Chapel on the first floor of Big School. Work is ongoing round the Amey Theatre as Music and Drama expand into the space left vacant since Art moved into Beech Court.
The latter stages of the summer break also saw results days for GCSE and A Level candidates. I would like to extend my congratulations to our lower sixth students on their fine achievements at GCSE. Abingdon pupils were taking on a number of new specifications for the first time, which included a number of subjects based on the new 9-1 grading scheme. They responded to these challenges impressively, and it was encouraging to see that nearly 40% of our results in numerical subjects came in at 9, effectively an A**. Our leavers celebrated some outstanding outcomes at A Level, with just under two-thirds of all results coming in at either A* or A and well over a quarter of all results A*. This has enabled the leavers to move on to a very exciting range of options, including 21 who have places at Oxford or Cambridge. Full details of GCSE and A Level results are available at www.abingdon.org.uk/academic_results and university destinations at www.abingdon.org.uk/university_destinations.
When I addressed pupils at the very start of term, I spoke to them about the importance of establishing a strong routine for themselves, one that allows a healthy balance between their studies, the Other Half and family and social life. I know only too well the challenge of getting going again after the summer break but I hope that the pupils will find plenty of support and advice available to them in school as they strive for that balance. Their tutors have a key role to play in this process and I would also remind parents that tutors are available as the first point of contact if there is anything that you would like to talk over with the School. Our recommended method of communication is email but please do be aware that teachers will often be teaching during the day and therefore will not be able to reply immediately. Our staff work very hard but also need to achieve a healthy balance between work and home life, so emails sent in the evening are unlikely to receive a response till the next day. You can be confident though that we will take any concerns seriously and act swiftly to resolve them.
There is much to look forward to in the year ahead and I am confident that your sons will quickly settle into the rhythms and routines of the academic year. I look forward to catching up with you over the coming months and I wish you all the best for 2018-19.
News from the summer:
Letter from the Headmaster, 4 July 2018
4 July 2018
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.
News since Half Term
- Success at the RSC Chemistry Challenge
- Physicists join All Party Parliamentary Engineering Group
- Exploring Virtual Reality
- Carnegie Forum 2018
- Investigating Meteorology
- First years discover Abingdon
- Fundraising for Moldova
- Chalke Valley History Festival
- Polar Explorer Programme
- Tea with Abingdon residents
- ASP takes tea at the Palace of Westminster
- Lower School Inter-Tutor Group Sports
- Lower School Pool Tournament
- Be the best you can Be
- The Griffen Ball
- Creative Smart Phone Photography
- Economics trip to the City and LSE
- Thrill-seekers explore Thorpe Park
- First years visit Fishbourne Roman Palace
- Second years visit Hampton Court Palace
- Summer Concert Finale
- Pianist performs with Oxford Studio Orchestra
- Junior Solo Competition
- Cruising down the Thames
- Lower School Gala Concert
- Cricket: U15 County Champions, Portsmouth Grammar School, OAs, MCS, MCC and Winchester
- Rowing: National Schools, Bedford Star Regatta, BASHER 2
- Athletics: English Schools Track & Field Round 1, Abingdon Athletics Meet, County Championships, Regional English Schools, Inter-house athletics
- Touch Rugby Tournament
- Tennis: Alcester Grammar and Radley
- Lower School Fencing Tournament
- Croquet joins sport at Abingdon
- Football: Oxford United train at Abingdon
Letter from the Headmaster, 24 May 2018
24 May 2018
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.
CCF Biennial Inspection
Race For The Line Regional Final
Moldova Project fundraising
YE teams win awards at County Final
Lower School Assistants at work
Boarders: Cinema trip
Exciting new workshops for ASP
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
Letter from the Headmaster, 26 April 2018
26 April 2018
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.
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
Letter from the Headmaster, 28 March 2018
28 March 2018
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.
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
Lower School: Quiz Night, Lunchtime concert, Inter-Tutor Hockey
Sixth form artists explore paint
AFU Tutors win BAFTA
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
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
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/Dragon, U13 regionals, Bradfield, MCS
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
Letter from the Headmaster, 8 February 2018
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.
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
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
Abingdon Science Partnership
Letter from the Headmaster, 11 January 2018
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.
Letter from the Headmaster, 14 December 2017
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!
- Exploring ATLAS with Minecraft
- The annual Weihnachtsplätzchenbackwettbewerb!
- Christmas community service tea party
- Boys take on the girls at lacrosse
- Primary Schools Business Challenge
- MFL debating competition
- YE off to a good start
- Mace debating competition victory
- Princeton University Maths Success
- Author Ben Kane visits Classics
- The Living Tree
- Lower School dinner debate
- Physics in Action
- NRich – problem solved
- Haptic research with the Third Year
- eSports competition success
- Sixth form Spanish trip to BFI
- CCF visit National Arboretum
- Language conference Bath University
- Out and about with beagles
- Physicists visit Rutherford Appleton Lab
- Sixth formers visit SOAS for Asian current affairs
- Physicists debate at the House of Lords
- Fifth years explore Spain
- Preparation underway for Nicaragua
- Classicists on tour in Provence
- Silver DofE sail to Salcombe
- Lower School and Third Year perform B12 and Black River Bridge
- Christmas Concerts
- Excellent piping performance
- Woodwind masterclass
- Joint Choral Society concert
- Senior Instrumental Competition
- International musicians join the Big Band
- Chapel Choir at Tewksbury Abbey
- Solo Concert number 2
- Lower school lunchtime concert
- Rugby vs: Kirkham, South West Tour, Langley School Festival, St Edward’s and Caldicott, Rugby School & The Dragon, Radley, RGS Guildford, England v Samoa, Neil Back coaches, Oxford Varsity train with 1st XV.
- British Modern Biathlon Championships
- Squash: St Edward’s, Wellington
- Rowing training in Banyoles
- Cross-Country: Regional ESSA, St Albans relays, Oxford City Schools Senior and Intermediate, Harrow
- Swimming: ESSA finals, Warwick 50s, Warwick gala
- Canoe polo
- Fencing update
- National Schools’ Sailing Competition
- Williams F1
- Visiting Winchester
- Christmas in Crescent
- Bonfire night
- Halloween festivities – School House, Crescent, community service
Abingdon Science Partnership
Letter from the Headmaster, 12 October 2017
12 October 2017
Dear Parents, Colleagues, Governors and Boys of Abingdon,
I write this letter with the sound of House Singing fresh in my ears… It was wonderful to see every single pupil gathered to enjoy this communal activity, some of which was notably ambitious and of a high standard. House singing is a great institution in our annual calendar. It’s good to see some of the boys who might not be the most enthusiastic singers taking part so vigorously and a particular pleasure is seeing the musicians in each House taking on significant responsibility in leading the various ensembles.
There have been many highlights over the first half of term and you can read about some of them below. We’ve been very pleased with the way in which our new pupils have settled into school life. They are clearly making the most of the opportunities at Abingdon and they bring notable talent, energy and commitment to the School.
At the start of term, we launched our new Foundation Development Plan which sets a direction for the next five years. The plan articulates a determination to build upon the School’s traditions and recent successes in order to make it even better and to ensure that our pupils are able to benefit from a wholly exceptional education. It is therefore underpinned by a powerful sense of ambition and a shared determination to make the School the very best it can be.
The plan starts with an updated statement of our Aims and Ethos which you can read below. I hope you will be able to identify with this statement of our aspirations for the School.
The development plan is quite lengthy and detailed but the headlines are as follows:
- Teaching and Learning: We will continue to employ a rigorous and focused approach to teaching and learning that ensures the highest standards from teachers and pupils alike, with a sustained focus on professional development so that our staff continue to develop and improve.
- Pastoral care: We endorse our continued commitment to the House system as a structure that ensures individual care for pupils throughout their school career and helps them make informed choices while supporting them as they deal with issues relating, for example, to mental health and the use of technology.
- Other Half: This is already a particular strength of Abingdon but we want to ensure that we invest in the right staff and facilities to sustain and build further achievements in this area.
- Staff engagement and development: We will create the conditions that allow us to recruit and then develop the very best staff, resulting in an elite team of teachers and support staff.
- Building the Foundation: We want to further the strong partnership with Abingdon Prep School and to ensure that the Prep School has the investment to continue to provide an exceptional education.
Six further areas are highlighted for attention:
- Sixth Form: All pupils should see the Sixth Form as an exciting step into a new educational experience. As we prepare to move into new facilities in Beech Court, we will create a sense of opportunity and build on our existing strengths to ensure an innovative, challenging and dynamic experience.
- Boarding: Our boarding community is a valuable part of the make-up of our school. We will improve the boarding experience by investing in facilities, improving communication between school and home and by ensuring that provision, from food to the enrichment programme, is of the highest standard.
- Collaboration with St Helen and St Katharine: While we recognise the advantages provided by a single-sex education, we aim to ensure that we do offer the best of both worlds by developing meaningful partnerships with St Helen and St Katharine that give pupils from both schools greater opportunities to study, plan and socialise with pupils of both genders.
- Bursaries: We will put in place strong bursary provision that allows a healthy social mix in the School while also taking into account issues around affordability.
- Facilities: We will draw up a masterplan for the development of Abingdon School, Abingdon Prep and Tilsley Park over the next five years that will be based firmly in the educational priorities for the Foundation.
- Partnerships: We will build upon recent successes such as our partnership with Fitzharrys and the Abingdon Science Partnership to improve our outreach programme and strengthen our links with the local community.
This is a very brief summary of the development plan. Parents will see progress across all these sectors and I will focus on different areas in my regular letters to you to explain in more detail our aspirations and how we plan to go about fulfilling them. In all that we do, I aim to pursue an open and meaningful collaboration with parents so that you have all the information you need about your son’s progress and are able to make informed choices at the various stages in his education.
I certainly valued parents’ responses to the parental survey last year which has informed some of the areas chosen for development above. You may recall that the quality and quantity of food did not score as strongly as other areas in responses to that survey. Our caterers have been working very hard to address this after running a substantial consultation exercise at the end of last term. At a recent School Council meeting, pupils were very positive about the improvement that they had seen, while also making some useful suggestions. I know the caterers really do welcome feedback from the boys themselves - both positive and negative - and I hope they will pass on comments to the duty manager.
I wish all our pupils and their families a restful and enjoyable break over half term.
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.
- Victorious O’Doherty’s - 2017 House Singing Competition
- Geographers explore Iceland
- CCF complete Land's End to John O'Groats
- Abingdon celebrates National Poetry Day
- A warm welcome for the German exchange
- Wargaming selection for eSports event
- Lower School encouraged to “be the best”
- First Year team building and first week feedback
- Nine hour paddle board for charity
- Edible project work inspired by Fishbourne Roman Palace
- Abingdon Science Partnership: Fizz, pop, bang; Flying Atoms; Discovery Day; Chocolate Factory; Primary Science Partnership
- Modern Foreign Languages enjoy annual dinner
- Chess results: Rapid play tournament
- Crescent House 5-a-side football competition
- Visiting the elderly at Station House
- A new start
- Exploring Oxford
- Getting to grips with bread making
- A compelling insight into naval history
- Abingdon boys embrace the harp
- Soloists take to the stage
- Raising the House rafters
- Oxford Chamber Music Festival
Letter from the Headmaster, 7 September 2017
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.
- Sixth formers run summer camps in Moldova
- Highly commended in BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers Competition
- Taking on the House of Lords at Bridge
- Medal winning swim at the British Summer Championships
- Sailors compete for Oxfordshire
- Windsurfing success at European Championships
- Powerboat – Honda Rib Challenge
- The Sailing Club prepares for the new school year
- Oakham Football Festival
- County Tennis Champion
- England and Wasps Rugby Academy Success
Letter from the Headmaster, 6 July 2017
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.
- Aspiring young writers publish anthology
- BAFTA Young Game Designers Success
- Martlet wins Shine Media awards
- Challenging calculus in the Lower Sixth
- TeenTech competition
- Physics of Scalextric
- First years’ mission to Mars
- Commended in the Peterhouse, Cambridge Vellacott History Prize
- Be the Best celebration
- Abingdon residents tea party
- Lower School go to Film School
- The Fitzharrys Partnership
- The Carnegie Forum
- Raising funds for Sobell House
- Chinese Dragon Boat Festival
- Success in Triumph Design Awards
- Saturday Science Club
- Martian chemistry workshop
- First years explore DT
- Science Partnership update
- Cricket: Reading School, MCS County Cup Abingdon Prep & King Alfred’s
- Athletics: ESSA, Marlborough
- Rowing: National Schools Regatta, Bedford Star Regatta
- Golf: South of England Schools' Golf Championships
- Tennis: ISTA Championships, Road to Wimbledon, National Championships
- “Radlingdon” tennis tournament
- Sports day
- Lower school sports day
- England hockey squad selection
- New fitness suite for the autumn
Out & About
Letter from the Headmaster, 25 May 2017
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.
- Fantastic results in Blott Matthews Engineering Challenge
- Lower sixth drama inspired by playwright and OA Mike Bartlett
- Upper Sixth encourage Lower School to ‘be the best’
- Boarders enjoy Bristol
- Sixth formers raise funds for Moldova
- Good performances in UK Chess Challenge
- Easter Camp Passing Out Parade
- A level biology field trip to Wales
- A golden farewell from the Bridge Club
- Bronze DofE practice expedition
- Third year ancient historians visit Caerleon
- Topping the bill with Abingdon’s Got Talent
- Cribbage at the Old Station House
- ASP Chemistry and Physics investigations
- British Lion guests rugby tour dinner
- Gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards at Buckingham Palace
- Gold for Rob MacLennan at the UK British Fencing Championships
- Cricketers enthralled by Sri Lanka
- Cricket fixtures: Reading Blue Coat, Warwick, Cheltenham College & Bradfield
- Resounding victory for senior tennis vs MCS
- Athletes: Marlborough, ESSA Track & Field, Harrow
- Achilles Relays results
- The Griffen swimming gala
- Sailing on the Solent
- Second years compete for table tennis honours