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

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

Letter from the Head, 8 February 2024

Thursday 8 February 2024

Dear Parents

It is hard to believe that we have reached half term already and I hope that everyone has a relaxing week ahead, whether staying at home, seeing friends and family or going away for a few days.

Our assemblies this week have been focused on safer internet week. This is such an important topic and one that continues to evolve year on year. It is encouraging that our children already have such a clear understanding of keeping themselves safe but it was good to look at changes to technology over time and the impacts that technological change has had on children. I especially enjoyed, as did the children, seeing the technology display of items from the 1960s onwards, with TVs, vinyl, tapes and dialling phones to name but a few. I learnt a great deal sitting with Year 6s in their computing lesson about the techniques that online games and social media platforms utilise to encourage continued engagement and in app purchases.

A real highlight which the children loved, was the annual APS staff pancake flipping competition on Tuesday. There were some impressive efforts with over 30 frying pan pancake flips being completed in 30 seconds with the clear winner being Claire, one of our catering department, with Rebecca a close run second. Claire’s kitchen expertise certainly stood her in great stead for this competition.

Tomorrow sees the first of our House Charity fundraisers. Dragon has put together a cake sale for break times to raise money for Sobell House, their chosen house charity. Thank you to all parents who have kindly supported with cake baking.

There have been numerous sports fixtures this week with hockey and football taking centre stage. Our Year 3s played their first ever hockey matches at the start of the week and performed admirably, showing great potential and genuine enjoyment of this new sport for them. Our 2 senior hockey teams also showed great improvement in tightly contested matches at Pinewood. Our Year 7 and 8s continued to shine in their wins on the football pitch this week but perhaps the standout performances came from our U11 C and U11 D teams, who played brilliantly to come away with 2 super wins. Our swimmers take part in the IAPS regional qualifiers tomorrow so we wish them good luck in their bids to qualify for the nationals.

At the end of this week we say goodbye to Juliette, one of our wonderful nurses. Juliette has been with us for 4 years now and will be greatly missed. She is an expert in her field and we wish her all the best with her future endeavours.

I hope everyone enjoys the break and returns after half term well rested and ready for a busy second half of term.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 1 February 2024

Thursday 1 February 2024

Dear Parents

The start of the week saw a brilliant new opportunity for 15 of our musicians who were invited across to Abingdon School for the inaugural ‘Make a Noise’ music day. Music teachers from Abingdon School taught them a range of new orchestral pieces, alongside pupils from a number of other prep schools, culminating in a recital to parents at the end of the day. The children learnt a great deal and came back hugely enthused and keen to develop their own instrumental talents further.

Year 2 went on a fantastic trip to the Planetarium at Abingdon School on Wednesday. They learnt all about our solar system and got challenged to put in order giant blow up models of the planets. Another highlight was being sucked into a black hole. It was great to see so many Pre-Prep parents this morning at the workshare. It is always such a lovely opportunity for the children to proudly share their work and for parents to see the progress they have made.

Year 3 and 4 had a fantastic time at Hazard Alley earlier in the week, taking part in a range of different activities looking at dangers and hazards in everyday life, and how to keep themselves safe. The interactive and hands-on sessions were really well received by the children who certainly seemed to enjoy the trip.

House meetings took place this morning with the heats for our annual paper aeroplane competition. There were certainly some unusual designs on show this year (clearly a good deal of research had been done by a few), and we look forward to the victors in each house flying off against each other in our end of term assembly.

This week and next sees 14 of our Year 8 pupils sitting scholarship assessments at Abingdon School in Art, DT, Music, Drama and Sport. They have all worked extremely hard in preparation for these assessments and we are very proud of their efforts.

Matches this week saw some terrific performances across all age groups, with every child in Years 3-8 representing the school in competitive fixtures. Our senior teams were very much in the goals again whilst our middle section pupils performed very well in closely contested fixtures. Our Year 5s played their first ever hockey matches and thoroughly enjoyed their first opportunity to play matches in this sport. Good luck to our U13 hockey team who are playing at the IAPS regional qualifiers at Cheltenham tomorrow. This is the first time we have entered a senior team for this event and I know the children will gain a great deal from competing at such a high level.

We are looking forward to Saturday’s Art workshop for some of our senior section pupils. They will be working on oversize sculptures and I am very much looking forward to seeing what their imaginations can create.

Finally, I wanted to let you know that we have changed the exit mirror across the driveway as you pull out across traffic onto the A415. We think it gives a better view of the oncoming traffic but please do let me know if you find this is not the case. On that note, I would also like to thank you for taking care when driving on our site and ask that everyone continues to be aware of the need to drive slowly around the site with adults and children crossing at a variety of places.

I hope you all enjoy a lovely weekend.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 25 January 2024

Thursday 25 January 2024

Dear Parents

I hope you have all had a good week. The children have continued to throw themselves into all areas of school life both in and out of the classroom. In assembly today, we were treated to a hugely informative assembly by 6R on Chinese New Year and the Year of the Dragon, in anticipation of the celebrations to come in February. I also spoke about three important words for them to keep in mind in the coming days and weeks – ‘make good choices’.

Year 1 has been working on a fantastic range of topics this week, all linking back into one another. They have produced some terrific Monet style paintings of the forest, water lilies and sunsets, with their forest pictures being the setting for their own stories they are starting to write about ‘Little Red’, having already created ‘Wanted’ posters for the wolf!

Year 4 are at Ufton Court today bringing their study of the Tudor era to life. They are learning about The Reformation and religious intolerance in Tudor times and seeing how catholic priests and worshippers were hidden at Ufton Court. They had to be detectives to collect and decipher a series of clues to lead them to the hiding places. Hands on history at its very best.

I thoroughly enjoyed spending some time in a Year 7 Maths lesson this week where the children were taking their first steps into the world of algebra. They had looked at the history of algebra and its etymology, with the arabic text being read by one of the pupils, before starting on equivalents and coefficients of the unknown. It was great to see them in action building equations to work out the perimeter of equilateral triangles and really enjoying the challenges that this posed.

The football season has started in earnest now with numerous matches taking place across all year groups this week. It was a clean sweep of wins for the six Year 6, 7 and 8 teams on Wednesday, with 32 goals being scored and only 1 conceded. It was great to see our U10 C team also get their first win of the season with a hugely enjoyable 5-2 victory and wonderful teamwork throughout.

Our U8 teams also enjoyed impressive wins on Tuesday, our U9 teams showed great improvement in their matches this week and the U9 C team worked tremendously hard for their victory, showing great teamwork alongside improved skills.

Wednesday also saw three senior hockey teams playing in a triangular against Cothill and Pinewood and our cross country runners have three meets this week with age groups from U8s to U13s participating. The senior hockey teams are back in action again on Friday afternoon playing Abingdon School at Tilsley Park. The children are certainly living up to one of our key school aims of ‘get involved’.

Tomorrow evening we are really looking forward to welcoming many of you to the JPA Quiz Night at school. I am sure it will be a very enjoyable event and the teachers’ team will be hoping for some friendly subject specific questions!

I hope you have a lovely weekend when it arrives.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 18 January 2024

Thursday 18 January 2024

Dear Parents

Our Monday assembly topic this week looked at bravery and courage in society and it was great to hear from the children what they thought constituted an act of courage. They spoke maturely about standing up for what you believe in, helping people in difficulty, or being a member of the armed forces. We spoke at length about resilience too, and what it is to show resilience and adopt a growth mindset. 8S delivered a very informative assembly on resilience this morning, looking at highly successful people and the difficulties they had to overcome before they became successful, and I hope that the children will try to adopt this approach when things don’t go as they had planned or hoped, be that at school or at home.

Our Year 8 scholarship class have been working extremely hard this week undertaking mock exams in preparation for their real exams at the end of February. As with all tests and exams, it is always good to reflect on what went well and what could be improved.

In the classroom, the pupils continue to work hard and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Year 4 focusing on their inference skills in an English lesson. They were reading ‘How to train your dragon’ and then making predictions about what might come next in the story. These inference skills were then needed in their reading comprehension work.

Year 6 has been working towards earning their bunsen burner licences so far this term in Science, using them safely to undertake a series of experiments involving mixtures, solutions and suspensions.

In Geography, Year 7 have been giving presentations about a country of their choice in South America and it has been great to hear how much they have learned through their own research about the geography of the country and the impact that the physical landscape can then have on people. This week they have moved on to population structure, with the highlight being playing the population game with jelly babies substituting for people, making the topic far more memorable!

Football matches this week went ahead, despite the cold weather, for a number of teams, although sadly the hard ground prevented our senior matches from taking place. Our U10As and U11As had a very successful week winning both their matches against Chandlings and Caldicott, whilst our U11Cs performed brilliantly on Monday scoring 8 goals and managed a superb 3-3 draw on Wednesday. The first U9 matches of the season took place this afternoon and I know were greatly enjoyed by the children.

Tomorrow sees another senior multi sport afternoon taking place with Cothill. This time we have golf, table tennis, squash, basketball, badminton, fitness challenge and hockey involving all of our Year 7 and 8 children, many representing the school for the first time in a new sport. Fingers crossed the weather is kind, although the indoor sports should be fine!

The first concert platform also takes place tomorrow and it is great to see so many pupils signed up for it. With the seniors out, it is a lovely chance for our Year 2 – 6 pupils to perform to their peers and parents.

I hope that everyone has a lovely weekend ahead.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 11 January 2024

Thursday 11 January 2024

Dear Parents

It has been lovely to welcome the children back to school this week and hear about their Christmas holidays. I have especially enjoyed finding out about some of the favourite presents received!

As always, the pupils have settled back incredibly quickly into their work both in and out of the classroom.

Year 2 has been researching all about space and have started to write their own adventures about space using the research they had carried out at the start of the week. They have also been working on their finance skills, working out how much things cost and then ensuring they hand over the correct amount of money and change for their purchases.

In French this week, Year 5 learnt about the Fête des Rois (kings’ day) which is celebrated in France with a special cake. Inside the cake is hidden a small china ornament (une fève) and whoever is lucky enough to find this becomes king for the day. Year 5 had fun celebrating with their own version of the special cake and, true to French tradition, the youngest person in the group hid under a table to say who should receive each slice to ensure there was no cheating!

Year 8 has been studying the reactivity series of metals in science and are about to embark on a series of experiments involving chemical reactions between metals and other substances, whilst in English they have been focused on creative writing and their use of literary devices to enhance their own stories about strange beasts. I thoroughly enjoyed reading some of their very impressive and entertaining storylines.

Our Other Half program has been in full flow from day one of term and it was good to see so many middle section pupils attending the new Attenborough club, learning much about Scandinavia in their first session.

Chess club has started well in the lead up to the house chess tournament later this term and water polo continues to go well, with the children preparing for our first ever water polo fixture next week.

Our football season got underway on the Friday before term started with a pre-season football session for Years 5-8. It was brilliant to have more than 50 pupils attend and this enthusiasm for the game has continued through this week’s games lessons with all years enjoying their training sessions and getting ready for matches to start again next week.

A very enjoyable class pairings took place first thing this morning with older children working alongside younger ones for a shared reading session. It was lovely to see our younger children reading with so much pride to their partners and for our youngest children to be read to by our senior section children.

Finally, good luck to our Year 8 academic scholarship group who start their mock exams next week.

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend ahead.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 14 December 2023

Thursday 14 December 2023

Dear Parents

It is hard to believe that we have reached the end of the Autumn Term and that Christmas is only 11 days away. I have rather a lot of shopping to get done in the intervening period!
It has been a lovely week with lots of celebrations taking place. Today has been packed full of Christmas events and the children’s excitement for the festive period has been very much in evidence.

Our Junior Carol Concert and Senior Carol Concert were both a delight to watch and the children performed beautifully throughout, whether singing or involved with the ensembles or solos. It really does make me proud to see our children performing so confidently and impressively in front of an audience at such a young age. Thank you to everyone who so kindly gave a donation after the services towards our school charity, The Oxford Hospitals Trust. We raised a brilliant £488.75.

Gifts for Grown Ups was a roaring success. Enormous thanks must go to our fantastic parent organisers and helpers. There is an amazing amount of time and effort that goes into getting it all in place and running so smoothly, and our helper team have done a brilliant job and the children have loved the opportunity to buy their surprise gifts for the family. Who knows what may end up beneath your tree this year!

Christmas jumpers abounded in school today and helped get the children into the holiday spirit. My favourite was a particularly impressive light up reindeer. Our catering team did the school proud today with a terrific spread for Christmas lunch. It was lovely to see the children chatting away with their friends whilst tucking into a full plate of turkey and all the trimmings.

The section parties were also hugely enjoyed this afternoon. Christmas party games were great fun to watch and I just do not think you can beat the dressing up and cutting chocolate with a knife and fork game at Christmas time!

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Christmas break and enjoys spending time with friends and family. I look forward to welcoming everyone back to school in January.

Merry Christmas to one and all.

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 7 December 2023

Thursday 7 December 2023

Dear Parents

The Pre-Prep Nativity this afternoon was an absolute delight to watch. The children threw themselves into the performance with real gusto and the singing and acting was terrific. They were clearly loving performing to their families, and I think a few may well be signing up to drama clubs in the future.

Our Year 3 and 4 pupils started the Christmas celebrations today with their visit to the Oxford Playhouse to watch the Pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk. They came back hugely excited and having thoroughly enjoyed the performance. Huge thanks to our JPA for funding this trip (and the ice creams!).

Tuesday and Wednesday saw two visiting artists coming into school to work with Year 8. Tuesday was a clay sculpture workshop for our Arts award and scholarship candidates and they produced some incredible animal figurines (do check out the photos on the website and social media!). On Wednesday all our Year 8s listened to an experimental art history lecture from Elizabeth Rowe complimenting their unit of study in art.

I must also thank everyone for bringing in so many coins for our silver coin trail this week. The children added the coins they had generously brought in to fit around the logo for our school charity, the Oxford Hospitals Trust. We raised £411 which was a fantastic effort.

Tomorrow sees Pre-Prep continue their Christmas celebrations with a whole section trip to Roves Farm where they will see the elves’ workshop, make reindeer food, meet the animals and maybe even catch a glimpse of Santa getting ready for the big day.

This week our rugby teams have performed admirably with our U8s and U9s finishing their season with all 4 teams winning. Our U12 and U13 teams won 3 of their 4 matches whilst our U10 and U11 teams managed to win all of their games too. Far more impressive than winning though was the positive attitude with which the children played the matches and their development over the term has been lovely to watch. The final matches of term take place on Saturday morning against Taunton Prep who are on a rugby tour this weekend. Good luck to the U11 and U13 teams who are playing.

It is hard to believe that we move into the final week of term on Monday. There is still much to do and a few more Christmas celebrations to come. I hope you all enjoy a lovely weekend.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 30 November 2023

Thursday 30 November 2023

Dear Parents

The children have been working hard this week and it has been great to see Pre-Prep so focused on their Nativity rehearsals and thoroughly enjoying singing a range of songs on stage.

Year 1 has been reading the story of ‘Pattan’s Pumpkin’ in class and this week they have just started to write their own stories about a flood, based on the events in the book. There were so many great ideas being spoken about in their lesson and I am looking forward to seeing how their stories come together.

Year 2 have been working hard writing stories of their own about Guy Fawkes and they are all looking forward to baking Christmas pudding cookies tomorrow, having to follow instructions closely from the recipe and learning about how to stay safe when preparing ingredients and cooking them in the oven.

For their study of World War 2, Year 3 have created Blitz pictures showing the devastation of the bombing. They have also explored what it would be like to be a child evacuee leaving their home and parents. They had to really consider which items they would take that could fit into a small suitcase. Not always such an easy choice of what to keep and what to leave behind. In their Maths lessons, they had great fun estimating and measuring lengths. They measured various objects and indeed each other in the classroom, using the trundle wheel to measure the playground area too.

Year 7 has had a brilliant week in Science, creating their own set of Top Trumps cards based on the periodic table. They have included a range of scores from the atomic mass number to the melting point of the numerous elements they have been studying in lessons. This also tied in very well to our class pairings on Thursday where the different year groups partnered up to play card games, including the ever popular, Top Trumps, Uno, and indeed Patience or Rummy.

Year 8 has been studying ‘Of Mice and Men’ and responding to the text with their own reflections about whether Lennie and George viewed life in an overly sentimental and romantic way or whether this was just the driving force of ‘The American Dream’ in the great depression of the 1930s. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing their responses and the fantastic language and vocabulary they were using to explain their viewpoints.

Perhaps the highlight of the week was the Year 6 Pantomime, ‘Cinderella’, in which the children performed brilliantly to a full house on Tuesday evening. There was a wonderful mix of terrible jokes, great acting and sing-along songs ranging from The Beatles to S Club 7! It was so lovely to see the children enjoying themselves so much on stage.

There were a series of terrifically competitive rugby games this week with almost every game ending in a draw or within 1 try of each other. Matches which are this close are always such a great learning curve for the children and I know they will have gained a huge amount from them, as well as enjoying them enormously. Good luck to our U13 cross country team who are competing in the English Schools Athletics Association National Finals just outside Ipswich on Saturday.

Our termly ‘Big Think’ took place on Wednesday. The children were asked to listen to the story of the birth of Jesus from the point of view of the shepherds and then respond to this through a range of different mediums, choosing from art, modelling, poetry, or conversation. The children came up with some fantastic responses and showed a great deal of reflection on how the shepherds might have felt at that time.

As I am sure you can see, even though the school Christmas trees are now up and sparkling beautifully, the children continue to be working hard in their lessons and throwing themselves fully into everything on offer.

I hope you all have an enjoyable weekend ahead.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 23 November 2023

Thursday 23 November 2023

Dear Parents

Another week has flown by at school and the children have been as busy as ever.

Year 5 are currently away on a PGL residential, undertaking a variety of activities to challenge themselves and work together as a team. These include zip wiring, climbing, and tunnel networks to name but a few. I know they are having a fantastic time and we look forward to seeing them return safely back to school on Friday afternoon.

Year 6 rehearsals for their pantomime on Tuesday evening next week are going well and I am looking forward to seeing the performance, Abingdon Prep’s first pantomime for many years. The costumes will certainly add a great deal to the show!

The art room has been a hive of activity this week with the pottery wheel being very well used by some of our senior children. I have been hugely impressed with their skills creating bowls or similar vessels. It is lovely to see them learning new skills in the creative arts.

In Pre-Prep, nativity rehearsals are coming together and the smell of Christmas filled the corridor as Reception baked. Year 1 pupils have been busy learning about fractions and have been using a green screen to magic them on to a snow capped mountain.

Our assembly theme on Monday was ‘celebrating achievements of individuals with a disability’. Elliot and his team of four Year 6 interviewers had recorded a fascinating interview with Blaine Hunt, a current World Champion in C5 track cycling, who spoke about his disability and how he got into track cycling and then became both a world champion and world record holder. It was fascinating to hear his take on disability and his motivation to be the best he can be in his chosen sport of cycling (he had previously skied for GB as well!).

Rugby matches this week saw our U11s take on Magdalen College and our A team were hugely impressive with a strong victory and 12 tries being scored. Our U13s took on Beachborough and performed well, losing a tight game. Our U12s are looking forward to combining with Abingdon School U12s on Saturday morning to take on RGS Guildford in our first joint foundation fixture for the sport. The U9s performed superbly at The Dragon Festival, returning unbeaten with 2 draws and a victory.

I hope everyone has been able to visit the book fair this week. I know the children have been avidly choosing books from a huge selection and it has been particularly enjoyable to hear them recommending titles to each other that they think they will enjoy. In our household, we have added a rather eclectic mix of books about Dragons, Sabre-Tooth tigers and Supertato!

I hope the parent Christmas wreath making workshops for those attending go well and that you all enjoy a good weekend.

With best wishes

Craig Williams