Letter from the Head, 2 March 2018
Friday 2 March 2018
I write this letter with the school eerily quiet as the snow has returned with a vengeance and we have unfortunately closed the school today. An unusual end to a busy week and hopefully, with the official start of meteorological spring yesterday, this was the final blast of winter and the daffodils can start opening up again in the next few weeks.
I wanted to take this opportunity to inform you of some staff changes for September and also next term. Mrs Natasha Watson will be joining us as Head of English in September. Natasha is currently teaching English at The Beacon and we look forward to her joining us here and becoming fully involved in a wide range of activities, including Drama, for which she clearly has a passion. However, for the Summer Term, Mrs Karina Philip will be our acting Head of English. Karina has a wealth of English teaching experience and is also a published author of children’s books and English textbooks, and has a real interest in music too. Rebecca Schwarz has been appointed as Head of Science for September. She currently teaches Science at Headington Senior School, and has a wide range of interests including hockey and other sports. We very much look forward to welcoming them all into the Abingdon Prep community.
A number of our Year 8 boys have been sitting in the past few weeks, and this coming week, their scholarship exams and assessments. Their desire to work hard and give their very best has been clear for all to see and I would like to congratulate all of them on their efforts. They can be very proud of themselves.
Sadly, all of our football matches and inter-house cross-country this week had to be cancelled due to the frozen pitches and snow cover, but we have rescheduled the date for 23 March to run the cross-country and parents will, of course, be more than welcome to attend.
Last Monday, our Year 6s performed a cantata, St Frideswide, with words and music written by our own, very talented Debbie Rose at Christ Church Cathedral. The first part of the afternoon took the form of a talk by Ruth Buckley, a St Frideswide expert, so the audience arrived well informed to hear the boys sing. Our boys sang beautifully with pure tone and clear diction, and the story of the saint’s life gradually unfolded through the nine songs, dramatic action and linking narration. It was a wonderful experience for the boys to perform in such an impressive venue.
We now have four weeks of term remaining, so I hope the boys enjoyed their snow day and will return refreshed after their three day weekend. I look forward to hearing all about their sledging and snowballing exploits.
With best wishes
Thunk – can we really know that every snowflake is different if we do not analyse all of them?
Letter from the Head, 23 February 2018
Friday 23 February 2018
I hope you all had a very enjoyable half term and that any illness that may have been lurking before the break quickly disappeared. The second half of term has started well and with our usual diverse array of activities.
Earlier this week three pupils from the Middle Section attended the annual 'Let's Debate' competition at Oratory School. After attending a morning of debating workshops, pupils were then tasked with opposing the motion “This House believes that teachers should be replaced with computers”, which was proposed by a team from Farleigh School in Hampshire. The boys acquitted themselves eloquently and I am assured that teachers are here to stay, at least for the time being!
This week’s football matches saw our younger boys playing Christ Church Cathedral School. Our U8As claimed another very impressive 9-0 victory whilst our B, C and D teams all lost closely fought matches. The U9A, B and C teams all celebrated solid victories, as did our U10B and D teams. The U11C and D teams lost to strong CCCS teams. Our U12s played Oratory School, with our As losing an exciting game 3-4, the Bs winning 1-0 and the Cs losing 1-4. This Saturday five of our teams travel to Cokethorpe and I hope that I will see many of you on the touch line offering your support. According to the weather forecast, warm clothes will be in order.
Yesterday, the second class pairings of the term took place. This time the theme was book-sharing which linked to World Book Day which is happening on Thursday next week. We are all greatly looking forward to seeing some interesting costumes that day. I particularly enjoyed hearing some of our Year 1s sharing their stories with our Year 6s and in return, having a Mr Men book read to them. It brought back fond memories for me of Mr Bump and Mr Tickle! Year 2 have also impressed me this week with some of their excellent Lego creations which are already starting to be displayed.
Whilst walking around the school yesterday, Mike Windsor and I popped in to hear our Year 5s sharing their recent stories based on the detective novels of Sherlock Holmes. The boys had managed to build tension in some especially well written pieces, some of which had character names which suited the storylines perfectly. Reviewing and improving their work had certainly been effective, and judging by how eagerly they were explaining their stories to their partners, they enjoyed the task immensely.
Next week continues to be busy with our Year 6s performing at Christ Church on Monday, and a whole school Open Day on Tuesday.
I wish you all a good weekend and look forward to seeing some of you at matches tomorrow.
Thunk for the week – if I deliberately drop a bucket of paint onto a canvas, is it Art? What if I drop it accidentally? Is it Art then?
Letter from the Head, 9 February 2018
Friday 9 February 2018
Yesterday was an important day for the Junior Section. They performed ‘Daniel and The Lions’ Den’ to a packed house in the school hall. There was standing room only to see some impressive acting, singing and dancing from our very talented Year 3 and 4s. The boys should be very proud of their efforts and the way in which they have all worked together to produce such a memorable performance. I have heard from numerous parents that there had been a lot of song rehearsals in cars on the way home from school in the lead up to the play. The tunes were certainly catchy and I could not get the encore out of my head on Thursday evening. I even caught myself humming away today at lunch.
We started this week with Safer Internet workshops and a talk to parents in the evening. Whilst the information received was hard hitting, it is certainly something that we should all be aware of. The internet is a wonderful tool when used in the right way and safely, and the earlier our boys learn about how to stay safe when using it, the better. We always encourage the boys to make the right choices, and I am sure that with the information they received on Monday, they are more likely to make better choices when it comes to social media and the internet. No matter what our personal views on social media are, it is here to stay and is a huge part of a child’s life now.
On Tuesday, Year 5 visited Abingdon School for a Science day. They returned so excited by the range of experiments with which they had been involved. How could one not be enthused by Science when it is so ‘hands on’? What an inspiring way to learn and sincere thanks to the Abingdon School staff who organised the day.
Most of the Middle and Senior Section boys were out on Wednesday playing football against Oratory Prep School and Abingdon. All the games were competitive affairs and our U10 A and U11A teams remained undefeated with impressive 5-0 and 6-1 wins respectively. Our U12s kicked off the season with a good win against Oratory Prep and a draw against Abingdon School whilst our U13s teams just lost out in two very close matches.
The IAPS swimming qualifiers last Friday saw some strong performances both from individuals and in the relays, and now we must wait to find out whether the times our boys achieved are fast enough to qualify for the National Finals. We have our fingers crossed having won three events in a remarkably competitive field.
I wish you all a very enjoyable half-term break. I am certain that the boys are more than ready for some down time, as are the staff!
Thunk for the week – If you could take a pill that meant you could never fail, would you?
Letter from the Head, 2 February 2018
Friday 2 February 2018
Last Friday our Pre-Prep Grandparents’ afternoon took place. This was extraordinarily well attended and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to so many proud grandparents and watching our younger boys playing ‘Old School’ games with them. There was not a Playstation in sight but instead, lots of lovely interactions taking place. As these boys move higher up the school, it will be lovely to welcome their grandparents back to watch them in productions, concerts and fixtures.
Football matches this week saw our U8As, U9As, U10As and 11As victorious once more against both The Oratory and St Hugh’s respectively, whilst the remainder of the games saw an even split of wins, losses and draws. There is certainly visible improvement across all teams, and with the popularity of football at break times too, that is no surprise!
Our first Hockey matches of the term took place on Wednesday against Cothill for our U12 and U13 D teams. After just two hours of practice, our U13s struggled to match a well drilled Cothill team and found themselves conceding regularly in the first half. However, with a few team adjustments, and a huge improvement in dynamism around the pitch, we drew the second half 2-2. Our U12s threw themselves into their game right from the start and a close match with a huge effort from both teams saw us finish 1-4 down. With more Hockey to come, there is much to be optimistic about on the MUSA.
The cross-country season is well and truly upon us. Last Friday saw us competing at the St Andrew’s event where boys from Years 3-8 performed very well, with our U12 and U13 teams winning their respective sections. A week later at Pinewood, our U11s and U13s ran impressively again, with Abingdon Prep having 1st, 2nd and 3rd placed runners in the U13 category.
I am currently waiting to hear the results of the IAPS swimming qualifiers which took place this afternoon at The Dragon School. I am sure our boys will have acquitted themselves admirably.
Thursday’s assembly saw 8J take to the stage. They conveyed an important message to the other boys about having a passion for something and being prepared to dedicate time to it in order to improve. There were demonstrations of cycling around the hall, a handsome Jack Russell on stage and we were treated to tales of karting, robotics and golf, to name but a few. The boys showed genuine enthusiasm for and commitment to their hobbies, and they explained it extremely well. Some in the audience may even have been inspired to take up a new pastime!
Play rehearsals are in full swing in both the junior and senior sections and I am very much looking forward to the Year 3 and 4 performance of ‘Daniel and the Lions' Den’ on Thursday next week. I have heard some beautiful singing coming out of the Hall on my walks around school and the boys seem very excited about the upcoming performance.
It was a pleasure to see all of those parents who were able to join me this morning for coffee and pastries. It was a welcome opportunity to catch up and chat about school and the boys. The staff were very grateful for the leftover pains au chocolat that appeared at morning break time!
And finally, this week’s Thunk – if you break down in the middle of the road, is your car parked?
Letter from the Head, 26 January 2018
Friday 26 January 2018
As the Spring Term races by and the weather seems to be worsening, Abingdon Prep has been a hive of activity all week. Thursday was our ‘paper aeroplane challenge’ in houses and buddy groups. There were some wonderfully creative designs on show. Some, when thrown, even managed to fly backwards, but a well-engineered few have progressed through to the finals. There are a few hot favourites but no one can predict what conditions will be like on finals day!
On one of my learning walks this week I was lucky enough to visit a Year 8 Science practical where neutralisation of acids was taking place and blue copper sulphate crystals were being created. The boys were able to explain fully the process behind the reactions and impressed Mr Windsor and me with their detailed understanding. The Year 8 Maths group were equally as impressive with their knowledge and manipulation of areas and perimeters using π. Our Year 7s were producing playlets and setting them to music in the Gamalan tradition – not a style of music that I had come across before. There were plenty of diverse and enlightening topics being studied yesterday morning.
The inclement weather on Wednesday did not stop our first football fixtures for the middle school going ahead against Pinewood. The U10 A, B and C teams all won exciting games whilst our U10 Ds lost a tight match with Pinewood’s U10Cs 3-4, having recovered to 3-3 from 3-0 down. The impressive U11 As won 10-2, whilst the Bs drew 2-2, Cs lost 2-3 and the Ds lost 7-9. It would be fair to say that football was the winner in this game! Our Year 7 and 8 cross-country team also competed in their first event of term this week, running out convincing winners against Abingdon, New College and Sacred Heart. To have two boys run under ten minutes for 2.8km was rather impressive.
Our Year 8 Art scholars are very busy preparing for their Art assessment day and this week they had a crank clay masterclass. Some of their animal sculptures are truly remarkable and I look forward greatly to seeing them after they have been fired in the kiln. They are certainly a talented group of young artists.
The concert platform last week was a resounding success again with many boys, some for the very first time, performing to an appreciative audience. If you missed it, please do look at the short video clip of some of the performances in the news section on our website – ‘Performers wowed the crowd’ – one cannot help but be impressed by our wonderful musicians.
I am still receiving some fascinating answers to these at morning drop-off (from both parents and pupils) so here is another Thunk for the week –
Is it better to play well and lose, or to play badly and win?
Good luck to all those brave quizzers who are back at school this evening eagerly anticipating Rob’s selection of general knowledge questions. I look forward to welcoming you all and to making my debut on the staff quiz team.
I hope you have a good weekend, and do remember to pop in for ‘coffee and pastries’ next Friday at morning drop-off in the Drama Studio.
With best wishes
Letter from the Head, 19 January 2018
Friday 19 January 2018
I started this week in assembly with a favourite quote of mine from the great golfer Gary Player, ‘The more I practise, the luckier I get’. It has been delightful to see that the boys in all areas of the school have been working really hard this week and I have been encouraged by the purposeful atmosphere in their classrooms. 8R have been sitting their mock scholarship exams and I thoroughly enjoyed being invited to see the Year 3s undertaking some science experiments. Year 3 had designed and created a range of parachutes with different shaped canopies and different surface areas. They proceeded to drop them from the top of the stairs and had to time how long it took for them to reach the floor. After that, they had to calculate average times and draw conclusions from the data sets collected. It was pleasing to see them so actively engaged in their own learning.
On Wednesday, our Under 13s kicked off the football season with matches against Davenies. This was our first ever fixture against this school. The A team were involved in a very competitive game and were just edged out 0-2, despite having much of the possession and creating lots of chances. Perhaps a little more shooting practice will be needed this week! The B team had a tougher game against strong opposition but worked hard to the end.
Our Year 4s visited Sulgrave Manor yesterday. The weather was kind (at least, it did not rain), and all of the boys had a wonderful time learning about the Tudors in such an impressive setting, helping to bring history to life. I am told that the boys carried off the Tudor costumes expertly and there were many Tudor themed packed lunches on show! It is hard to beat learning about key periods in history when you are surrounded by history itself.
Yesterday afternoon saw the first swimming gala of the year at Abingdon School for both A and B teams against Moulsford Prep and Abingdon. Our Under 12s had an exciting battle with Abingdon School but were defeated by just 2 points after a series of very tight finishes. Our U13s were extremely impressive and were victorious by a reasonably large margin. There is clearly a great strength in depth in our senior section swimmers and they should all be very pleased with their performances.
I wanted to take this opportunity to let you all know that I will be hosting another ‘Coffee and Pastries’ morning in the Drama studio on Friday 2 February from 8am to 9.15am. I really enjoyed chatting with so many of you last time and I hope that even more of you will be able to drop in on that day.
And finally, after receiving numerous impressive answers to last week’s offering, here is this week’s Thunk – Is there more future or more past?
I hope you have a relaxing weekend.
Letter from the Head, 12 January 2018
Friday 12 January 2018
I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas break and have settled back into the routines of the new year. Although I could not quite believe how dark it was, when standing outside on the first morning welcoming the boys back to school, it is good to be back and focused on an exciting term ahead. I have heard many lovely stories about the boys’ holidays and what they got up to, in addition to what their favourite presents were!
I would like to take this opportunity to let you know about our appointment of a Head of French for September. We had an excellent series of applications and from a very strong field we have appointed Mr Russell Macdonald. Russell is currently Head of MFL at Dean Close Prep School in Cheltenham, and he has also taught at a number of other prep schools. He stood out in the interview process as someone who was passionate about his subject and prep school education in general. He is currently a form teacher and also coaches Games. We very much look forward to welcoming him into the Abingdon Prep community in September.
I am also delighted to pass on that Jennifer Brown, who has been with us as Head of English on a maternity cover, has secured an exciting role as Head of English and Drama at Sherborne Prep in Dorset. I know that Jennifer is greatly looking forward to the production of ‘Smike’ which will be an excellent swansong for her.
We started the term with a delightful group of class pairings yesterday. The theme this time was card games. Having visited all the rooms, it was obvious that we have some boys well versed in the art of card games and I certainly wouldn’t have been tempted to join one of the poker tables or the Blackjack group! It is so enjoyable to watch the boys interacting so well and enjoying each other’s company across the different year groups. This was followed today with a well-earned home clothes day for Dragon House pupils after their victory in the House points competition last term.
Pre-season football was a great success with 32 boys in Year 7 and 8 and 36 boys in Year 5 and 6 attending the sessions. It is an event that we are very keen to continue to arrange for the boys prior to the beginning of each term. Thank you to the staff and boys who gave up the final day of the holidays to come in to practise for the season ahead.
I asked the boys in my assembly on Tuesday to consider the statement “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you will keep getting what you’ve always gotten!” but related it to our effort grade descriptors (and some cricketing technique too!). I encouraged them to approach the term with a fresh attitude and desire to change the things they felt they might need to change. After popping into a number of lessons this week, I certainly saw evidence of a renewed desire to learn and improve themselves in areas that they may not previously have been seen as strong points. I really do hope that this positive approach is at the forefront of the boys’ thinking this term.
As far as thinking goes, I am hoping to include a Thunk in most of my weekly letters as I think it is an excellent way to spark interesting conversations across the dinner table or in the car on the way to or from school. There are sadly, however, no prizes for the best answers! What on earth is a Thunk, you may ask? Well, a Thunk is a simple-looking question about everyday things that stops you in your tracks and hopefully helps you start to look at the world in a new light. So here goes with the first one of the term….
Which is heavier – a lie or a promise?
I look forward to hearing some of thoughts on this one at the front gate next week!
Letter from the Head, 15 December 2017
Friday 15 December 2017
Perhaps I should not have ended my letter last week with a wish for a flurry of snow! We got a little more than that. However, I will happily include mention of snow again in this letter and hope for a repeat of last Sunday now that we have the holidays ahead of us.
It seems like yesterday that I was welcoming parents and pupils into school on my first day of term. Time has flown by and I feel very much a part of the Abingdon Prep community, especially now I know what people are talking about when they refer to ‘Firestorm’ and ‘The Bazaar’! It has been a great pleasure getting to know the boys.
I would like to take this opportunity to let you all know that Adrian Burn (OA 1963) will be stepping down as Chairman of Governors of the Abingdon Foundation on 31 December 2017 after nearly five years in post. He has given superb service. Over the past three years under his leadership the Governors have appointed new Headmasters both for Abingdon School and Abingdon Prep as well as a new Director of Finance and Operations. This has also been a period of considerable investment in facilities at both schools, including the works undertaken at Abingdon Prep School over the summer. I have been very grateful for the support that Adrian has offered me and Abingdon Prep.
Adrian’s replacement as Chairman of Governors will be Professor Mike Stevens. Professor Stevens is an OA (1968) who qualified in medicine at the University of London. He held senior leadership positions both in the UK and Europe and he is Emeritus Professor at the University of Bristol. He has been a Governor since 2014 and has recently been Vice-Chairman of Governors and Chair of the Education Committee. More information about Mike Stevens and our governing body is available here.
It is also an opportune moment to inform you that Claire Delo, our wonderful Head of Science, has taken the decision to retire at the end of this academic year. Claire has been a huge part of this school for a long time and she will be greatly missed by staff and pupils alike. However, I will save my words about her for the end of the Summer Term.
The House merit cup was awarded on Thursday this week and with just 15 merits separating first and second, it was certainly a close run thing. Dragon, however, were victorious and have earned themselves a home clothes day next term. The final results were as follows:
4th Unicorn, 3rd Phoenix, 2nd Griffin, 1st Dragon
It was a dreadful shame that our annual Carol Service had to be cancelled on Monday evening. However, we were delighted to be able to run a version of it in school this morning, before term ended. The music produced was, as always, of an extremely high standard and I would once again like to thank Debbie and all of her music staff for their outstanding efforts this term. I do apologise to all parents that we were unable to accommodate you for today’s concert, as there was simply not enough space in the School Hall.
I thoroughly enjoyed our colours and awards assembly yesterday. There was much to celebrate after such a busy term and I would like to thank the boys for their efforts throughout the term, both in and out of the classroom. They have achieved so much, and I know they will return in the new year with the same positive approach.
That just leaves me with the task of wishing you all a very merry Christmas and to thank you for all of your support and kind wishes in my first term as Headmaster at Abingdon Prep. I feel lucky to be part of such a warm community.
With best wishes
Letter from the Head, 8 December 2017
Friday 8 December 2017
We have almost arrived at the final week of term. The nights have drawn in and the weather is definitely on the turn. The Christmas tree is up and the decorations are out. Abingdon Prep, however, is showing no signs of slowing down for the holidays.
6S gave an assembly this week where the theme was the selfless spirit of Christmas. During the assembly they explained that they were undertaking a ‘reverse’ advent calendar idea, whereby they would bring to school an item of food when it was their turn to open a door. This collection of food items will be taken to a local charity where, hopefully, it may help struggling families enjoy a more festive Christmas. I believe this shows a very mature and compassionate attitude, and I commend them on their thoughtfulness.
There were a range of matches against Cheltenham College this week. Our U10 A and B both had convincing victories, U11 A and B both lost whilst the U11 C team played superbly in a 9-6 win. Our U13 As, Bs and U12 A s all lost in exciting contests whilst our U12 Bs ran out comfortable winners. This was a competitive and enjoyable final set of rugby matches for the term. I would like to thank our grounds staff publicly for all their hard work in maintaining our pitches to a very high standard, for the boys to enjoy. Three of the Cheltenham staff commented on the good condition of our pitches, considering it was December – not a trace of mud anywhere!
Yesterday it was the turn of 4A to see Jack and The Beanstalk. All came back with broad smiles having thoroughly enjoyed the pantomime. The Christmas period is well and truly upon us.
I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that Linda Rolls will be leaving us at the end of this term to take up a position as a Teaching Assistant in her daughter’s primary school. I would like to thank her for all of the work she has done with our Pre-Prep boys over the years. She will be greatly missed and we wish her all the very best in her new role.
On Thursday next week it is our Christmas Lunch. At the suggestion of one of the Year 5 boys, we have decided that the boys will be allowed to wear Christmas jumpers to the special lunch that day, and would ask that they donate £1 to our school charity for this event, to be collected by the form teacher in registration. Boys should come into school in normal uniform and then put their festive jumpers on for first break. Boys in Years 5 to 8 who are involved in the House Debating Competition after lunch will need to return to their school jumpers for the competition.
I am greatly looking forward to my first Abingdon Prep Carol Service on Monday, and have heard some delightful singing practices as I have walked past the music room this week. I do hope that all parents of boys in Years 3 to 8 will be able to attend. It is always a wonderful way to round off such a busy term, giving the boys a chance to showcase some of their musical talents and also an opportunity to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. I know that St Helen’s Church looks forward to welcoming us but please do bear in mind that parking can be difficult, so please allow plenty of time to get there for a 6.30pm start.
I have my fingers crossed for a little flurry of snow this weekend! It seems to have been a while since we have experienced it in this part of country. I hope you all have a good weekend and I look forward to seeing many of you on Monday at the Carol Service.
Letter from the Head, 1 December 2017
Friday 1 December 2017
I would like to start my mailing this week by extending enormous thanks to everyone who was involved in the Bazaar. It was a wonderful afternoon and the generosity of our parent body is hugely appreciated, with exciting raffle prizes being donated in addition to all the work from our impressive JPA in preparation for the event. The boys certainly enjoyed themselves and the sugar rush seemed to have worn off by the time they all returned to school on Monday morning!
Springfield School, one of our school charities this year, brought three pupils to Abingdon Prep on Wednesday for a Forest School lesson led by Steve. Our Reception boys helped the Springfield pupils enjoy their Forest School experience and further cemented a close relationship between the two schools.
Wednesday’s arctic weather saw every boy in Year 5 and 6 play in matches against Magdalen College School. Despite freezing hands, the boys did Abingdon Prep proud with a strong set of results. Our U10 As, Bs and Cs all won whilst the Ds lost out in a close contest. In the U11s, our As and Ds won, the Bs drew and the C team just lost in another tight match. A day later our U8s and U9s also took on Magdalen College School. The U8A team won a very close game which sees them undefeated for the season, whilst the U8B and C teams both scored lots of tries but narrowly lost. As for the Year 4s, our U9As lost a superb game 14-16, but both the U9B and C teams ran out winners.
The Year 7 and 8 House matches also took place on Wednesday and Dragon finished victorious, unbeaten in both the A and B team tournaments. Again, every boy in those year groups took part and played with a great pride for their House. Rugby continues this Saturday with matches against Cothill and I look forward to greeting all of our supporters on the touchline.
Year 3 and 4AP visited the Oxford Playhouse to see Jack and the Beanstalk this week. The boys returned very enthusiastic about the show. It certainly reinforced that the countdown to Christmas has well and truly begun.
Each of our Houses spent Thursday morning assembly time choosing their House Charities for the year. They have chosen the following: Dragon – Children’s Air Ambulance, Griffin – Great Ormond Street, Phoenix – Help for Heroes, Unicorn – Wild At Heart. I was fortunate to hear a number of our Year 8s explaining why they had chosen to propose certain charities and it was fascinating to hear their personal reasons for wanting to give them our support.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Pre-Prep Nativity today and it was a delight to watch. Our younger boys should be very proud of their performances on stage. We undoubtedly have a number of budding thespians coming through the school. They had learned all of their lines superbly and gave heart-warming entertainment to a packed audience.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind parents to check the weekly mailings as this is one of our main methods of communication, and there are often important documents or information relating to certain events that may need to be returned to school within a specific timeframe. Your support with this would be greatly appreciated.
I hope you all have a relaxing weekend.