The Headmaster writes to the Abingdon Prep community every week during term time.

Letter from the Head, 26 November 2021

Friday 26 November 2021

Dear Parents

The weather has certainly turned to a wintry feel this week and coats and woolly hats have been needed at break times.

Music and Drama have taken centre stage this week. Our Year 6s enjoyed a fantastic trip to London to watch the musical, ‘The Prince of Egypt’. For many of them, this was their first ever experience of a musical at a big London theatre and I hope that they have been inspired to return, or even to get involved themselves in a production in the future at school.

A group of our Year 8 children in the advanced drama club performed to an audience of their parents and grandparents on Tuesday after school. They performed two short scenes, one from ‘Journey’s End’ and the other a comedic sketch entitled ‘Bring your kid to work day’. After such a long hiatus, it was fantastic to see APS children back on stage again performing to a live audience. I know I am greatly looking forward to next term when many of our whole year group drama productions will be taking place.

The sound of carols has been drifting through the corridors this week as the children continue to rehearse for the upcoming carol concerts. Despite not yet being in December, I feel that I can now start to mention the Christmas word as the Christmas adverts are very much in evidence on the television.

This afternoon is our third concert platform of the term, and once again we have a full list of participants with performances from children on a wide range of instruments including trumpet, drums, guitar, clarinet and cello. I am very much looking forward to attending.

The Business Challenge took place at Abingdon School this week with a mixed group of Year 5 and 6 children forming the APS team. They really enjoyed the event and presented their business plan extremely well and were awarded the Best Presentation prize. Perhaps some budding entrepreneurs are amongst them.

On Wednesday our U11 A-D teams enjoyed a clean sweep of victories against Magdalen whilst our U8s and U9s also played Magdalen on Thursday and finished with two wins and two losses in closely contested matches.

Our U13 Sevens rugby team took part in the Pinewood tournament this week and performed admirably with some excellent individual skills on show and a strong team spirit, resulting in some tight losses and some hard won victories.

I hope you all remain well and have a good weekend ahead.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 19 November 2021

Friday 19 November 2021

Dear Parents

Thank you to all of you who attended our firestorm event last Friday. The weather was fair and the display was excellent. The light sabres were again a huge hit and it was some sight to see them slicing through the night air as the boys enjoyed their Star Wars style battles.

The children have been really busy again this week in school. They have been working hard both inside and outside of the classroom.

Year 4 ventured out of the classroom yesterday to explore Christ Church in Abingdon as part of their RE curriculum this term. They were finding out more about the history of the Church and the way churches in general are designed and the reasons for this. Field trips are such a great way to help children cement their learning from lessons.

Year 5 were working incredibly hard on angles this week and showing some impressive use of their protractors. They showed me some very accurate work on their acute and obtuse angles and were really enjoying developing their skills further.

It was lovely to welcome our Pre-Prep parents into school for a workshare this morning. The boys were so proud to show their parents the work they have been doing this term and their progress from the start of term was certainly in evidence.

Our swimmers were again in action on Monday at The Dragon gala. Once again the boys swam incredibly well in what was a very high level event with some fantastic races by pupils from both schools.

Rugby fixtures took place against Christ Church Cathedral School for our U13B and U12B teams on Wednesday and the boys played really well with the 13s winning by a solitary try and the 12s winning a little more easily. Our U8s and U9s played Chandlings and came away with one win, one draw and two very close losses by a single try. It was great to see all the boys proudly representing Abingdon Prep and competing so well.

I must also congratulate our U12 Cross Country team who are today competing in Cambridgeshire after qualifying for the regional finals a few weeks ago. I know they will try their very best and they can be very proud of reaching this stage.

Our building project continues apace and it won’t be too long before the walls start to go up and the roof, rafters now almost complete, will also start to take shape. The boys are getting a great view of the progress from their break time play spaces.

It is with some regret that I have taken the difficult decision to cancel our Christmas Bazaar this year. Sadly, given the nature of the event with so much mixing across year groups in the hall with the games and the close confines having so many people on site, I felt that it was not an event where I could honestly say that we could prevent transmission if we did have any asymptomatic Covid-19 cases. However, instead of the Bazaar, we have decided to run Christmas parties for the all of the year groups in the final week of term which will be great fun.

The carol concert, on the final Tuesday of term, is also an event where there would be very close contact given the numbers attending and the close proximity of people in the church. As such, we have decided to split our carol services this year to allow for more space between our guests. Our Year 3 and 4 carol concert will now take place at school on Friday 3 December at 6pm whilst our Year 5-8 carol concert will take place at St Helen’s Church in Abingdon on Tuesday 7 December at 6.30pm. More details will follow nearer the time.

I hope you all have a good weekend ahead and remain well.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 12 November 2021

Friday 12 November 2021

Dear Parents

It has been a very busy week here at school and the boys observed the two minute silence at our remembrance service yesterday with great respect. It is always such an important event in the calendar giving the boys a chance to reflect and think about those who have given their lives in service of their country to gain the freedoms that we all enjoy today. I have enjoyed reading about some of the exploits of family members which have been sent in and are part of our poppy display.

There were some fantastic performances in the sports arena this week. I was very lucky to see some of the swimming gala at St Hugh’s on Thursday evening. The boys produced some fantastic races and ran out victors. On Wednesday, we had a terrific block rugby fixture with Moulsford, in both contact and touch games, where all boys represented the school from Years 5 to 8. Some superb rugby was played by both schools with impressive victories for our U12 As, U10 As and Bs and a superbly entering last minute 40-40 draw for our U13C team.

The concert platform was a wonderful way to end last week and I was hugely impressed with all the boys who performed, from those just starting out on their musical journeys to some amazing pieces from boys who are clearly incredibly accomplished. Our Pre-Prep boys also performed beautifully last week at their delayed pumpkin festival performance. I think we have some budding singers in this group.

I am very excited about our Firestorm event later today and again want to thank our JPA for organising this. It is always a great evening and it looks like we may have perfect weather for fireworks. I very much look forward to seeing most of you this evening on the field. The boys have certainly been looking forward to it all day. I would also like to say a huge thank you to those of you who have kindly agreed to help clean up the debris at 8.30am tomorrow before the rugby matches begin for our Year 7 and 8s.

Looking forward, Gifts for Grown Ups is a brilliant event run by our parents association on the penultimate day of term, really kickstarting our Christmas celebrations. I know that the boys love choosing gifts for their families and if any parents are able to give up some time to help man the tables on that day, Thursday 9 December, please could I ask that you get in touch with the school office who will then pass on your details to Nicky Bonner who is very kindly running the event.

Finally, I was very fortunate to climb the scaffolding and tour our new building development which is really beginning to take shape with the roof rafters currently being put in. The building team is making great progress and I hope you have all seen some of the pictures shared on our social media platforms this week. It is so exciting to see this new development coming along so well.

I hope you all have a good weekend ahead and enjoy the fireworks display tonight.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 5 November 2021

Friday 5 November 2021

Dear Parents

It has been great to welcome everyone back to school after the half term break. The boys seem well rested and have settled back quickly into the school routines.

A real highlight of my week was watching some of our Year 7 & 8 boys reciting Shakespearean sonnets which they had chosen themselves for the competition. I will look forward to hearing a few of them again in the finals in a fortnight’s time.

In the music room it has been lovely to hear the boys starting to rehearse for the Carol Concert at the end of term and I have also been greatly encouraged to see so many boys sign up for the concert platform this afternoon. Many will be performing for the first time to an audience and I wish them all the very best of luck.

On Thursday, Stefan gave a hugely informative and fascinating assembly about the role that Commonwealth soldiers played in World War II. We heard about three amazing individuals from Ghana, Jamaica and France, whose bravery and fortitude encapsulated the vital role that so many commonwealth soldiers played in that conflict. It has also been lovely to find out about the experiences of some of our boys’ relatives in the conflict through the Remembrance Day display in the hall. We are looking forward to next Thursday which will be our opportunity to remember those who have fought and given up their lives in conflicts around the globe in our Remembrance service.

Oratory Prep were the opponents in our Wednesday rugby fixtures this week and some strong performances were in evidence across the age groups. Our Under 12As played some lovely rugby in a convincing win whilst most other matches were very close affairs with good results across the board. On Thursday, all of our Year 3 & 4 boys were involved in the Abingdon Prep tag rugby festival. Despite the rather chilly conditions, the boys worked hard, played good rugby, showed great camaraderie and enjoyed the chance to play a series of matches against 4 other schools.

Our Year 5s have been out at The Black Country Museum today learning about life in Victorian times, in schools with chalk and blackboards and the cane, alongside shops and factories. I know that they will have learned a great deal by experiencing these things first hand.

As COP26 continues to make the headlines, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on what we might be able to do to help our planet and slow down the seemingly progressive march to higher temperatures, further species extinctions and the continued issue of plastic pollution. I know that our eco club has some ideas and will be talking to the school about them next week. Turning the thermostat down a degree and wearing jumpers, re-using containers rather than buying single use plastics, providing bug hotels or a natural place for creatures to shelter through the winter can all play their part. I am certainly following the pledges with interest as the countries of the world look to take some significant action to address this pressing issue.

I hope that you all have an enjoyable weekend and please do purchase your tickets for our fireworks evening next Friday 12 November if you have not already done so via Classlist. With a range of food stalls present alongside the glow sticks and light sabres, it promises to be a terrific evening.

Following on from the email we sent at the start of half term, please could I ask that if you have not yet done so, you take the time to complete our important feedback survey. We have again shared an email with you today containing the link and any relevant information. Your feedback is hugely valuable to us as we look to produce our next five year plan for the school. Thank you in anticipation.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 15 October 2021

Friday 15 October 2021

Dear Parents

It has been a week of vaccinations at school with many of our Year 7 & 8 boys receiving Covid and flu vaccinations, as well as flu jabs for the staff today. The NHS nurses ran it brilliantly and hopefully will have helped keep some of the winter flu away. Years Reception to 6 will all be offered a flu vaccination after half term so please do sign the consent form online.

It was great to have the concert platform back last week and lovely to hear so many terrific performances on a variety of instruments. Two amazing Year 6 pianists wowed the audience with their stunning recitals whilst the younger boys showed real courage to get up in front of an audience for the very first time and played beautifully. They can all be very proud of themselves and I hope they will want to perform again in the concert platforms after half term.

Reception were wonderful ambassadors for the school on their trip to Cogges Farm on Monday. They had an amazing time learning about ‘The Little Red Hen’ and were beautifully mannered at all times, impressing everyone they had contact with.

This week’s rugby matches took place against The Manor, Oratory Prep and at the Cokethorpe tournament. All the boys involved worked really hard and our Under 12s ran out winners of the tournament winning all of their games. Our U10s and U11s produced some high scoring games against The Manor with some impressive individual tries whilst our U8s and U9s continue to improve their skills and are enjoying playing in lots of matches for the first time.

Thursday saw Cross Country taking centre stage with our Years 3-7 competing in different events. The boys performed strongly at the busy Manor Cross Country event with strong individual and team performances whilst our Year 7s competed in the English Schools (Oxfordshire) championships and performed extremely well against high calibre opponents, most of whom were a year older. They finished an impressive 3rd in the team event.

Our Pre-Prep pumpkin festival took place this afternoon and it was great to see so many parents looking round the incredible carved pumpkins. The boys have worked so hard on carving them out. We are looking forward to the performance element of this taking place after half term.

It has been a very productive first half of term and I certainly feel that the children, staff and parents have earned their half term break. Thank you to all of you too for your support during the term. It really has been greatly appreciated by all of us. I hope you all have a good holiday and we will look forward to welcoming everyone back on 1st November.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 8 October 2021

Friday 8 October 2021

Dear Parents

I hope you have all had a good week. We continue to keep a watchful eye on the number of Covid-19 cases in school and continue to work hard on ensuring measures are in place and adhered to, in order to help reduce the spread of the virus within our school community. Your continued support with this is greatly appreciated.

The children have been busy in school again this week. At the start of the week our Year 8s visited the Natural History Museum in Oxford. This was a combined Science and Art trip and I hear the hissing cockroaches were a real hit! It is an amazing space and I know the boys enjoyed listening to the talks and producing art from the amazing creatures and the stunning architecture that they saw in front of them.

Our Year 7s took part in workshops delivered by the mental health coordinator at Abingdon School earlier in the week. The workshops were designed to help the boys to think about how they deal with anxiety and worry and looked at strategies that could support them, and their friends, when they do have worries or concerns. It is a really important aspect of our PSHCE programme.

I was particularly impressed with our Year 4s this week and their Iron Man Menus. The fillet of zinc with mercury dipping sauce jumped out at me off the menu alongside a side order of iron filings. It was great to read so many creative ideas based around the book.

Our Pre-Prep boys have been starting to get ready for their pumpkin festival next week and I am looking forward to seeing some of their creations in the coming days. Whenever I start to see pumpkins around I know that Autumn is well and truly upon us.

This afternoon our first concert platform of the term is taking place and it is great to see so many boys signed up to take part. We have boys performing for the first time to an audience and a few more experienced musicians as well. They are always lovely events and great to have back on our calendar. Do encourage your boys to sign up for the upcoming ones after half term.

Good luck to our Year 3s who are involved in their first Saturday rugby festival tomorrow. I am looking forward to popping along to see how they are getting on. Saturday also sees our first Year 7 & 8 Art Workshop – Animal Canvas in the style of German expressionist Franz Marc – which I know has once again proved popular. I look forward to seeing what they are able to create during the day.

I hope you have a lovely weekend and enjoy an autumnal walk. I have enjoyed chatting to some of the boys this week about ‘playing conkers’ from when I was a child. Perhaps a chance this weekend to start a new family tradition of conker battles on a string?

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 1 October 2021

Friday 1 October 2021

Dear Parents

I wanted to start my letter this week by thanking all the boys for their efforts at Open Morning last Saturday. It was a fantastic turnout and our Year 7 guides did a terrific job touring parents around school, showcasing what the boys were doing in their lessons.

On Monday, Year 2 went on their geography field trip to The Earth Trust at Wittenham Clumps. They drew field sketches of the area and studied the flow of the river, whilst also walking up the steep ‘Round Hill’ and learning about the processes of the water cycle. They were all very tired on their return after so much walking but had a great first trip of the term.

Whilst walking round classrooms this week, I saw some fantastic creative writing taking place with our Year 2 boys as they described in detail sitting under an apple tree and the sights and sounds surrounding them. Year 4 were working on their comprehension skills and improving their use of descriptive vocabulary as they wrote whilst in Year 8 CDT, the boys had made working acrylic clocks of all different sizes, shapes and designs after cutting out their designs on the fret saw and finishing them off on the electric sanders.

On the rugby pitch this week our Year 3 and 4 boys played in their first ever matches and acquitted themselves admirably. Tuesday saw the Year 4s take on St Hugh’s in three very closely contested games, with two draws and one loss, whilst on Thursday the Under 8s also made their debut against Christ Church with a win and a loss, but they all learned a great deal about match play and the importance of teamwork and getting involved. On Wednesday our seniors took to the field with three Under 12 teams and an U13 C team taking on Abingdon School in a combination of contact and touch games. Close matches were the order of the day and the boys really enjoyed meeting many of their future comrades when they eventually move across to the senior school.

Thursday’s Zoom assembly showed some fabulous musical talent from both staff and boys, with the cello, oboe, double bass, flute, piano and piccolo all being played. Two of our multi-talented Visiting Music Teachers (VMTs) then went into some classrooms during the day to demonstrate a piece or two (they were incredible!) with a segment of James Bond too as a precursor to the new release. We really do have some talented musicians within both the boys and the staff. I am often in awe at the way these young boys play their instruments with such skill and musicality. I know I wrote to all parents on Wednesday regarding an increase in Covid cases at school this week but if I could again ask for you all to continue to be vigilant for symptoms that your sons may be displaying and undertake the requisite tests where necessary. We continue to be vigilant in School to try to restrict the spread of the virus.

I hope you all have a good weekend ahead.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 24 September 2021

Friday 24 September 2021

Dear Parents

Another week comes to an end and the boys have continued to be incredibly busy at school. They have impressed in the classroom with their strong work ethic and desire to answer questions. Enquiring minds are a vital part of developing knowledge and understanding and I would always encourage children to ask that extra question that they really want to find out about.

On the rugby pitch, our boys in Year 5-8 took on Beachborough with an even split of wins and losses but clear improvement shown from the week before. They have definitely been working hard in training. Our mixed Year 7 and 8 cross country team performed superbly on Tuesday in the Abingdon School relays, winning the event with a terrific team effort.

I have had a very interesting few days at the IAPS Heads Conference this week. It has been great to hear other fellow Head Teachers talk about their schools and how they are emerging from the difficulties of the past 18 months and the optimism we all have for the coming year.

Tomorrow is our Open Morning and I am very much looking forward to welcoming prospective parents into school for the first time since February 2019. Our Year 7s will be touring them around and they will undoubtedly be impressed with all the boys as they go about their normal lessons. Thank you for bringing them into school for this important event. I hope you all have a good weekend and I look forward to seeing you next week.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 17 September 2021

Friday 17 September 2021

Dear Parents

I have been delighted with the incredibly impressive work ethic that the boys have been showing in all their lessons this week as I have popped into classrooms. It has been great to see them so focused on their work when writing and so keen to volunteer answers as well. Year 5 were discussing monotheism versus polytheism in their RE lesson whilst Year 8 were looking at concordant and discordant coastlines. One highlight of my week though was the delicious apple and blackberry crumble which our Reception class had very kindly made for me. We definitely have some budding chefs in that group and in Year 1 they have been producing some fantastic writing too this week with budding authors aplenty.

Our first trip of the year took place yesterday and today with Year 4 trekking along the Ridgeway undertaking some geography and science along the way. They stayed overnight at the youth hostel and from what I hear, had a fantastic time on their first ever school residential trip.

For the first time since December 2019, the boys in Years 5-8 returned to rugby matches against opposing schools. Our Under 13As played some fantastic rugby at the Dragon tournament winning 4 of their 6 matches whilst the U10s, U11s, U12s and U13Bs all took on Pinewood. Our boys played with great heart against strong opponents and scored some fantastic tries. The U13Bs performed extremely well and can be proud of their victory with such a strong team performance whilst the U12Bs scored a last minute equalising try in a terrific contest between two evenly matched teams.

This week has seen a return to full steam for our Other Half programme and it has been great to see so many boys enjoying their clubs and learning new skills.

I am sure that many of you will have been watching the news around children’s Covid-19 vaccinations this week. We are currently awaiting further guidance from Public Health Oxford as to when they will be offering these at Abingdon Prep for those boys who are 12 or 13. We will of course be in touch with parents of those boys once we have more detail.

I hope you all have a good weekend.

Best wishes


Letter from the Head, 10 September 2021

Friday 10 September 2021

Dear Parents

It has been a fantastic start to the Autumn term. We have welcomed our new children to the Abingdon Prep community and it has been great getting to know them alongside hearing stories of what our returning children have been getting up to over the summer. The hot weather was a very pleasant surprise but it seems like the autumnal weather may now be well and truly in the ascendancy.

One of the real highlights of my week was coming together as a school for the first time in 18 months for our singing practice on a Wednesday morning. It was great to hear the boys singing in unison and enjoying the sense of community that this brings. I know that both Sean and I ended up with goosebumps hearing the boys singing with such gusto.

My message in assembly this week was for the boys to make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead of them this term. Work hard, get involved and be kind were the tenets of the assembly and it has been lovely to see the boys trying to follow them as they start their journeys in school this year.

The boys have been busy in the classroom, getting straight down to learning whether in Year 8 or Reception. I enjoyed finding out more about Buddhism, the topic for Year 8 RE lessons this week and seeing our Year 7 boys taking on the bleep test in their PE lessons. Rugby has started in earnest this week with many boys impressing with their handling and evasive running. Other Half clubs have also started with a bang this week with cricket nets, fencing, table tennis, archery, cooking (amazing scones), touch typing, chess and warhammer to name but a few. It is a key part of school life that we are very proud of and value highly.

I hope to see many of you later tonight at our social drinks event and look forward to coming together as a community for the first time in so many months.

I hope you all have a good weekend ahead.

With best wishes

Craig Williams