Letter from the Head, 14 February 2020

Friday 14 February 2020

Dear Parents

I had feared that on Monday morning I would be coming into school to find tiles off the roof and a few trees down, but luckily Storm Ciara only caused one casualty at school, and that was an upside down shelter in the Cox’s Field hedge. I hope that Storm Dennis does not affect anyone’s travel plans over the weekend.

Our fantastic Junior Section production took place on Thursday evening this week. The boys performed ‘Hoodwinked’, a tale of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, and they were clearly loving the opportunity to be on stage and playing to a capacity crowd. Huge credit should go to the boys and the staff who put this amazing production together. It was great fun to watch and will undoubtedly have started many of them off on their school drama careers. Some of the songs are still going round in my head today as I find myself humming along as I walk around school.

For the first time ever, we had a Street Dance taster session which was very well attended by more than forty boys. We are hoping to be able to run this as a club in the summer term. Kelly was an inspiring dance teacher and the boys really enjoyed their first experience of this modern form of dance. Needless to say I did not recognise the music which they were putting their routine together to, but the boys all seemed to know it!

A range of sports took place this week. Football against Christ Church went ahead for two U10 and two U11 teams. The boys worked really hard again and managed to come away with four victories in matches that both teams can take great credit from.

There was a super cross-country event at Chandlings with 22 schools competing. Our Year 3s performed amazingly well and won their section, whilst overall, Abingdon Prep placed 3rd in the ‘boys’ category, which was a terrific effort.

The IAPS regional swimming qualifiers are taking place this afternoon and our boys have trained hard to be selected for this event. We have 18 boys representing the school and I know they will give their best in a very competitive set of regional heats. We hope that some boys will qualify for the national finals later in the year at the London Aquatics Centre.

The CDT recycled material boats contest took place this week for a group of our Year 8s. It is a highly competitive race and whilst a number of fans used to power the boats did sink to a watery grave, one boat triumphed with three successful crossings of the swimming pool in very fast times. The catamaran design was clearly a very sensible one which worked brilliantly.

Our bench / seating area project was formally opened this week with an assembly explaining to the boys how it had all come together over a two year period. I would like to publicly thank everyone involved, from the boys who came up with the designs to a number of highly skilled parents and staff who have managed to produce an incredible seating area for the boys down by the MUSA. This was a project which our current Year 8s had started in Year 6 with their designs for this area and they were able to see the final product which will be in use after we return from half-term. I would encourage you all to pop over to the MUSA to see it for yourself. It is a very impressive addition.

I hope that you will all have a lovely half-term break and enjoy spending time together as a family. Finally, congratulations to Dragon House who won the House Merit cup for this half term.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 7 February 2020

Friday 7 February 2020

Dear Parents

It has been a really exciting week being able to announce the news of our new development and the further improvement of our facilities here at Abingdon Prep. I have really enjoyed chatting to many of you about the plans and I hope that you have been able to access the link and see for yourself the artists impressions of the new building. I have added the link again here for you in case you have not yet been able to see it.

In my visits to lessons this week I witnessed some impressive direct speech writing in Year 3 with some terrific vocabulary being added, such as stammered, stuttered and suspiciously. Year 6 were fully engrossed in testing materials to decide on whether they were conductors or insulators. The graphite element of a pencil proved to be a surprise conductor for one group.

I was also lucky to hear a brief snippet from one of the songs coming up in the junior production of ‘Hoodwinked’. I cannot wait to see the production next week and I know the boys have been rehearsing diligently all week.

Football matches this week took place for every boy in Years 5-8 against Oratory Prep. There were some terrific matches with the Under 10 As shining in their 4-0 victory demonstrating excellent teamwork passing the ball all over the pitch. On Monday our Year 5s all experienced their first ever hockey matches against The Dragon. The games were all played in a great spirit and were extremely close contests with the A team winning well whilst the other three teams all lost by just a single goal. Most importantly, the boys really seemed to enjoy trying out what is a new sport for many of them. Our U8s and U9s played against The Manor on Tuesday and continued to impress with all six teams winning their matches which were played in a lovely spirit.

Three middle section boys enjoyed the opportunity to compete in a debating competition this week against pupils from a wide range of schools. They really enjoyed the event and showed terrific confidence expressing themselves so clearly to everyone in the room. Our debating club continues to be a very popular Other Half activity helping to prepare them for events like this.

Thursday was our e-safety day and all the boys were involved in workshops to help them understand more about the world of the internet and how to get the most out of it, whilst keeping themselves safe. This is such an important message for our boys as they continue to navigate the ever evolving world of connectivity and social media. It was great to have such a good turnout for our parental talk about e-safety in the evening. I know it is a topic that is hotly debated throughout homes across the country and I firmly believe that the better informed we are, as parents, the more we can help our children to find their way safely through the world wide web.

We had our first Year 5 book share this morning and I hope that parents enjoyed seeing lots of examples of work that the boys have been busily producing this term.

Finally, it was great to see a number of parents at Coffee and Catch up this morning. It was a great opportunity to talk more about our new development.

I hope you all enjoy a lovely weekend and that we miss Storm Ciara as it makes its way across the country.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 31 January 2020

Friday 31 January 2020

Dear Parents

I would like to start this week with a massive thank you to all of the boys who gave up so much of their time last Sunday to swim huge numbers of lengths for our school charity, Be Free Young Carers. Thank you too, to all the parents who were so assiduously counting the lengths their boys completed. I did, however, feel a little sorry for those parents who had sponsored per length as the boys just seemed to go on and on and on. Some, quite literally, swam miles, but no matter how talented a swimmer, every boy pushed themselves to go the extra mile and they should be incredibly proud of their efforts. I certainly am.

On Tuesday, our Open Morning took place and again I must thank all of the boys in Year 7 who acted as tour guides. They did a fantastic job and as always, proved to be the School’s biggest asset. I hope that they enjoyed the experience as for some, it was their first opportunity to be involved in an Open Morning in this way.

It has been a busy week on the sports pitches with fixtures for almost every team. The U8s and U9s played on Tuesday against St Hugh’s and performed brilliantly with six wins and two draws. Our 10s and 11s also played St Hugh’s and finished with an even spread of wins, draws and losses. The Oratory were the opponents for our senior teams and ended up with honours even, whilst our other senior boys played their first hockey matches of the season against Cothill, losing in two very close contests. There was more swimming on Monday in a gala against The Dragon and our boys performed admirably with some impressive times in individual events.

A wet and muddy Pinewood cross-country took place yesterday where we had a very creditable 8th, 13th and 15th place in one of the biggest events of the season.

Our Pre-Prep boys enjoyed a fantastic drama workshop this week with the theme of ‘Around the world with Phileas Fogg’. I have been told that the boys threw themselves into this with gusto and loved the chance to pretend they were travelling to the farthest corners of the globe!

Tomorrow, our Saturday Art Workshop returns, where the boys will be turning their hand to some dry point etching with insects being the theme this time around. I know that the boys will produce some stunning images and learn a brilliant new technique to further their artistic development.

Please do take the chance to come to ‘Coffee and Catch up’ next Friday morning in the Drama studio. It is always nice for me to have a chat with parents over a pastry at drop off time.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 24 January 2020

Friday 24 January 2020

Dear Parents

I have been fortunate to see a range of CDT activities this week in school and it never ceases to amaze me how creative our boys are and how much they enjoy producing pieces for this subject. The jitterbug pens in Year 7 were a real treat as they careered their way across paper on the tables creating a myriad of patterns with the felt tip pens used as legs. I was reliably informed that the key to success is to have the weighty motor 5 mm off-centre to create an uneven weight distribution! The boys loved seeing their motorised contraptions speeding off across the desk tops.

House meetings took place yesterday morning with the boys being put into mixed year groups to undertake some team building exercises. It is hard to explain the sharks in the sea game but with ten boys and just two small mats, they had to traverse across the hall without anyone touching the floor. It led to some creative solutions to moving the mats as quickly as possible whilst keeping all the boys tightly together on the other one. The Year 8 house captains and vice-captains organised the events extremely well and certainly ensured a good deal of house spirit was generated.

Our U8s and U9s played Chandlings this week and the U8s produced a remarkable set of victories in all the teams and played some superb football. Our U9s also performed admirably against some very good opponents and will have learnt a great deal for future matches.

All the boys in Years 5 and 6 played in matches against Pinewood and there were some very good performances across the board. Perhaps the highlights being a terrific 4-4 draw for the U11As and a great 5-1 win for the U10Ds. The senior boys played Cokethorpe and the U13As secured a well fought 5-3 victory whilst honours were even in the other matches.

A number of boys sat their LAMDA (Drama) exams today and I would like to congratulate them on how well they had all learned their performance pieces. The boys seemed to relish the opportunity to share their performances with the examiner and I am sure they will have achieved an excellent set of results.

I hope that you will all have a relaxing weekend.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 17 January 2020

Friday 17 January 2020

Dear Parents

I would like to start my letter this week by congratulating 8R who have completed their final mock exam today. They have worked hard to prepare for these and I know that they will have benefited a great deal from this preparation before they sit the academic scholarship exams to Abingdon School in the second half of this term.

Despite the rather changeable and inclement weather this week, the boys have been fully involved in their Other Half activities. There were the first fixtures of term on Monday against Chandlings for our U11s and U10 A and D teams. Some closely contested games saw us win three, draw two and lose one. On Wednesday, our U13A and B teams took on Davenies, after the wet weather had rained off the away fixtures, and we shared the spoils with one win and one loss.

Abingdon School’s cross country event took place on Tuesday. A small group of our Year 7 and 8 boys took part and performed admirably in a field of over 90 runners, with the team finishing in 4th place overall, and our highest individual finishers in 10th and 14th positions. It is the start of a busy term for cross country.

I had a very enjoyable walk around the classrooms on Thursday and sat in on a fascinating Year 7 lesson about the Anglo-Saxons. The boys were having to work as a group to rank key events and discoveries about the period in order of importance to justify whether this was a ‘Golden Age’ or indeed ‘The Dark Ages’ as they have been known to us for so long. It was lovely to hear the boys debating the relative importance of the Sutton Hoo ship burial discovery compared to the writings of Venerable Bede.

Year 6 were busily engaged in creating their own monster poetry with evil characters rising from the pages of the boys’ exercise books. Whilst a little gruesome on occasion, it was great to see the descriptive vocabulary and imagery they were creating with their work.

This Saturday another art workshop is happening with the theme being ‘wire and ModRoc sculptures’. I cannot wait to see what the boys who have signed up are going to produce. I am not convinced that even at my age I am quite sure what ‘ModRoc’ art will look like. I know the boys will enjoy the day though.

Tomorrow afternoon, our U11 A and B teams take on The Dragon and I wish them the best of luck for this. I will be bringing my umbrella for the touchline!

I hope you all have a good weekend ahead.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 10 January 2020

Friday 10 January 2020

Dear Parents

I hope that you all enjoyed a lovely Christmas and a good New Year too. I thoroughly enjoyed welcoming the boys back to school on Tuesday and I have really enjoyed hearing from some of the boys about their best presents and their travels over the break. They have certainly returned refreshed and re-energised looking forward to the term ahead!

We have welcomed four new children into the Abingdon Prep community this week and it has been lovely to see their peers looking after them and showing them around, ensuring that they quickly find their way and settle into the routines of daily life at school.

On the Friday before the start of term, we ran a very successful pre-season football session for Year groups 5 to 8. We had 54 boys attend and it was heartening to see them enjoying themselves and also playing some very nice football at such an early stage of the season. Fingers crossed the weather remains kind over the season ahead.

On Wednesday, our Year 8s had a fascinating Art History talk from Liz Rowe. They learned about architecture from an artistic perspective and focused on the design of numerous buildings, such as The White House and The Taj Mahal. Judging by some of their responses to her questions, we may well have some budding architects in this group.

Yesterday, class pairings took place with board games being the theme. A number of Christmas presents made their way into school and it was great to see the boys partnering up so well together across the different age groups.

Our Other Half program got underway on the first day of term and it always delights me to see how many boys have signed up for the range of clubs on offer.

Today, Unicorn House members have enjoyed their home clothes celebration after winning the house Merit cup at the end of last term and I have been impressed with the number of golds and merits collected already this week.

I hope that the boys have taken on board one of the messages I gave to them in the first assembly of term. This message was to seize the opportunity that a new year offers and to be the very best version of themselves that they can be and address some of their targets which were set in their reports. It certainly seems that on my visits to classrooms this week the boys have started term with a very positive work ethic and desire to succeed.

If I may end this week with a quote from Edith Lovejoy Pierce, a twentieth century poet, which I shared with the boys, ‘We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day’.

I hope you all have a good weekend.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 13 December 2019

Friday 13 December 2019

Dear Parent

I sit here in my office writing this as the term has drawn to a close and the boys have all left the site to start on their exciting Christmas adventures. It seems eerily quiet without the hum of boys going eagerly about their work. It does not seem a week ago that the hall was filled with excited boys playing the Bazaar games, stalls selling Christmas trinkets and the buzz of the raffle. It was a terrific event and I would like to personally thank all the people who were kind enough to organise and participate in both the lead up to it and on the day. These events simply cannot happen without the energy, time and organisational skills given by our fabulous JPA and so many other supportive parents and staff. I really enjoyed the event taking place in December this year as it felt even more Christmassy than usual.

Our Christmas lunch took place yesterday – turkey and all the trimmings followed by a choice of either Christmas pudding, mince pies or jelly with cream (or all three in the case of some of the Year 8s). It was so lovely to sit through a leisurely lunch and simply chat to the boys on the table with me. It is perhaps, one of the underrated highlights of Christmas that families and friends can simply take the time to talk to each other rather than having to rush off here or there for the next appointment. Perhaps there is not enough of that in our everyday lives.

Our beautiful Carol Service, a real highlight in the school calendar, took place on Tuesday in the gorgeous St Helen’s church. It was lovely to see the boys proudly standing on stage and singing their carols so well. Music continues to be such an important part of the boys lives at Abingdon Prep. Thank you so much for your incredibly generous donations for the collection too. We were able to raise an additional £720 for our school charity, Be Free Young Carers, which will be added to the rest of the money that we have raised during the term with our silver coin trail and our Christmas Bazaar.

At the start of the week, Reception visited Cogges Farm where they experienced a Victorian Christmas. Santa visited the Reception boys too this week and left gifts for them under the tree. It was lovely to see how excited they were with their various construction themed presents. They were all very keen to see him again at Christmas.

Gifts for Grown Ups took place yesterday and after a mammoth amount of organisation over the course of the whole year. The event went off seamlessly and the boys have hopefully popped their gifts under the Christmas Tree at home, ready for the big day. Thanks to all the volunteers on the day and throughout the year for producing a really amazing event which the boys loved.

The House Merits cup for this term went to Unicorn, with just 35 points separating 3rd from 1st. I know they will enjoy their non-uniform day in January and the closeness of the result shows just how important it is that all the boys hand in their merits and golds which have been hard earned.

I would like to take this opportunity to give a huge thank you to our catering team, our cleaning team, our grounds team, and our amazing office team. School simply would not function without them but I wanted to thank them publicly for all that they do for the Abingdon Prep community.

I hope that the boys, and yourselves, will enjoy a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year and take the opportunity to slow down and appreciate just being with family and friends, at such a special time of year.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 6 December 2019

Friday 6 December 2019

Dear Parents

As the penultimate week of term comes to an end and the nights draw in even faster, it has definitely started to feel like Christmas is on its way, even if my personal Christmas present shopping has yet to even cross my mind!

Yesterday, it was time for our Pre-Prep Nativity to take place. This year they performed ‘Born in a Barn’, and every single one of the boys should be incredibly proud of their performances on stage. Their singing was superb and they clearly loved performing to so many of their family members. It certainly was one of the real highlights of the term and reinforced the real build up to the 25th.

Pre-Prep continued their busy week today with a trip to Roves Farm. The boys were excitedly chattering about it on their way into school and I know that the coach journey itself was being seen as part of the adventure too. I look forward to hearing all about what they got up to on their return.

Tuesday saw the annual Junior Section trip to the pantomime at The Playhouse in Oxford to watch ‘Beauty and the Beast’. The boys came back extremely excited having thoroughly enjoyed the performance, and also the ice creams! I am sure they will have taken some tips for their own production next term. I have heard from a few parents that lines are being learned already –  ‘Hoodwinked’ is on its way.

On Tuesday afternoon, it was the house public speaking and debating competition for Years 5 to 8. Yet again, the boys who took part were quite superb in their cogent arguments for topics such as nuclear power, the effect of social media on society and the role of the monarchy to name but a few. The audience even directed questions at the older boys who had to respond. I have huge admiration for these boys as at their age, there would have been no chance of me standing up in front of an audience and speaking with such knowledge, passion and energy. Debating Club has never been so popular.

Our successful run continued on the rugby pitch this week with all four teams winning against Cothill last Saturday and five of the six teams winning against Cokethorpe. The U13 matches were incredibly close with just a single try separating the teams in both games. Across the school, there has been huge improvement in the boys rugby this term and that is great credit to the boys who really seem to enjoy playing the sport. I would particularly like to mention the unbeaten U11C team who have played some really great rugby this term.

It is the Christmas Bazaar tomorrow and I am looking forward to seeing most of you there to really kick start the celebrations for Christmas. There are more external stalls that have joined us this year so I hope that you will enjoy browsing their wares whilst your boys make their way round the games in the hall and elsewhere. The raffle prizes seem to get bigger and better each year, so do remember to buy those tickets when you arrive. I really would like to pay tribute to our JPA and staff who have worked so hard to put this together for the boys. Their work is greatly appreciated.

Good luck to our U11 and U13 rugby teams who are playing Taunton Prep School tomorrow morning. Taunton Prep is on tour this weekend and I am particularly looking forward to watching one of my old schools playing and catching up with their staff.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 29 November 2019

Friday 29 November 2019

Dear Parents

Individual music exams took place on Monday and I am sure that all the practice that went in to preparing for them will have paid off. It never ceases to amaze me how talented some of our musicians are and it was great to see so many of our younger boys sitting these exams at the start of their musical journeys.

The sound of the African savannah has been drifting out of the music room this week with the singing auditions taking place for our senior production, The Lion King. The boys seem really enthused by the choice of musical and will be looking forward to starting rehearsals next term.

Yesterday Magdalen College Geography Quiz was held and it was a great success with eight of our boys showing off their geographical knowledge. Whilst we may not have won the event, we did win the fieldwork round which was lovely having so recently returned with our Year 8s from their Swanage field trip.

It has been a very busy week for rugby matches with 16 teams taking on Magdalen College. I was lucky enough to see some of the U10s play and delighted to see the work rate and enjoyment that the boys were clearly showing on the pitch. It was an incredibly successful week with Abingdon Prep winning all 16 of the matches played.

Rugby continues this weekend with matches against Cothill and I am looking forward to watching the boys play and hopefully chatting to some of you on the touchline. In addition to the rugby on Saturday, we are running another Art Workshop too, focusing on Franz Marc and his futurist animal painting. I cannot wait to see what the boys are able to create.

The first swimming gala of the year took place on Monday at The Dragon and our boys from Year 3-8 swam really well with particularly strong performances from our Year 8s and Year 3 and 4 boys. I know the boys are looking forward to next term when the bulk of the swimming galas take place.

This afternoon, the Director of Hockey at Abingdon School, Olly Deasy, came across to run a session for 24 of our senior boys. Olly plays for Reading in the National League and it was great to have such a talented player and coach working with some of our boys. I must admit, I picked up a few good tips myself during the session as I have my first hockey match in over a year coming up next Sunday!

The Christmas season is well and truly upon us now with the Pre-Prep Nativity rehearsals in full swing and the Christmas trees are up at the front of school and also in the Hall. Thank you to the JPA for coming in to help decorate it today.

I hope you all have a good weekend.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 22 November 2019

Friday 22 November 2019

Dear Parents

Another busy week has flown by with the cold wind still biting and more woolly hats being worn than I can remember in previous years – including the staff! The build up to Christmas definitely started this week with the first carol being sung in our Tuesday morning singing practice and the school Christmas tree delivery email gracing my inbox! However, the boys were certainly fully engaged in the classroom too with Year 5 focusing on angles and using protractors, whilst Year 4 were designing their own islands as they learnt about four figure grid references.

Wednesday saw representatives from Griffin’s House Charity last year, the Sumatran Orangutan Society, share a little of their story and explain what the money we raised for them will be able to support. Some of the gorgeous pictures drew an audible murmur of delight and it was heartening to hear about the way that some of their rainforest habitat has been regenerated allowing them, and other key species such as Sumatran tigers and rhinos, to recolonise the area. Nature has an amazing way of healing itself if we can just give it the start it needs and an incredible four year turnaround in some parts of Sumatra has been achieved through specific replanting of certain pioneer species.

The Rugby 7s season is well and truly upon us with two tournaments this week for our U13s. They performed admirably at Pinewood securing three wins and three losses and both As and Bs showed some great skill in our own tournament this afternoon.

Our U12As played in the St Edward’s Tournament where they competed brilliantly against some enormous schools, both physically and in terms of numbers! Our U13 Cs lost a close game with Christ Church’s B team, whilst our U8As and U9As both had close matches with Cokethorpe but managed to win showing real determination at the end to stay ahead.

It was lovely to see some of you at Coffee and Catch up this morning. It is always a good chance to chat about your boys and what they have been getting up to over the term. The warm pain au chocolat was also a winner with the cold weather outside!

I hope you all have a good weekend ahead.

Best wishes

Craig