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

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

Letter from the Head, 30 April 2021

Friday 30 April 2021

Dear Parents

I hope you have all had a good week. The colder temperatures have come as a little bit of a shock after so many lovely spring days and it was a huge disappointment that after more than a year without fixtures against other schools, we had to cancel our Wednesday matches due to the rain that sat over Frilford all day. We will be hoping for better weather next Wednesday so that we can get our inter-school fixtures back up and running.

The children have all settled back into the routines of school and it has been great to wander around lessons this week and see what they have all been working on.

I was treated to some Jungle Book when I went into Year 2’s classroom this week. They were discussing Mowgli’s character traits and then in art, they were drawing tigers, based on Shere Khan. They had all done a brilliant job and proudly told me about their creations.

In their French lesson, Year 3 were learning all about the different subjects in school and combining this new knowledge with numbers and telling the time. I was particularly impressed with some of their French accents as they recited the subjects being studied.

Year 6 in their CDT lessons have been designing and creating puzzle maze boards. I have to admit that I was rather flummoxed by a number of their jigsaw designs which I struggled to piece back together. They were really accurately cut out with the fret saws and the boys certainly enjoyed being able to use a range of tools in the lessons. Later on in the week, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Year 6 singing in preparation for performances later on in the term. The two part harmonising and bouncing back and forth in the chorus was very impressive and the boys certainly seemed to be enjoying it. It was great to once again have music echoing around the school corridors.

Year 7 were continuing their study of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in their English lessons, analysing Egeus’ speech and the complicated relationships that were beginning to blossom. Their read-throughs took me right back to my English lessons as a child their age and studying Shakespeare.

8R were working through questions about the number of particles in a substance using the Avogadro constant in Science. It was great to see how focused they were as they enter the final week of preparation for their exams and I certainly enjoyed having their rather complicated answers explained to me.

I hope that you all have a lovely long bank holiday weekend and that it warms up a little for any planned get-togethers in the garden.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 23 April 2021

Friday 23 April 2021

Dear Parents

I hope that you have all enjoyed a lovely Easter break and were able to meet once again with friends and family outside in small groups. Some of you may have even enjoyed a visit to the pub garden for the first time in months! I must admit that I was rather caught out by the heavy snow that fell, especially as my son, awake at 5am, eagerly shouted out that it was snowing outside and I drowsily replied, ‘Don’t be silly, Quinn’. After looking out of the window an hour later, I had to profusely apologise to him!

It has been great to welcome back all of the children to school this week and they have certainly been enjoying the sunshine at break times and getting back to playing with their friends. A great example of this was the eagerly anticipated annual house paper aeroplane challenge. As always, we had some amazingly complex designs alongside the more classic models and the distances some of the planes flew were really amazing. I am looking forward to announcing the winners in assembly on Monday.

I wanted to take this opportunity today to share the fantastic news that we will be recommencing our new build project at the start of the summer holidays, with it being completed and ready for use in September 2022. This will involve four new classrooms, a new music centre with teaching area and practice rooms, a second science lab and a new Design and Technology (DT) room. We will also be converting our current library and DT rooms into one great library and learning space in the heart of the school. I am so pleased that we are able to get this project underway, as it will be a wonderful expansion of our facilities which the boys will gain a huge amount of value from and will help to further their learning and opportunities.

It has been lovely to hear music coming from the practice rooms, singing in class lessons and for fixtures to be starting again after more than a year without them. Unfortunately, we are still not able to allow spectators at fixtures, but we are hopefully awaiting revised guidance on that in mid May. The start to term has been busy and energetic and I cannot wait to have a wonderful summer at school.

Finally, I would like to publicly thank our grounds team for ensuring that the school is looking so beautiful with all the flowers and manicured lawns for our return to school.

I hope you have a good weekend and I look forward to catching up with many of you in the car park next week.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 26 March 2021

Friday 26 March 2021

Dear Parents

We have arrived at the end of another rather different term from that which we were hoping for. However, with everyone returning for the final three weeks of term, it has been one that has ended on a high for me, and I hope also for the boys. The school has been busy once more with work in the classroom, the sound of instruments echoing out from the practice rooms, and boys getting fully involved in their wider curriculum subjects and other half activities, not to mention the excitement of seeing friends everyday – something that we should not now take for granted as much as we perhaps used to. I also want to thank you too, parents, for all your support during the period of remote learning. The kind and thoughtful communications we received during that time were a real tonic to us all.

The boys have shown great resilience again this term and can be proud of all their achievements. I have attached a link to the video I shared with them this morning in the final assembly showing some of the great things that they have worked on this term. Please do have a watch.

It was amazing to see our Pre-Prep children running around with the Easter Bunny this morning on their Easter Egg hunt. It brought back so many memories of searching for eggs myself at that age and the excitement of seeing the shiny shape tucked in a tree root or on a bench. I do hope that the boys may even share some of their spoils with you on their return home today. I had a quick look round later myself, just in case, but they had all been found!

In the final assembly this morning, we spoke about the Easter message of new life and how perhaps, if the conditions allow us to follow the roadmap out of lockdown, this was the perfect time to think about a great summer ahead with some positive signs of the country moving through an amazing vaccine program and the continued slow lifting of some restrictions. As the leaves start to come out on the trees and the clocks go forward to share with us again longer evenings and hopefully some warmer weather, there is much to look forward to. I would encourage everyone to enjoy the world around us over the holidays and make the most of the amazing wildlife and scenery on our doorstep.

On our return next term, we will be maintaining our current policy of the children wearing their PE or Games kit into school. We will still be working in our bubbles and following our protective measures closely to try to ensure the community is kept as safe as possible. On that note, please may I remind parents with children in Year 7 and 8 that they should continue to Covid-19 test twice a week at home.

As long as nothing changes with the current government guidance, we are very much looking forward to getting back to inter-school cricket fixtures in the summer for the children in Years 3-8. There will, of course, be precautions in place and we will be following the guidance as laid down by the national governing body for cricket, but I know that the boys will thoroughly enjoy getting back into matches that have been absent for over a year and representing the school once more. At present, the recently updated government guidance on grassroots sports does not allow any spectators so unfortunately, until this changes, we feel we are not able to open up our fields for you to watch. We will of course be consistently reviewing the government and relevant sporting national governing body guidance as well as our own working practices and as soon as we can welcome parents back on the fields to spectate, we will be doing so.

I wanted to take this opportunity to once again thank Pip Usher for her work at Abingdon Prep and wish her all the best with her new role in Oxford next term. I would also like to mention that Ellie Harland has now started her maternity leave and Bev Buckle has taken on the role of Admissions Manager and my PA. I will of course be in touch when I have any exciting news about Ellie.

Finally, I would like to wish you all a Happy Easter and hope that you are able to enjoy the holiday ahead.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 19 March 2021

Friday 19 March 2021

Dear Parents

It has been a very positive week in school with the boys continuing to work hard in lessons and enjoy the fresh air and camaraderie of playing together at break times. I have really enjoyed judging the brilliant science in a jar experiment that the boys have put together over the past few weeks. It has been amazing to see so many completely different types of scientific experiments designed by the boys. It has been an almost impossible job to pick a winner from all of the sections but all the boys can be very proud of their efforts.

Football has been taking centre stage on the games field with many of the boys competing in house matches or inter year group matches this week. The warmer weather has been timely and I have enjoyed seeing so many talented players showing off their skills both on the games field and in the playground.

In the classroom I have been impressed with our Year 5s in the Science lab undertaking experiments measuring the rate at which bread rose when containing sugar and not containing sugar. They then had to create graphs with the data and draw their scientific conclusions.

Year 6 in Maths have been producing pie charts of class favourites, pets, football teams and chocolate bars to name but a few, focusing on how to create them with precision accuracy using a protractor and interpreting tricky pie chart problems as well.

In Year 1 the boys have been working on performance poetry and I was treated to a wonderful performance of ‘Zim, Zam, Zoom’ this morning. They had memorised the words and gave a very dynamic performance which I thoroughly enjoyed. They have also been writing their own performance poetry so I will look forward to hearing more about that next week.

I would also like to take this chance to thank all of you who have kindly donated chocolate for the Gatehouse charity, a foodbank for the homeless, at what has been a very tough time for them. I know that many more bars will come in next week to help those in real need celebrate Easter with some chocolate. Thank you too to our Pre-Prep parents for all their kind donations of Easter Eggs for our upcoming Easter Egg hunt next week.

We have continued with our Covid19 testing regimes this week but they are now all taking place at home for both staff and pupils. Thank you to parents for supporting us with this and helping to keep our community as safe as possible.

Finally, please could I take the opportunity to remind you that the boys should not make their way into their classrooms until 8am as their teachers will be busy getting everything in place for the day and they won’t be supervised.

I hope you all have a great weekend ahead and are able to enjoy a walk amongst the daffodils and crocuses that seem to be coming out in large numbers signalling that spring is well and truly with us.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 12 March 2021

Friday 12 March 2021

Dear Parents

It has been such a great week having the boys back in school, hearing the noise and seeing the smiling faces as they chat along the corridors and run around at break times, enjoying being back at school and catching up on the social interactions that they have been missing so much. I have been incredibly impressed with the way all the boys have settled so quickly back to work.

At 10.20am on Monday I took the opportunity to walk around all of the classrooms and it was great to see the boys so focused on the tasks in hand, already back into the routines of working hard in the classroom. There were, understandably for some, a few nerves on their return but these quickly disappeared as they chatted to their friends and teachers over the course of the day. A number of teachers have commented on the fact that many of the boys are showing a level of increased independence with their learning in the classroom, which is perhaps a positive from the time spent working online. It really is great to have the boys all out playing sport, back in the CDT room, art room, music rooms and drama areas, making the most of the wider opportunities available in school.

Clubs have restarted and it is great to see the boys getting immersed in their different interests, with a full turnout for Year 6 Warhammer today. I am learning a huge amount about the tactics of set battles and the intricacies of painting figurines!

Science week has been a huge success with lots of ‘science in jars’ coming into school and pictures being uploaded to the Google Classroom area. We heard in assembly on Thursday about inventions and inventors and even how some inventions that have been incredibly successful were accidental! Who knows what some of our boys may be responsible for creating in the future?

Our ‘Birds of Positivity’ project has also been a great success with some quite beautiful creations coming into school. A huge flamingo was there to greet the boys in the entrance hall and the messages of support have been wonderful to read as I discover new additions to the tables in the hall every day. I encourage you to look out for the photos of these birds on our social media feeds and website. They really are a delight.

Today, Year 7 and 8 have participated in mental health workshops delivered by Natalie Hunt, Wellbeing Coordinator at Abingdon School, looking at social pressures and at ways that they can manage these and create positive outlooks for themselves. It is important that we support our boys as they grow up in today’s society and help to give them the tools to support their own, and others’ wellbeing.

I wanted to thank our Covid-19 testing team publicly this week as they have undertaken 160 lateral flow tests with our Year 7 and 8 pupils on site. We have one more round of this testing next week before we revert to home testing twice a week.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate Pip Usher, one of Year 4 teachers, on her appointment to New College Prep school as a Year 4 teacher. Pip has been with us since 2012 and we wish her all the very best with her exciting new role which starts in April.

Finally, it has been lovely to have the chance to speak to some of you at drop off time this week. We have a great community around us and I hope that with the continuing vaccine rollout and other measures in place, we will be able to maintain the easing of measures across the country at times that continue to promote the safety and wellbeing of us all.

Best wishes

Craig