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

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

Craig

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
Headmaster

Letter from the Head, 3 September 2021

Friday 3 September 2021

I hope you have all had a really enjoyable final week of the holiday. We have welcomed all of our teachers and support staff back into school today for the first of two days training. It has been great to catch up with everyone and hear about their holidays.

Our form teachers are looking forward to speaking with you this evening on zoom and sharing lots of information about school so that you and your sons can be straight into the routines of school life next week. Please refer to the email sent last week from me with all zoom details included within it.

Earlier in the week, it was lovely to welcome so many boys to our pre-season rugby training sessions on Wednesday and Thursday morning. It was a record turnout and the boys all seemed in great spirits. Two very enjoyable sessions took place and the weather held fair.

Please may I take this opportunity to again encourage you to read the weekly mailing as there is important information included. This week specifically, there is detailed information about drop off and pick up information as well as the start of other half activities. I would also ask that you take the opportunity to read through our new Covid 19 risk assessment which is now live on our website here as this will hopefully reassure you that we have, and continue to, make appropriate adjustments in line with government guidance to try to keep our community as safe as possible. I will be speaking with all the boys in assembly about the measures at the start of term, as will form teachers, to ensure they are aware of the steps they will need to take in school.

If your son is off school isolating due to Covid-19 and is well enough, they will be able to access remote learning via our zoom and google classroom platforms once you have notified your son’s form teacher and they have had the opportunity to notify other staff. However, in line with foundation practice, if your son is off school with another illness, then we would want them to be recovering and they will not be able to join lessons via our remote learning platforms. If you have any questions about this, then please do get in touch with me.

We are really looking forward to welcoming all the boys back to school on Tuesday morning and cannot wait to get started. I hope to catch up with many of you in the car park during the week or if not, at our drinks event on Friday 10 September at 6.45pm.

In the meantime, have a lovely weekend.

With best wishes

Craig Williams
Headmaster

Letter from the Head, 2 July 2021

Friday 2 July 2021

Dear Parents

It has been a really lovely week at school with so many different activities taking place across all the year groups.

Saturday and Monday saw our Sports Days take place for Years 3-8 at Tilsley Park and Pre-Prep on Cox’s Field. It was so good to be able to run these events with spectators allowed (albeit restricted) and I was so proud of the way the boys all did their very best, no matter what race or event they were taking part in. It was great to have an atmosphere with spectators cheering the boys along. There were some amazing performances and a number of school records were broken. The boys will find out the winning house and who the ‘Victor Ludorums’ are in the final assembly of term.

As I have previously mentioned, sadly we will not be able to run our summer concert next week but we will be sending through to all parents a recording of the boys performing on Thursday after school. I hope that you will really enjoy seeing how hard the boys have been working on their performances and would like to thank Sean and his music department for putting all this into place.

The final matches of the term for the U12s and U13s took place against St Hugh’s on Wednesday. There was a great finish to the U12C team game with a final over loss by just two runs, but some brilliant performances by the boys in that team. Our U8s and U9s all played against Magdalen on Tuesday and there was some lovely cricket, with the U8Bs winning their first game of the season by just one run. Good luck to the U10s and U11s who have their final matches of the term tomorrow against Cothill.

Reception and Year 1 are away at Cotswold Wildlife Park today. This is an amazing trip and if you have never been I can thoroughly recommend it to you for a summer visit.

Year 6 spent Tuesday night sleeping in the sports hall after the late cancellation of their Bushcraft trip due to a Covid outbreak at the centre. It was a fantastic afternoon and evening with the boys taking part in lots of activities and coming together for a pizza in front of the England game on the big screen. There was no need for me to follow the game from my office as the roar when the goals went in told me everything I needed to know! Our Year 5s are currently having a two-day activity programme with an overnight camp. This has been great fun and the boys certainly showed their teamwork skills throughout their activities, even if their tent-building did leave a little to be desired!

As we move into the final week of term, please could I ask that we all continue to reinforce to the boys the importance of washing hands, sanitising and social distancing so that we can try to keep the whole community as safe as possible, especially given the current significant rise in case numbers in the area.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 25 June 2021

Friday 25 June 2021

Dear Parents

I am very much looking forward to Sports Day tomorrow with our Years 3-8 and wish them all the best in their events. It is always a highlight of the calendar and whilst we are having to adapt the event and put restrictions in place, it is great that we are able to still go ahead with it, albeit with limited spectator numbers at Tilsley Park. I look forward to seeing some of you there tomorrow.

Sadly, Covid-19 is still having a significant effect on life in school. Our Year 6 Bushcraft residential, a highlight of the year, has had to be cancelled next week due to an outbreak at the centre. I know the boys will be disappointed but we are concocting a new plan for some fun activities on Tuesday for them instead.

Year 8 had a fantastic time away last week with their watersports residential. So many new skills were learnt and memories created as they start to near the end of their Abingdon Prep journeys. It has been lovely to hear so many of them chatting about the trip and what they really loved trying out in Poole Harbour.

On the cricket pitch there were some terrific performances by the boys against Bruern Abbey for the Year 5, 6, 7 and 8s, leading to four wins with two boys scoring very impressive quick-fire 50s, whilst our U8s and U9s played against Chandlings and also performed very well. Our U8s showed a marked improvement from their previous matches without quite managing to get across the line, whilst our U9s performed strongly again finishing with three wins and one loss.

Year 8s started the week with a careers talk and were able to discuss a range of different career options. They will not yet know what it is they want to be, but a germ of an idea now may just grow into a successful career later on in life for them.

The Pre-Prep jungle performance took place this afternoon outside and was a great success, with many of the boys performing to a small audience for the very first time. This will be the first of many performances over the coming years for them and it was a lovely way to share with parents what they have been working on this term.

Our Street Dance workshops today were absolutely brilliant fun and the boys may just have been surprised about how much hard work street dance can be. The routines the coach was putting together were great fun and I know the boys really enjoyed the experience.

I hope you all have an enjoyable weekend and I look forward to seeing some of you tomorrow.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 18 June 2021

Friday 18 June 2021

Dear Parents

I, like many of you I am sure, was disappointed to hear earlier in the week that we are not yet in a position to fully open up the country and remove restrictions, and this will sadly have an impact on some of our planned events for the coming weeks.

Sports Day will still be able to go ahead but with restrictions on the number of parents able to attend, whilst our whole school summer concert at the Amey Theatre will sadly have to be cancelled. We will, however, be putting together a recording of the children performing their pieces and hopefully this will remind you of the fantastic music that continues to happen at APS.

As I am sure you will appreciate, we are still looking very carefully at other events and will be in touch with you once final decisions on how best to run them safely have been taken. Given the increasing case numbers in the local area and advice from Public Health Oxfordshire, we felt that we need to look very carefully at all our events in the coming weeks to continue to try to keep our school community as safe as possible. Move up morning will go ahead for our own boys but unfortunately we will not be able to invite our new joiners in on Tuesday next week, given the possibility of cross-contamination of bubbles between schools.

I was very lucky to experience some of Jungle Day in Pre-Prep this week. They were busily creating jungle binoculars, writing tiger haiku poems, acting them out, and discovering jungle fruits through drawing and tasting them. I enjoyed learning about the flag of Nepal (the only non rectangular flag in the world), and hearing about the Sharon fruit in particular. Their costumes were brilliant, with monkeys and tigers running all around our play areas for the day.

There were some amazing acrylic creations for pen pot holders in Year 7 CDT this week. The boys were finishing off a number of projects and it was great for me to see their work and have them explain in detail the concept of their designs and how they were able to cut and shape the acrylic. The Teddy Bear design was particularly impressive but the attention to detail that the boys all showed in their work was commendable.

Cricket matches against Abingdon School and Magdalen College School took place this week, with our U12s playing in some incredibly close matches, two of which ended up being lost on the final ball of the game. It was great to see the boys enjoying themselves so much out on the cricket pitch. Our Under 8s and two U9 teams took on Christ Church Cathedral School yesterday and they all enjoyed the opportunity of pitching their skills against other boys. There were some great performances all round and two games were won and two lost.

Early in the week, Michael Triff, who is in charge of careers at Abingdon School, came across to spend time with our Year 7 boys and they really enjoyed the chance to listen to him speak about future careers. This is a really important subject and something that our older boys are starting to think about. It is important that we are able to give them some food for thought as to what opportunities exist for them after the world of education.

Today, our Year 5s have journeyed to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard to visit Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory. This will help to bring their learning about Nelson to a crescendo, spending time on board the same decks he used to patrol. Trips are such a fantastic way to bring learning to life and the dockyard is an amazing treasure trove of ships if you ever get the chance to visit.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 11 June 2021

Friday 11 June 2021

Dear Parents

I am pleased to be able to share the news that I have appointed Mrs Kirsty Hughes from September to take over from Alison Heaton whilst she is away on maternity leave. Kirsty has been teaching for a number of years at a local primary school in Years 4 and 5 and has a great interest and experience in environmental studies. I have also appointed a new GAP student, Mr Kyle Tappan, who will be joining us in September having completed his education at a local independent school, although he has grown up in South Africa. Kyle is a very talented sportsman in all of our major games and I know he, and Kirsty, will be great assets to the APS team.

A reading challenge has been taking place in Pre-Prep over the past few weeks and it has been terrific to see the boys and their families getting so engrossed in reading books. A love of books is something that so many of us grew up with and still indeed have, and I hope that this will be the start of that for some of our youngest boys. I have really enjoyed reading Thomas the Tank Engine to Quinn recently, bringing back memories of when I used to read the stories and paw over the wonderful pictures as a young boy.

In our cricket matches this week against St Andrew’s, our U10As and Bs and U11As and Bs played in some very exciting games with impressive performances from boys in both schools. It ended with honours even with two wins and two losses, but the boys enjoyed playing again in better weather! Our U9s, A, B, C and D teams, all played in matches against St Hugh’s on Thursday and really enjoyed themselves, again achieving a good set of results with two wins and two losses, and everyone representing the school.

Congratulations to our Year 7 and 8 boys who have all been sitting their AP+ exams this week. They have worked hard in the lead up to these and I hope that their efforts will be rewarded with a good set of grades. I know that the Year 8 boys are hugely looking forward to their trip to Poole next week for a watersports residential to celebrate their time at Abingdon Prep and make some lasting memories with the great friends they have developed over the years.

On a different note, given the rising number of Covid-19 cases both locally and nationally, I just wanted to take this opportunity to ask for your continued support with reinforcing the importance of twice-weekly lateral flow testing for our Year 7 & 8s and hand washing, sanitising and social distancing for the boys. It has always been our aim to try to keep our community as safe as possible and these measures, alongside our continued bubbles, will hopefully help us to do this. We are monitoring the situation closely, awaiting the government’s announcement on Monday next week alongside any updated guidance, and continuing to look at our future events in the calendar to try to ensure that we keep everyone safe.

I hope you all enjoy the weekend ahead.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 21 May 2021

Friday 21 May 2021

Dear Parents

It was so lovely to be able to welcome many parents back onto our playing fields to watch cricket this Wednesday following on from the easing of some restrictions. Despite the torrential earlier downpours, we were able to go ahead with the home matches at least and seeing Cox’s field full of boys playing cricket, watched by their parents, was a very welcome sight indeed.

The geographer in me is keeping a close eye on the position of the Jet Stream currently and hoping that it will start to move further north, allowing the warmer more settled weather to be dragged across from the south, rather than allowing the Atlantic weather patterns to continue to make their way over Frilford as they seem to be doing on a daily basis!

Natalie Hunt, the Foundation’s Wellbeing and Mental Health Coordinator, returned to school today to run some workshops for our senior boys, discussing ‘Anxiety vs Worry’. It is really important that we continue to address these issues with our children and help them to create their own tool set to cope with challenges that might present themselves both now and in the future.

Our Reception class took the time to read me their tiger poems and tiger stories this week. They have worked so hard on their words and their handwriting too and should be very proud of what they have produced. I think we may have some budding authors on our hands.

In English, our Year 4s have been busy crafting the 13th Task of Heracles, using their knowledge of the other 12 tasks to create their own mythical creatures and tales of heroism and derring-do. It was a pleasure to read some of their finished stories which brought the world of Greek Mythology to life.

It was an eye-opening Computing lesson with Year 5 that I popped into this week. They were producing animations using Google Slides and websites that can remove backgrounds and create transparencies. We had planes flying over volcanoes, tigers prowling through jungles, space battles and even Pokémon characters causing trouble. I was so impressed with the skills of the boys and the speed with which they had learnt how to do this.

Yesterday I met with our Eco Club to talk about starting the ‘Green Team Challenge’ both at school and at home. I have agreed to get involved in this myself, and if successful, the team will earn a Green Blue Peter badge. There are a number of challenges to undertake in the coming months and I know they are looking forward, as am I, to trying to be more sustainable at home and at school.

Finally, I wanted to wish good luck to all of our Year 3 to 6 children who will be undertaking some tests and exams next week. I know they have worked hard in preparation for them, supported by their teachers, and they will undoubtedly give them their best shot.

Congratulations to those Year 8 children who have been sitting their Music, Drama and Art scholarship exams this week for Abingdon School. They have also worked incredibly hard in preparation for this and should be very proud of their efforts.

I hope you all enjoy the weekend ahead.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 14 May 2021

Friday 14 May 2021

Dear Parents

I hope that you have all had a good week and are looking forward to further easing of restrictions next Monday as detailed by the government earlier in the week.

With this in mind I wanted to share with you some changes that will be implemented at school.

  • From Monday 17 May, it is optional for pupils to wear face coverings in school so they no longer need to be worn by boys in Years 7 and 8. However, they should continue to be worn when using the school minibuses. Parents and pupils are reminded that all face coverings should be stored safely in a sealable bag and they should wash their hands before and after touching them.
  • From Monday 17 May, spectating at fixtures on site is allowed. Parents need to ensure that they socially distance in groups of no more than six and take note of any additional instructions or requests at the venues, to limit the risk of transmission.

Other schools may have slightly different directives so we will let you know in the information sent through on sports-train what they would like to happen with regards to spectators on their sites.

Finally this week in the absence of rain, we managed to restart our sporting fixtures with both tennis and cricket taking place. There were some excellent performances all round, with our first century scorer for many years, but the main thing was just to get the children back out playing matches and working as part of their team. Unfortunately the weather has caused the cancellation of our home matches this Saturday and we are keeping our fingers crossed that we will be able to play our away matches. We all hope for better weather next week.

I thoroughly enjoyed two assemblies that took place this week. The first was a presentation in Junior Section assembly from one of our boys explaining Ramadan and the stages of prayer that he goes through every day. It was great to hear first hand about this and also the celebration of Eid as the period of fasting came to an end.

Neurodiversity was the theme for our Year 7 assembly on Thursday and also shared with Year 8 last week. Lil talked in great detail about the different pathways and connections that we all build up in our brains, starting when we are in the womb. Our choices and actions help to build the different connections as we grow up and that is why everyone is so different. Learning about brain development is really important to help us all understand why we are different and to celebrate those differences.

The children in Years 3-8 are working hard in the lead up to their tests and exams either side of half term and it has been great to see our pre-prep children also working so hard with their literacy and numeracy, alongside all their other subjects. This week I have once again been hugely impressed with their ever-improving handwriting skills.

I hope that you all have a good weekend.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 7 May 2021

Friday 7 May 2021

Dear Parents

It has been another good week at school with the boys working hard and throwing themselves into their learning and Other Half activities.

I enjoyed seeing the Year 2s using the school grounds in Science this week, exploring the flowers and learning all about their different parts and how they produce seeds. The bumble bees were very busy pollinating as the boys inspected the beautiful tulips up close. Pre-Prep have also been really focusing on their handwriting recently and the Handwriting Heroes cape is a very sought after piece of clothing currently. Their writing is coming on very well indeed.

Year 3 has been studying famous artists in their art lessons and I particularly enjoyed hearing from them about Andy Warhol and also seeing their takes on some of his famous pictures – their soup cans were especially impressive.

In Year 5 Science, the boys conducted a really interesting experiment to see how much air was contained in a range of different materials, ranging from soils to sponges, as part of their solids, liquids and gases unit. In Year 7 Geography, I enjoyed finding out more about urbanisation around the world through the boys’ research across a range of maps and data sources. They then needed to draw their own conclusions about which areas of the world were experiencing the fastest rates of urbanisation and trying to understand why this might be the case.

At the end of last week I met with our school council and we discussed a number of their suggestions for development and change in school. It was great to finally be able to come together outside and discuss their points of view. Our focus for the school council this coming term will be to canvass opinions about environmental and social responsibility in school and what ideas they have around this. The pupil voice is an important part of school and I hope that we will continue to have lots of boys wanting to apply to become a member of the school council next year.

Sadly the rain intervened again in our cricket fixtures this Wednesday and the terrible forecast has also caused our matches tomorrow to be cancelled. I will be keeping my fingers crossed for a change in weather soon so that we can get back outside playing sport in the sunshine.

Finally, I wanted to wish good luck to those boys undertaking their academic scholarship papers next week for Abingdon School. They have worked incredibly hard and should be very proud of their efforts. Good luck too to those boys sitting other scholarship exams in Art, Music, Drama and Sport in the coming weeks as well.

I hope you all have a good weekend.

Best wishes

Craig