The Headmaster writes to the Abingdon Prep community every week during term time.
Letter from the Head, 14 September 2018
Friday 14 September
It was lovely to welcome so many of you to the Informal Parents’ Evening on Tuesday. I hope that you found the talks with the form teachers useful and informative and that you got to meet some of our new parents too. I certainly enjoyed chatting to many of you and catching up after the summer break.
Very rarely would I wish for rain at any time of year but sadly our first rugby matches of term had to be cancelled due to the hard ground, so with any luck we might have a few heavy showers next week to help soften the ground, or at least a few more of the misty mornings that signify autumn is very much on its way. However, our U13 As did compete at the Dragon tournament against some impressive opposition. Our boys performed admirably losing to Caldicott and The Beacon but beating St Hugh’s, St John’s Leatherhead and Abingdon School. Ashley was delighted with their first run out and the boys came back injury free and looking forward to their upcoming matches.
Class pairings took place for the first time this year on Thursday and it was based around the theme of construction. It was great to see our older boys helping our younger ones as they designed and built a range of different structures, from boats and planes to houses and islands. Cross year group friendships are something that are always in evidence at Abingdon Prep and help to bind our community together.
Tomorrow we have the first of our art workshops with the theme being Sculpture. I know that it will be an inspiring course and I am looking forward to seeing the finished products.
Safety week begins on Monday and the boys will have many opportunities to learn about safety in different situations, from online safety to road safety. I know there will be a lot of interesting discussions in classes so that the boys have a better understanding of how to keep themselves and others safe. An extremely important life lesson.
I hope you all have a good weekend and as autumn starts to take hold, perhaps some conker collecting and blackberry picking is in order!
Letter from the Head, 7 September 2018
Friday 7 September
Term has finally started and we have been welcomed back with some great weather and a school full of boys with energy and enthusiasm. It has been lovely for me to start to get to know so many of our new pupils and I hope that both they and their parents are already feeling part of our Abingdon Prep community.
As with all our terms, the Michaelmas term is a busy one with fixtures, trips, our Saturday Open Morning which all the boys attend, Firestorm, the Christmas Bazaar and lots of work both inside and outside of the classroom. I firmly believe that being busy at school is a great thing and I am looking forward to all of these events. We have wasted no time in getting started and yesterday our Year 6 boys departed for their Cornbury Bushcraft adventure. There were a lot of smiling faces and clean clothes as they got onto the minibuses. I am sure the smiling faces will still be there on their return but perhaps not the clean clothes, especially for those boys who opt to eschew the tents and sleep in the dens they have created!
My first assembly of term focused on three messages that I want all of our boys to make a key part of their lives at Abingdon Prep. These were – Work Hard, Get Involved and Be Kind. I sometimes feel that life can be over complicated with so many different instructions and rules to abide by, but if we all embrace these messages, then we will continue to build a strong and very successful community within the school.
One of my favourite things about being a Headmaster is that I get to wander around school popping in and out of different lessons. This week, I watched our Year 8s studying DNA and the role of chromosomes and I saw our Year 4s playing number games in Maths by rolling dice to create a number and then having to work out the remainder to get to 100. Our Year 3s were creating booklets about their first week at school and in French our Year 6s were writing about their hobbies whilst Year 1 were making marmalade sandwiches with exercises about Paddington Bear!
Our delightful new Reception class have been out in the play area on the trikes and were telling me all about the hole in the road, so the trikes had to go around it to keep safe. Our ‘Learning Lions’ seem to have been smiling all week and certainly learning much about their new school.
The ‘Other Half’ activities have started with a bang and our new prep club for the junior section has proved popular too.
I hope you all have a great weekend and that the boys are not too tired after the exertions of their first week of term. I look forward to catching up with many of you at the informal parents evening on Tuesday night.
Letter from the Head, 31 August 2018
Friday 31 August
I hope you have all had a great Summer holiday and that your boys, and yourselves, are looking forward to getting back to a new academic year at Abingdon Prep. We will have 48 new pupils joining our community and I know that they will be welcomed as warmly as I was this time last year. The holidays have flown by with some fantastic weather to get out and about in.
It was lovely to see so many Year 5 – 8 boys at pre-season Rugby yesterday for a bit of early season practice. The weather was kind and a little bit of rain in the preceding weeks had turned the playing fields back to green after the desert like appearance through the summer! They were certainly not soft but more than playable for a game of Rugby. It was lovely to meet some of our new boys and for them to meet up with some of their contemporaries prior to the start of term. Our two new GAP students joined us and showed off their rugby knowledge. They are Ned and Nathan. Ned is with us from the USA (Minnesota) for the year and Nathan is more local from West Hanney. We are delighted to welcome Sam back as he joins us again for another year.
We have a number of other new staff joining us this term. Many of the boys will have met them at Move Up Morning but please do come and introduce yourselves to them when you have the opportunity. Natasha is our Head of English, Drama and Year 6 form teacher, Rebecca is our Head of Science, Russell our Head of French and Year 7 form teacher, and Helen our new junior Science teacher. Lucy Hamerton has also joined the administration team and you will meet her in the mornings in the school office.
I look forward to meeting all of our new parents at the informal drinks tonight and others of you at the informal parents evening on the 11 September, at the gate in the mornings or on the side of the pitches at fixtures!
Letter from the Head, 6 July 2018
Friday 6 July 2018
It seems like only yesterday that I stood outside the front entrance welcoming the boys into school on the first day of term in September, rather conscious of the fact I did not know any boys’ names, let alone parents’ names! The year has simply flown by, and I certainly feel far more comfortable standing outside welcoming you all into school now!
I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year here at Abingdon Prep, and feel very fortunate to be part of this warm community with such delightful and talented boys. It has been a very special year for me with the birth of our first child coinciding with becoming Headmaster here. I think I can safely say that I am looking forward to a more restful first week of the holidays, if Quinn shows willing…
Yesterday evening’s Summer Concert was an enchanting way to wrap up such a busy term. It was lovely to see all of the boys involved and showcasing their musical talents. We are very fortunate to have so many outstanding musicians in school.
Our end of term Prize Giving was a splendid way to celebrate the achievements of the year and to recognise our impressive cohort of Year 8 boys, many of whom have been with us since Reception. They have distinguished themselves in so many different areas over the years and I hope they will look back in years to come with fond memories of their time here and the friendships they have made. I know they will be moving on to their new schools well prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
On Tuesday this week three of our boys travelled to the Alexandra Stadium in Birmingham to compete in the National Prep Schools Athletics finals. Rather impressively, all three won medals so we now have the U11 High Jump champion, the U13 Long Jump Champion and the second fastest U13 1500m runner in our midst. I have never before worked in a school where such results have been achieved at this event. The boys should be immensely proud of their efforts.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of those involved with our Abingdon Prep community a very enjoyable and relaxing summer holiday and I look forward to welcoming the boys back in September, hopefully knowing a lot more names this time around! I try not to tempt fate by mentioning the World Cup but we can live in hope. Too late – I have mentioned it!
Letter from the Head, 29 June 2018
Friday 29 June 2018
Summer feels like it is well and truly upon us. The boys have been in shirt sleeve order all week and the sun cream has been a necessity. The boys have continued to be busy and working hard in the lead up to the end of year celebrations.
We welcomed our Year 8s back from France with sun tans topped up and plenty of stories to tell. The theme park rides after a heavy lunch seem to have been a highlight, or lowlight, depending on who you talk to! It was a wonderful way for them to celebrate the end of their school careers at Abingdon Prep and create lasting memories of their time here with us.
Perhaps my highlight of the week was the unbelievable performances at the house music competition. The standard was remarkable and it proved that Music is flourishing here at Abingdon Prep, from the youngest boys right through to the Year 8s. What heartened me further was the obvious appreciation of the musical talent on show from the boys watching. The Summer Concert next week is not one to be missed, judging by the performances this week!
There have been cricket matches aplenty this week with close matches against Pinewood last Saturday and equally good games for our U8s and U9s against MCS. It was a pleasure to see so many boys playing on Wednesday and I took the 7ths across to St Hugh’s where we succumbed to a 6 run defeat. We have six matches this Saturday against Cothill so I look forward to seeing many parents on the boundary.
On Tuesday it was Move Up day and we were delighted to welcome 42 boys into Abingdon Prep. It was a great opportunity for them to meet our boys again and the start of many new friendships were formed, as well as a chance for our boys to meet their new form teacher for September.
Year 7 have had a very busy week. Yesterday saw them taking part in a Courtroom Experience and today they are visiting the High Ropes and Laser Tag centre. I think the boys were quite surprised by the procedures in the courtroom, especially when it was our very own French teacher, Lynne, who was sat before them in the dock! It was certainly a great learning experience about the justice system in this country and I would like to thank all those involved for bringing this experience to life.
Today, Reception and Year 1 have visited Cotswold Wildlife Park and I will look forward to hearing all about the animals they have seen when I visit their forms later on. There may well be some tired boys after walking round on such a hot day. Our Year 8s may be just as tired as they have also been out today, walking along a section of the Ridgeway. If you have never done parts of this walk before then I would recommend you try it out over the summer as some of the views are simply spectacular.
Last Saturday evening we had a wonderful time at the Summer Ball. The whole evening was fabulous with some rather impressive 80s outfits on show and an impressive band playing covers of every 80s song you could wish to hear. Thank you to the wonderful team for organising it and to all those who attended. I thoroughly enjoyed the night and I know those I spoke with felt the same.
As we move into the final week of the school year, may I remind you that on the Friday, for those boys in the Pre-Prep and with siblings in the Pre-Prep and boys who use the mini-bus service, term ends at 12 noon. For all other boys in Years 3 to 8, parents can collect between 12.15 and 12.30, with Year 8 leavers joining their parents for a reception straight after Prize Giving.
This final week is a great opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the year and even to set goals for next year. Before then though, we have our final week of term which will be busy and full of celebration.
Letter from the Head, 22 June 2018
Friday 22 June 2018
It is hard to imagine a busier week at Abingdon Prep than the one just past. So much has been happening and the boys are certainly enjoying being outside in the warm weather.
On Monday Year 7 visited Sutton Courtenay Environmental Centre where they launched themselves into a range of environmental activities and gained so much knowledge about a topic that will be very important to them as they move through their lives. Taking care of our environment and endeavouring to leave it in a better state for the next generations is something towards which we should all be trying to work. After all, we only have one planet and we should be looking after it.
Our matches this week saw us take on a very strong set of teams from The Oratory Prep School and some of the cricket on show, batting in particular, showed our boys what can be achieved. The 100 not out from an U11A player was an exhibition of impressive batting and our boys will have learnt from watching it. We also participated in an U12 and U10 cricket tournament where shorter games were played and we acquitted ourselves well at both events. Tomorrow we have fixtures against Pinewood and I look forward to taking our U10s over there for their games.
Today, Pre-Prep held their Summer Concert and Teddy Bear’s Picnic. The standard of music and performance was very high and I think it is very clear that we have some excellent musicians coming up through the school. It was a pleasure to celebrate the end of the year in such a way.
Pre-Prep have had a very busy week with their Sports Day taking place on Monday. The weather was kind and all the boys ran, threw, and jumped their way around different events. Unicorn ended the day victorious and certainly enjoyed their victory lap of honour. It was delightful to see the boys enjoying each and every event.
Yesterday we held our Year 3 and 4 House Swimming Gala. Although I was unfortunately unable to attend, I have heard great reports about it and have been told that we have some very talented swimmers in the junior section. It was a very closely contested event but the eventual winner was Phoenix.
For Years 3 to 8, last Saturday was a great highlight in the sporting calendar with Sports Day taking place at Tilsley Park. We are extremely lucky to be able to host this event at a real athletics track and stadium, and the boys certainly rose to the occasion. There were a number of school records and some outstanding performances. It was very rewarding to see the boys supporting each other and their houses with such enthusiasm. Again, an extremely close event saw Phoenix as the victorious house.
Athletics also took centre stage on Tuesday with the Mercia Regional qualifiers at Tilsley Park. Our boys performed admirably in an event for over a thousand participants and three of them have qualified for the National Athletics Finals at Alexander Stadium in Birmingham. This is a fantastic achievement, and I look forward to seeing them compete against the very best in the country in their respective age groups.
Our Year 8s have been having a wonderful time in Normandy this week and will return at midnight tonight. Lynne has been keeping me updated with their sandcastle building exploits and talent show mishaps! I look forward to hearing all about it directly from the boys next week.
Our annual Book Swap took place this week too, and it has been encouraging to see so many books being taken to new homes and enjoyed by their new owners. Thank you to our library staff for organising this.
The Verse Speaking Competition took place this week for Years 3 to 6, and again I was full of admiration for the boys’ clear and confident delivery of their chosen pieces at such a young age. I know that I would certainly have struggled to do that back in 1985!
House Captain hustings took place yesterday and I am looking forward to announcing the names of the new house captains and vice-captains for next year, to the respective houses. I was thoroughly impressed by the thought and preparation that had gone into the boys’ speeches, and they certainly had some interesting ideas for next year.
Finally, I would like to thank the JPA, and Susie in particular, for all their work in organising the Summer Ball tomorrow. It will be a very enjoyable evening and I am looking forward to seeing many of you there. I have opted for black tie rather than the 80s outfit, but I cannot wait to see what some have been able to find at the back of their wardrobes!
Letter from the Head, 15 June 2018
Friday 15 June 2018
I would like to begin my letter this week by congratulating our Year 8 boys who have received such impressive Common Entrance results this week. They should be very proud of their achievements and also now be looking forward to the new challenges and opportunities which will present themselves at senior school in September. There is no substitute for hard work and these boys are proof of that. They now have three final exciting weeks to look forward to, starting with their visit to Normandy next week. I wish them all a wonderful time, and hope that the weather is kind. The Year 8s were also introduced to the Head of Career Guidance at Abingdon School this week, who gave a very informative talk about careers in general and the choices that the boys have ahead of them. It was a very thought-provoking session, and many of the boys will undoubtedly be spending time with Mr Triff when they are at Abingdon School.
Sports Day for Years 3 to 8 takes place tomorrow. I am looking forward to seeing the boys competing at Tilsley Park and hope to see many of you there supporting them. The Pre-Prep boys will have their chance to shine on Monday on Cox’s Fields across the road. The boys have been practising hard for these two events and I am sure they will thoroughly enjoy the occasions.
Grandparents’ Afternoon for Years 3 to 6 takes place later today and I am looking forward to watching the boys proudly show their grandparents the work they have been doing this term. It is always a delightful occasion bringing the different generations together and sharing experiences of school life, past and present.
International Day took place for boys from Reception to Year 4 yesterday, with costumes and activities themed around the countries of Australia, Gambia and Japan. The boys wore colourful and eye-catching outfits and they certainly learnt a lot about the cultures and lifestyles of each of these countries. It is wonderful that we live in a multicultural society where we can enjoy finding out so much about other customs and ways of life.
Griffin House also held their ‘Wear a nasty tie to school’ day yesterday to raise money for their chosen charity, Great Ormond Street Hospital. Some of the boys had certainly taken the title of the day to heart judging by the ties on show. The staff too worried me a little that they still had such ties in their wardrobes!
On Tuesday the U8s and U9s all played cricket against strong Oratory Prep School sides, and whilst they may not have won, there were certainly some much improved performances from many of the boys. On Wednesday our U11s and U10s played St Andrew’s Prep and once again there were some strong performances with bat and ball in close matches. Our seniors were playing their Abingdon contemporaries and the highlight result was a great win for our 1st XI in the final over of the match.
I look forward to seeing many of you either on Saturday or Monday, and fingers crossed for some sunshine to accompany those popular events in our calendar.
Letter from the Head, 8 June 2018
Friday 8 June 2018
For thirty of our Year 8s, this week has been the week they have been working towards throughout their school careers to date. They have been sitting their Common Entrance exams to their chosen senior school. They were all in good spirits at the start of the week and did not seem to flag. I have no doubt that their hard work will be rewarded with excellent results next week. I commend them all on their positive approach to these exams and know that they will enjoy the final four weeks of their time here at Abingdon Prep.
On Wednesday, 8R gave their Crest Science presentations to their parents. I was fortunate to be able to watch most of them and I cannot describe how impressive the boys were. The investigations were fascinating and the topic matter ranged from sound wave patterns to toothpaste quality to cricket bat design to power station electromagnetic coils! The designs of the experiments were extremely inventive and showed the adaptability needed to produce scientific data which they could analyse and then draw their conclusions. I shall be changing my choice of toothpaste having seen one presentation and learnt all about the use of microbeads in certain brands. The boys really demonstrated their understanding and knowledge of scientific experimentation.
Cricket matches resumed this week with our U11s and U10s playing Moulsford Prep School. Every boy in these year groups competed and it was wonderful to see so many boys out on the cricket pitch testing themselves against strong opposition, with the U10Cs one run victory perhaps being the highlight. On Thursday our U8s and U9s played Christ Church Cathedral School. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the U8s in their two wins with some impressive catching and bowling. Our U9s were also victorious and can be delighted by the progress that they have made so far this season.
Thursday also saw Year 5 visit Portsmouth Dockyard to spend the day on HMS Victory. The boys had an unforgettable time viewing Nelson’s ship at close quarters and experiencing the conditions on board first hand. If you have never visited, I can thoroughly recommend a trip in the summer, to see not only HMS Victory but also the Mary Rose Museum and HMS Warrior. Our boys were lucky enough also to see the newest addition to the Royal Navy’s fleet, the aircraft carrier The HMS Prince of Wales, in port whilst they were there. The size of it was something to behold by all accounts.
At half term two of our Year 5 boys joined forces with two girls from The Manor Prep School and played in the U11 IAPS tennis finals at Millfield Prep. Our boys acquitted themselves extremely well, especially as they were playing a year young. I know they are looking forward to returning next year again.
Today has been Home Clothes day for Griffin House after they won the house points competition last half term. The boys certainly made the most of the warmer weather today with shorts almost mandatory. A well-earned treat.
Tomorrow, eight of our boys will be representing Abingdon Prep in the relays and individual races at the IAPS swimming finals at the London Aquatics Centre. Qualifying for the finals is a very impressive achievement and I wish all the boys the best of luck.
My wife Hannah and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all so much for your kind wishes and messages of support following the birth of our son, Quinn, in the week before half term. Hannah and Quinn are both doing very well and I hope that we will be able to bring him in to School next week to say his first hello to the Abingdon Prep community. A lack of sleep is rapidly becoming normality so I apologise if the bags under my eyes seem to be getting larger when I greet you in the mornings!
I hope you all have a lovely weekend.
Letter from the Head, 18 May 2018
Friday 18 May 2018
I would like to start my letter this week by expressing my admiration for all our boys who gave up their free time on Sunday last week to do a sponsored swim in the pool at Abingdon School. Every one of them swam to help raise money for our School charities, covering a staggering forty miles between them! For some, six lengths were a huge effort and achievement, whilst other more regular swimmers managed forty lengths. The quantity of lengths, however, is irrelevant, as it was the sense of camaraderie and the importance of fundraising for charity which shone through, and I extend my sincere thanks to all the boys.
Exam season has begun with Common Entrance French Orals and Maths listening tests this week for our Year 8 boys. Next week sees the start of the Year 3 – 6 exams and I know the boys are working hard in the run-up to these. A calm sense of purpose is needed, as well as a determination simply to do the best that one can. Some revision would also be of great benefit at this stage.
The start of the week saw an enormous variety of cakes coming through our doors, with the Pre-Prep and Phoenix House cake sales. Some of our boys and parents had clearly spent hours producing some delicious bakes, and again I thank them for all their efforts with this. The money generated will again be going to our School charities.
Class pairings took place yesterday, with a theme of the Royal Wedding. There were some expertly designed castles, colourful flags, bunting and numerous dragons appearing, all in royal colours, with our older boys supporting and assisting the younger ones. Listening to some of their thoughts about what might happen at the wedding was certainly very entertaining, and we all wish the happy couple the very best for their wonderful day tomorrow. Having been at Eton College yesterday for a meeting, I was not surprised to find a great many road closures in the area, in anticipation of the big day at Windsor.
The weather was kind to us again on the cricket field this week. Our U8s and U9s all participated in their first cricket matches of the season, and the U8s enjoyed their first ever school cricket match. I have heard that the boys thoroughly enjoyed their debut, and as an avid cricketer myself, hope that this is just the beginning of their journey with bat or ball in hand. Before our baby arrives, I have agreed to play a ‘doubleheader’ this weekend, with a game on both Saturday and Sunday. This may not happen again for a while!
Our senior teams all managed to secure good victories over Crosfields this week with our U11s and U10s sharing the spoils with results. I wish the 1st XI the best of luck on Monday, when they will be journeying to Gloucestershire to play Beaudesert Park School for the third round of the IAPS Cup.
I was delighted to see so many of you this morning for coffee and a catch up, and I was very impressed with the restraint shown by so many when it came to the pains au chocolat. Sadly, I was not quite so abstemious with the leftovers.
I know many of you will be attending the whole school concert platform this afternoon and I look forward to seeing you. These are always most enjoyable events with the boys showcasing their talent, and most importantly, their love of music.
I hope you all have a lovely weekend, and that you enjoy the continuing pleasant Spring sunshine.
Letter from the Head, 11 May 2018
Friday 11 May 2018
What a difference a few days of warm sunshine make. Abingdon Prep feels so welcoming with the wisteria blooming, and the smell of freshly cut grass pervading the School. The boys have certainly enjoyed their break times with the warm weather and shirt sleeve order, not to mention a four day week!
The cricket season is finally underway too. Our 1st XI have started strongly with a final over win against St Hugh’s in the national knock out cup, and a convincing win over Cricklade Manor. The warm weather training camp in the holidays clearly has been paying dividends. U11 teams shared the spoils with Cothill on Wednesday with impressive bowling performances but work required with bat in hand, whilst the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th teams all performed well against Cothill and Caldicott, despite not quite being able to register a win.
On Thursday evening I visited the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford to see the wonderful artwork produced by children in Oxfordshire Schools, on the theme of ‘Journeys’. Abingdon Prep boys had numerous pieces exhibited and they should be immensely proud of their work. Hundreds of people were touring the galleries and all appeared to be extremely impressed by the standard of art on show. Artweeks at Abingdon Prep is almost upon us and I would encourage you to drop in for tours at the given times if you possibly can, to see work produced by our boys.
Year 5 have been away this week on their PGL residential in Liddington. I called to see them yesterday, and saw some very brave abseiling, aeroball and kayaking, all undertaken in glorious sunshine. The boys were relishing the challenges, and it was heartwarming to see them shouting encouragement to their peers at the top of the abseiling towers. Bringing people closer together is something that can never be undervalued.
Some of our Year 7 and 8s competed earlier in the week at Tilsley Park for an Abingdon School Athletics event. There were strong performances in the sprints and the relays which bodes well for Sports Day later this term.
3L gave a delightful personal message about May Day and traditional activities like Maypole and Morris dancing, in their whole school assembly this week. So many of the boys had spent Bank Holiday Monday outside in the beautiful weather playing games and visiting friends and relatives. A few boys had even seen some Morris dancing!
The Life Education Bus is visiting Abingdon Prep today, and again early next week, with year groups taking turns to have sessions learning about a variety of life skills and choices that we make which affect our bodies both positively and negatively. This sends a really important message to our boys about the importance of making good choices.
I hope you all have a good weekend and may I take this opportunity to remind you about next Friday morning’s Coffee and Catch Up with me. It would be lovely to see some of you in the Drama Studio between 8.15-9.15am for a hot drink, pastry and a chat.