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

Letter from the Head, 16 May 2024

Thursday 16 May 2024

Dear Parents

I hope that you have all had a good week so far. I have really enjoyed chatting to many parents this week about the exciting news of the Foundation becoming co-educational in the coming years. I have very much appreciated hearing your views and answering your questions this week. I hope that many of you will be able to attend the webinar on Monday at 5.30pm where Mr Windsor, Rachel Pairman and myself will answer questions that have been submitted through the google form attached to the letter sent through on Monday. We hope that this webinar will be helpful for you and give you even more information about our move to co-education.

Our Year 3 to 6s have started their summer assessments this week and it has been good to see them focusing so well on the task in hand. Our Year 7 and 8s have been working and revising hard in preparation for their exams after half term.

Year 1 and 2 were buzzing after their Bee Keeper experience on Tuesday morning. They learnt all about how hives work and the different roles bees play in producing the honey and creating honeycomb. They also learnt about how important bees are to the ecosystem with the key role they play as pollinators.

It was a tough and enjoyable afternoon of cricket fixtures against Moulsford on Wednesday in the sunshine. We had almost every child in years 5 to 8 representing APS which was great. The 2nd XI produced the stand out performance with a terrifically exciting 6 run victory, having scored 149 runs in their innings. Good luck to our U8s in their matches this afternoon and also to our U9s who are competing in a cricket festival on Friday.

Good luck to our U11 and U13 tennis teams who are competing in the Radley festival on Sunday. Hopefully the weather will hold up for them.

Finally, please do come along to our Art and DT exhibition next Tuesday if you are able to, at pick up time. It is showcasing work from all of our APS children alongside pieces from Abingdon School pupils, to share the journey of a creative artist through the Foundation.

Best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 9 May 2024

Thursday 9 May 2024

Dear Parents

I hope that you all enjoyed the long weekend. I wanted to thank all of you who kindly took the time to complete the parent survey a couple of weeks ago. Feedback from these surveys is always useful to help us reflect on life at school.

With a four day week the children have been as busy as ever in school. On Tuesday it was lovely to hear some of our talented pianists playing and listening to ‘Harry the Piano’ who ran a workshop, listening to some of our pupils playing their pieces, giving them tips to improve and offering a huge amount of inspiration.

This morning saw house meetings with the children working together to share new and old break time games that they can get involved with. It was lovely to see the children outside sharing games across year groups. 4 square may well be making a comeback!

Pre-Prep are very much looking forward to their drama workshop on Friday where they will be re-enacting fairytales and fables. These sessions always manage to capture the imaginations of the children, so I am sure that they will have some stories to share at home.

On the cricket pitch there were some terrific matches against Abingdon School with our 1st XI losing a brilliant contest on the penultimate ball. Our U11 A-Ds performed admirably at Warwick Prep in the first set of fixtures we have ever had with them. Our U9s are looking forward to their matches this afternoon and we wish them luck. In the English Schools Athletics qualifiers at Tilsley Park, our athletes performed very strongly across all events to come 1st in the team event and qualify for the next stages.

Good luck to all of our Year 3 to 6s who have their assessments starting next week. I know they have all been working hard in the lead up to them and will, I am sure, do their very best.

Thank you to all of you who have kindly donated sweets for the Phoenix House Tuck Shop charity sale on Friday. Your support with this really is appreciated and I know the children will all enjoy the event.

I hope you all have a good weekend ahead and can enjoy the sunshine that has been with us all week.

Best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 2 May 2024

Thursday 2 May 2024

Dear Parents

Firstly, thank you to all of you who coped so admirably with the emergency roadworks that appeared on Monday morning to repair the gas leak on the main road. It certainly made for a more challenging drop off and pick up for the start of this week but they have completed the repairs now and all should be back to normal.

This morning our middle and senior section assembly welcomed a representative from The Nasio Trust, a charity supported by the school. Oli explained the work that they do in Western Kenya and gave us an update on the four children that are sponsored by us. It was a really informative and eye opening assembly about what life is like in rural Kenya for these children but inspiring to hear about the fantastic outcomes for so many of the children who have been through the schools and health clinics that the charity has set up.

I very much enjoyed popping into a number of lessons this morning and it was great to see the children in all year groups so focused on the work they were doing. Year 8 were engaged in detailed discussion in their philosophy and ethics lesson whilst Year 1 were working hard on their phonics skills and writing sentences both accurately and neatly. Year 4 have been learning all about the Greek myths this week with many of them taking on voluntary extra tasks chosen by themselves, including stories, poetry and performance.

Numerous cricket matches took place this week with some excellent skills on display from the children with a relatively even set of results against both Cothill and Chandlings and some very close and exciting finishes, especially with the rain closing in on all sides! Good luck to the U8s and U9s who, weather dependent, continue with their matches this afternoon as well.

At the end of this term, Louise Batho, who has worked at Abingdon Prep for the past 12 years in the middle section as both a fantastic form teacher and previously as part of the school leadership team, will be leaving us to pursue a broad range of new opportunities. She will be greatly missed by pupils, colleagues and parents alike but we wish her well in her new adventures. From September, Alexander Holden will be joining us as the Year 4 class teacher. Alexander is an experienced KS2 form teacher with a genuine passion for teaching. He has been teaching at prep schools for a number of years and has a particular love of English, the arts and sport. He is very much looking forward to meeting the children on move up morning.

In September, Lenka Sowter will continue to teach her Year 3 form, but for four days a week with Alison Heaton, who is currently the form teacher for Year 4 one day a week, teaching them on the Friday.

Another busy week is drawing to a close but I hope you are all very much looking forward to the bank holiday weekend ahead and that the weather is kind to us.

Best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 25 April 2024

Thursday 25 April 2024

Dear Parents

I hope you have all had an enjoyable week despite the return to rather wintry conditions. Sadly this wet weather on Monday led to the cancellation of the Foundation photo which will now be rescheduled for next term.

Year 8 have been enjoying Modern Foreign Language taster sessions delivered by Abingdon School teachers today, and it was amazing to have Mr Windsor being part of the German taster session, as a trained languages teacher himself. I know the children gained a huge amount from the sessions and hopefully this will help to inform some of their subject option choices when they move up to their senior schools.

Tomorrow, Year 2 is off on their first trip of the term to Oxford Castle and Prison where they will explore the history of the castle and take part in a ‘King of the Castle’ workshop. Having visited it recently myself, and climbed the 101 steps to St George’s Tower, I know they will have a great day out and be rather tired on their return!

Our Year 7s have been thoroughly enjoying themselves in Normandy after leaving extremely early on Tuesday morning. The goat farm and Mont St Michel seem to have been highlights so far for them and we look forward to welcoming them back to school on Saturday.

The cricket season kicked off in earnest this week with matches taking place across all year groups. Our Year 3s played their first ever competitive cricket fixtures at Oratory Prep and it was great to hear from our coaches how much potential they have.

Our 1st XI started their season in strong fashion against Bruern Abbey with an 89 run win and the first 50 of the season being scored by our captain of cricket. Our 2nds, 3rds, U11A and U10 A all recorded victories as well to get off to a flying start.

Saturday sees the first tennis fixtures of the season taking place with a festival at MCS, whilst at school we have an Art workshop looking at mixed media and digital drawing.

I hope you all have a good weekend when it arrives.

Best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 18 April 2024

Thursday 18 April 2024

Dear Parents

It has been lovely to welcome back the children to school after the Easter holiday. I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing from some of them about the exciting activities they have undertaken over the break, both at home and abroad.

As ever, the children have hit the ground running and settled back into school life very quickly. We started the term with an assembly about dealing with homework or exam worries, looking at different ways to revise or learn for tests and also how to relax and get a good night’s sleep too.

This morning was our class pairings and the mixed groups undertook some great paired reading. Our younger children really seemed to enjoy showing off their reading skills to their older partners and it was clear many of them had enjoyed reading books over the holidays as well.

Year 3 are away from school today visiting Buscot and Coleshill for a ‘Secrets and Spies’ trip. They are finding out about different ways to communicate with others such as morse code, and will be hearing stories of ‘derring-do’.

Before term restarted, it was great to have 36 pupils joining us for pre-season cricket training and another 8 joined Abingdon School pupils for some pre-season tennis training. The weather has been relatively kind this week and all the children have been able to get outside for their sports lessons, with cricket, tennis and athletics taking centre stage.

Good luck to our Year 7s who are off to France on Tuesday for the week. I know they are excited to be going and looking forward to the broad range of activities and the chance to try out their French speaking skills at the shops and markets.

Pre-Prep has been equally busy this week with our phonics group taking on new challenges and earning stickers for hitting their targets. Year 2 have been learning all about measurement this week, they have measured various objects around the classroom, including themselves!

I hope you all have an enjoyable weekend ahead. I am looking forward to playing my first game of cricket for the season on Saturday so hope the weather holds fair!

Best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 21 March 2024

Thursday 21 March 2024

Dear Parents

It seems barely believable that spring term is about to come to an end tomorrow. It feels like just a few short weeks ago we were returning to school at the start of January. The lighter mornings and evenings are, though, greatly appreciated and setting the scene for the summer term ahead.

As with all weeks at Abingdon Prep, the school has been a hive of activity. Reception visited the delightful Cotswold Farm Park and learnt so much by interacting with the animals and asking questions about how the farm worked and who looked after all of the animals!

Year 5 are out today at the Oxford Museums on a combined Science and History trip, linking their current topics of study to real life at the museums, which is always such a great way to cement and further your learning.

Our Year 6s took part in a pilot study with Reading University looking at resilience. The resilience rucksacks they were provided with should stand them in great stead as they move forward in their lives both at school and at home. Developing your resilience is such a key aspect of growing up and it was great to hear them engaging with the researchers so openly and sharing their thoughts and experience about what it means to them to be resilient.

Cross Country took centre stage on Wednesday with the whole school out on Cox’s Field cheering and supporting all the runners taking part. The weather was ideal for running and the children all acquitted themselves brilliantly, earning numerous house points for the half term merit cup award tomorrow. All participants should be immensely proud of their efforts and there were some amazing performances and times set by the winners. A real highlight was having Quinn, an ex APS pupil and current U6th pupil at Abingdon School, act as the hare and present the certificates to the children. Quinn makes his debut for the GB team at the World Cross Country championships in Serbia next week so do look out for him on the screen.

Easter Egg hunts have taken place for all of the year groups and it has been lovely to see the excitement of our youngest and oldest as they rushed around searching for hidden eggs. No-one is ever too old to enjoy an egg hunt! Thank you to all of you who kindly donated eggs and also to our amazing JPA who have supported this as well.

Music has featured heavily this week and I am very much looking forward to the senior section spring concert taking place in the hall this evening. There are a wide variety of performances with choirs, soloists, ensembles, and the orchestra, who I believe are getting proceedings underway with the Star Wars theme!

On Tuesday afternoon, 26 APS pupils joined 30 AS pupils to sing in the chapel at Abingdon School, in a service of thanksgiving to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the foundation. It was a wonderful event and a pleasure to hear the children from both schools performing as one. I am certain this will not be the last time that events like this take place.

We round up the term today with our senior section Shakespeare Sonnet competition in the morning followed by our end of term colours and cups assembly.

I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that Louise Batho, after 12 years of working at APS will be leaving us at the end of this academic year. Louise has been an inspirational teacher to so many children over the years and she will be greatly missed by children and staff alike. We wish her all the very best with her new endeavours.

It has been a fantastic term with the children being involved in so much. If you do have a moment, please do take the opportunity to view the ‘term in pictures’ which will be posted on the website tomorrow.

I hope you all enjoy a lovely holiday.

Happy Easter!

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 14 March 2024

Thursday 14 March 2024

Dear Parents

On Tuesday, our Year 5s continued on from Book Week last week and went to hear Claire Balding speak about her writing career and pass on a huge number of tips and hints about creative writing. I know that the children have been trying to implement them into their own writing this week and very much enjoyed listening to her.

Year 2 took part in a Hockey skills morning today where they were joined by lots of children from local primary and prep schools. They learned a huge amount from the APS team of coaches and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to develop some new skills and play some small sided games on the astro.

Despite the rather damp week we have had, we did manage to play a number of Wednesday matches against The Dragon and St Hugh’s. It was great to see all of our Year 6 pupils representing APS on the hockey pitch with some closely fought matches. In the football fixtures, our U10s performed very well to come away with a series of victories whilst our U12 and U13s finished their football seasons off very strongly with a number of impressive wins. This means that our U11As, U12As and U13As have all remained unbeaten, and our U12As have not conceded a single goal in any match, whilst scoring 75.

Tonight sees our Middle Section take to the stage for their Spring Term music concert. I am very much looking forward to hearing the year groups singing alongside the soloists. I am always so impressed with how well they perform and I am certain that everyone attending tonight will thoroughly enjoy the concert.

Tomorrow we have our Pre-Prep grandparents afternoon which is always a hugely enjoyable event and the children love spending time with them and will proudly show their work to them as well after playing board games in the hall.

Unicorn has their tuck shop charity fundraiser on Friday and I must thank all of you who have kindly supported this with donations. It is also really kind of so many of you to have donated chocolate eggs for the Easter Egg hunts taking place next week. We look forward to seeing whether the Easter Bunny might make an appearance!

To end the week, our Year 8s are going across to Headington School for a ceilidh on Friday evening. I know that they are really looking forward to it and it will be a great chance to make new friendships and have an enjoyable evening.

Finally, good luck to our U8s who are competing in a football tournament on Saturday morning. Fingers crossed the weather stays fine for it.

I hope you all have a good weekend ahead.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 7 March 2024

Thursday 7 March 2024

Dear Parents

It has been another brilliant week with so much happening across all year groups in school.

On Tuesday morning, our Year 7 and 8 pupils made the journey across to Abingdon School to hear the author, Candy Gourlay, talk about her experiences in becoming a writer. This was a joint event with Abingdon School Year 7 and 8 pupils as well and a great chance for the two groups to mix and chat together. Candy spoke so passionately about her heritage and how, when she was growing up in the Philippines, there were no books for her to read with main characters that she could identify with from her culture and background, who had lived her experiences and she wanted to change that. Some Year 8s also took part in a workshop afterwards, where she shared some terrific creative writing tips. She left the children with the key message of being true to themselves and their heritage, writing about your life, from your perspective and that will ensure there is truth in your words. This is more powerful than anything and will help others who come after you to connect with their heritage.

World Book Day today saw some fabulous and very creative costumes in school, from both pupils and teachers. It was great to see everyone celebrating some of their favourite books and authors and trying to guess who was who was great fun. Thank you to all the parents who helped prepare the brilliant costumes for the children.

I hope that many of you are able to dial into our e-safety webinar this evening. It is always an insightful talk, giving current information about the developments in social media, gaming, AI and many other technological areas. I know that in past years parents have found this a hugely helpful event when navigating this tricky world with their children.

On the sports pitches this week, our Year 5 to 8 footballers performed extremely well against Moulsford coming out with a strong number of wins and draws, and playing a high level of football against an impressive opposition. Our U8s and U9s played very well too in their respective matches and tournaments this week with the U9B team showing particular improvement, not losing a match in their tournament.

I hope that everyone is enjoying the warmer, and mostly, drier weather this week with the beautiful spring flowers in full bloom around school.

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 29 February 2024

Thursday 29 February 2024

Dear Parents

On Tuesday, eight of our Year 7 and 8 pupils spent the afternoon at Magdalen College School competing in their annual Geography quiz against 25 other talented teams of geographers. They acquitted themselves brilliantly, with a number of rounds gaining full marks – including a rather tricky country outline round! This was a lovely opportunity for the children to show off their all round geographical knowledge and love of the subject.

On the games field this week, we have seen a lot of hockey matches taking place for our younger children and it was great to hear the children in Year 4 talking about how much they had enjoyed their matches on Tuesday. All the Year 6 children played in hockey matches on Wednesday with a very impressive U11A team victory over Magdalen College School. Our Year 7 and 8 pupils were all involved in football matches on Wednesday, playing The Dragon and Abingdon School. Our U12As continued their fantastic form with another 5 goals in their victory over Abingdon and they are yet to concede a single goal this season.

I wanted to let you know that from September, Stefan Gerrard, our Assistant Head Academic, will be moving from his current role and job sharing the Senior Deputy Head position with Rachel Pairman. Rachel will be moving to 3 days a week and Stefan, 2 days. This means that we are currently recruiting for a new Deputy Head Academic for September and I am very much looking forward to interviewing a number of candidates from a very strong field of applicants.

I very much look forward to seeing many parents at either the coffee morning with Mr Windsor tomorrow or at our Scalextric event in the evening. It is always a very enjoyable evening with cars racing round the different track set ups and me failing to complete anywhere near the number of laps that the children do!

Congratulations to the 12 children who sat their academic scholarship exams this week. We are very proud of their efforts and they have certainly earned a weekend away from their studies.

I hope everyone enjoys a lovely weekend.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 22 February 2024

Thursday 22 February 2024

Dear Parents

I hope that you had a lovely half term break. The children seem to have returned to school refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of the second half of term.

There has been no delay in getting straight back into school life with Year 1 visiting the fantastic Story Museum in Oxford on Wednesday. They thoroughly enjoyed the chance to create their own stories in their workshop after spending time meandering through the myriad of stories in the museum, crossing Pooh’s bridge, entering through the wardrobe to Narnia and even trying to pull the sword from the stone.

Over the next week the children will be involved in Respectful Language workshops delivered by the foundations’ mental health and wellbeing coordinator, Natalie Hunt. The first sessions took place on Wednesday and it was great to hear Natalie’s feedback that the children had been fully engaged in sensitive discussion topics and had put forward their own thoughts on what respectful language looked like and how it could best be consistently used. Do explore this key topic further with your children and hear from them about what they gained from these sessions.

Tonight sees our Junior production, ‘Alex in Wonderland’, take to the stage, and having been fortunate to see a few snippets in the dress rehearsal, I am very much looking forward to watching the show. The children have been rehearsing extremely diligently and it has been lovely to see the smiles on their faces as they have practised and prepared for tonight’s performance.

It was also good to have a number of parents attend the webinar on Monday night, again delivered by Natalie, alongside Richard and Rachel, on the relationships and sex education program at Abingdon Prep. The recording is available in this week’s mailing and I would encourage you to watch it when you get a chance to, as it continues to be a key part of our children’s ongoing education.

Our football teams continue to impress in matches with our U9s, U10s, U11s, U12s and U13s all playing some lovely football in convincing wins this week, with lots of goals being scored and great team spirit being shown. Huge thanks to our friends at Bruern Abbey for coming down to us after their pitches had become waterlogged to enable all matches to go ahead on Wednesday.

On a different note, I wanted to share with you all that we have a new teacher, Ralf Arneil, joining APS as Head of Latin at the start of the summer term. Ralf is a hugely experienced teacher, and is joining us from Cothill, where he is currently Head of Latin, and a member of their senior leadership team. Ralf also teaches English and Sport and I know will be warmly welcomed into the APS community when he joins. I wanted to publicly thank Pascal for the work she has done teaching Latin to our Year 6 to 8s since September.

Finally, good luck to our Year 8s who are sitting their academic scholarships exams next week. They have worked really hard in the lead up to them and we are proud of their efforts. Huge congratulations too to all those Year 8s who undertook scholarships assessments in the wider curriculum subjects before half term, putting an enormous amount of time and effort into their preparations as well. I am delighted to share that APS pupils gained 6 awards across the 5 different subjects.

The daffodils are starting to come out alongside the crocuses across our site and I hope that that is leading us towards the start of spring, with much to look forward to in the coming weeks of term.

With best wishes

Craig Williams