The Headmaster writes to the Abingdon Prep community every week during term time.
Letter from the Head, 13 October 2017
Friday 13 October 2017
Half-term has arrived! From chatting to the boys over lunch this week, it seems that many of you have exciting trips planned, so fingers crossed for some Autumn sunshine, whether you are staying at home or going further afield for the fortnight.
The ‘Bold and Bright’ theme for Home Clothes Day was certainly taken literally today by the boys, and it was a fun way to raise money for one of our school charities, Springfield School. Sunglasses were a must if you were spending the day with one or two of the boys…and a few of the staff!
Thank you to all of the boys who gave up their Saturday morning last week to be part of our Open Morning. It was a hugely successful event and the boys showed off their school in its best light, demonstrating hard work, ability and personable qualities in equal measure. Our Year 7 guides were exceptional ambassadors and it was a pleasure to see the boys showing such pride in their school.
Fifteen pupils from Years 6 to 8 went to Radley College to participate in their ‘Orchestra Day’ this week. It was an inspirational opportunity for them to play with other high quality musicians from local prep schools, and they had a wonderful time, thoroughly enjoying the challenge of performing difficult pieces with others they had only just met. Debbie reported that the day was spent rehearsing hard in preparation for a final concert including separate brass, string and concert band pieces followed by all one hundred musicians coming together to play Mussorgsky's 'Night On A Bare Mountain'. It was a marvellous day!
Our Reception boys visited Cogges Farm on Monday and had a fantastic time. They learnt how to bake bread in a hot bread oven, grind corn into flour, plant corn seeds in little pots they had made and they retold the story of the Little Red Hen. They followed this with an expedition into the woods, where they had to cross over the rickety bridge with a troll waiting beneath! It was delightful to hear them so enthused about the trip on their return.
Matches were played on Wednesday against Beachborough and a very pleasing set of results were returned. I was lucky enough to referee the Under 11B team who played with pride in their shirt and showed great team spirit, alongside some impressive rugby skills. All matches were closely contested with Abingdon Prep winning the majority of the fixtures.
I very much enjoyed catching up with a number of Year 6 parents at Parents’ Evening this week. It was a valuable opportunity to discuss the term so far. I think it is fair to say that we all felt the term has flown by.
I would like to take this opportunity to let you know that Lynne Hough, our Head of French, will be retiring at the end of this academic year. As a result we will be starting the process of recruiting her successor over the next few weeks. Lynne has been with Abingdon Prep for many years and will be greatly missed. I will, of course, say more about her in the summer. In the meantime, I know that Lynne will continue to inspire and work hard with the boys in the classroom.
We also say a final farewell to Sallie today. She has been an absolutely wonderful School Secretary and she will be greatly missed. I know that you would all join with me in wishing her the very best for her new role.
That just leaves me to wish you all a relaxing and restful half term and to thank you for making my first half term here so enjoyable. It is a lovely place to work and I have certainly been made to feel part of the community. I hope that the boys will get you to look up the National Trust “50 things to do before you are 11 ¾ ” and that you can get them to tick off a few more from the list. I was astounded in my assembly on Monday that not all the boys had had a conker fight. Perhaps that might be the first one to tick off!
Letter from the Head, 6 October 2017
Friday 6 October 2017
As we near the halfway mark of the term, school seems to get busier and busier. On Monday, our Year 8s visited the Natural History Museum in Oxford for a combined Art and Science day. I hope many of you have seen the photos on Twitter or Facebook of the boys sketching some of the exhibits. The boys showed me some of their drawings on their return and I was impressed with the likeness they had created of the creatures they had seen there.
Tuesday saw a very busy Year 5 Parents’ Evening. I very much enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with several parents whilst they waited for their appointments and to chat about their son’s start to the term.
On Wednesday a host of rugby matches against Chandlings took place for the U10 and U11 teams. It was wonderful to see every single boy in both Year 5 and Year 6 representing school in those fixtures and thoroughly enjoying it. Almost every game was very closely contested and the overall results reflected this with three wins, two draws and two losses.
Our Year 5s visited the Black Country Museum yesterday. This was the first time that Abingdon Prep had visited the museum and the feedback from the boys suggested that the trip was very enjoyable, and it should be repeated next year. The two highlights of the trip, according to the boys, were going down into a real coal mine and the sight of their teacher being given ‘six of the best’ by a Victorian schoolmistress! That alone would surely be reason enough to return.
Today, eight of our Year 5 and Year 6 boys are heading to Magdalen College School to represent Abingdon Prep in their annual quiz. Hopefully, they have been swatting up and putting in the hours watching ‘Eggheads’ and ‘Pointless’ as revision! I am sure they will have enjoyed the day and perhaps set themselves up for a life of future quizzing.
Pre-Prep Harvest Festival is also taking place this afternoon. This is a lovely event and I would like to extend a huge thank you to all of the parents who have kindly contributed towards this. I know our offerings are greatly appreciated and hugely valued by those in our community who need them most. This year, they will be donated to the Gatehouse Charity which provides meals for the homeless.
We are busy preparing for our whole school Open Morning which takes place tomorrow, and I look forward to welcoming the boys into school. It is our chance to show off our excellent school to a new group of parents, with the Year 7 boys taking them on tours and answering their questions. This may well have been how so many of you were first introduced to the school yourselves.
Although chronologically out of order, I would also like to mention our Concert Platform that took place last Friday. This was my first opportunity to hear our talented musicians this term and I was thrilled to hear such a range of instruments and the standard to which they were played. Boys just starting out along their musical journeys played alongside more seasoned performers and it was lovely seeing how much they enjoyed the opportunity to play in front of an audience. I would encourage more of you to come along on a Friday afternoon to listen to these events. It is a delightful way to end a week, and there is even coffee and cake to tempt you into the Hall!
As you can see, it certainly has been a busy week but that is exactly what life in a thriving prep school should be like. Busy boys, learning both in and out of the classroom, arriving home tired but fulfilled.
Letter from the Head, 29 September 2017
Friday 29 September 2017
I was lucky enough to sit in our Charity Assembly on Thursday to hear the Headmistress of Springfield School talk to our boys about the work they do there and how many challenges their pupils face. This year, Springfield School is one of our chosen charities and it was a pleasure to hear Emma talk about inspiring their children, who have a wide range of special needs, and installing key equipment to help their children see what they ‘can’ achieve, not what they can’t. It was lovely to see pictures of them enjoying adapted playground equipment and playing cricket on their fields, in spite of the difficulties they face. Our boys even learnt a little sign language as well! We hope that we will be able to set up a visit between the two schools sometime this year. It is so important that the boys know what they are raising money for in our charity events and how much benefit that can bring.
As I wandered round school popping into lessons this week, I was treated to a huge variety of topics. Our Year 8 classes were given a fascinating talk on Visual Thinking in Art, referencing Romanesque Church architecture with beautiful images of Durham Cathedral, Orthodox Russian Churches and Istanbul’s Mosques. They answered questions about this far more knowledgeably than I could have. This tied in well to a Year 7 Latin lesson about Roman Baths and the names of the different rooms within. Year 6 were writing informal letters based on characters from the novel ‘Holes', whilst the other Year 6 class were in Science discovering the upthrust that water provides to an object. It was delightful to watch our boys answer and ask questions to help further their knowledge.
I was also able to watch a raft of matches this week. Our plucky U13s lost a couple of close games to Abingdon whilst our U12s came away with a win, a draw and a loss – all closely contested games in which the boys really had to push themselves. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the first U8 Tag Rugby matches of term and I must congratulate our parents for turning out in great numbers and supporting the boys, who performed admirably in high scoring matches across the board. Our U9s continued their strong start to the season with another set of victories in the away games against Christ Church Cathedral School.
Thursday and Friday also saw Fundamental British Values workshops in which all of the boys from Reception to Year 6 took part. Pablo involved them all fully to demonstrate what these values meant. The boys loved his energetic style and appreciated the message that he was conveying.
Special thanks should go to the JPA this week for organising such a successful Macmillan Coffee Morning, but also to all the parents who kindly baked cakes to donate to the event. It was lovely to see so many parents chatting away in the Library, and I certainly had to restrain myself from polishing off the remaining cakes at the end of the morning!
Finally, I would like to end my letter by letting you know that Sallie Swain, our wonderful school secretary, has been offered a very exciting new role at Radley College and will be leaving us at half term. I am delighted for her, but know that we will all miss her greatly and I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for everything that she has done for Abingdon Prep and all of the staff, parents and pupils. Nothing has been too much trouble and I know the boys have always been able to go to Sallie about anything and everything. Sallie will be greatly missed but she goes with all of our best wishes and we hope that she will stay in touch.
I hope you all have a good weekend.
Letter from the Head, 22 September 2017
Friday 22 September 2017
I have been greatly encouraged this week by the positive attitude and approach that our Year 8 boys have demonstrated, both in and out of the classroom. In PSHCE lessons, they have been talking about leadership and decided that being a good role model was probably one of the most important aspects of this. One of the key thoughts for them was that they should be demonstrating to the younger boys in school the right way to behave and act, to ensure that everyone gets the most out of life at Abingdon Prep. On that tack, we now have more young leaders in our activities program for Badminton, Tag Rugby, Hockey and Gardening club. It is great to see so many boys seizing their opportunities and broadening their horizons. There might even be the makings of a few young teachers amongst them!
Our Year 4s have been out for the last couple of days, on their first residential trip, trekking along the Ridgeway. Their excitement was palpable as they came into school in home clothes yesterday, all set for a real adventure. School is so much more than just learning in the classroom, and the teamwork skills and bonding opportunities that they will get from this trip will stay with them for years to come.
I was lucky to see great teamwork in action on Wednesday when I refereed my first rugby games at Abingdon Prep. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing our U11Cs and Ds try so hard and make tackles that even they thought they could not make. There were a number of very impressive performances on the rugby pitch on Wednesday, and I hope the boys take on board the attitude that Ben Stokes (England Cricketer) feels is so vital in all aspects of life – “Don’t improve to be better than others, improve to be better than you were yesterday”. If they can consistently do this, they will be able to accomplish so much more than they thought they were capable of, across all aspects of the curriculum.
Knocks on my study door this week have led to me being shown kaleidoscopes made by Year 4s, desk tidies by Year 7s, and buzzer wires by Year 5s, just like the games we play at fairs, but much harder in some cases. The boys were clearly very proud of their creations and keen to explain how they worked and how they made them. A normal week in CDT from what I can see!
It has been Safety Week this week, with important messages about how to keep oneself safe in and out of school, as well as online. These messages are so important for our boys as they start to make sense of the world around them and have access to more and greater technologies than we, the older generation (I speak for myself!), ever could have imagined. An assembly was given by the NSPCC, and workshops too, for our Year 5 and 6 cohorts. Add to that an extremely exciting visit to Pre-Prep by the Fire Engine, and it has been a busy week for all.
With best wishes
Letter from the Head, 15 September 2017
Friday 15 September 2017
It was lovely to welcome so many of you to our informal parents’ evening on Tuesday this week. I hope you found it useful to meet with your son’s new form teacher and members of staff, as well as other parents. It certainly demonstrated to me the wonderful sense of community that Abingdon Prep has. I know that Mike Windsor enjoyed meeting many of you as well.
The AGM for the JPA which followed was an absolute eye-opener for me. I did not realise quite how many wonderful events they run, and I am looking forward to being involved in these events, starting with our Fireworks evening at the start of November. The JPA does a fantastic job to raise money for school projects and for charity, and I would encourage you to support them and help out, if you can, at any of the upcoming events.
Wednesday afternoon saw the start of matches for the boys, with a tough set of fixtures against St Hugh’s. I was lucky enough to watch the U13B and C teams, who showed great determination and spirit, even after conceding a number of tries. The U13B team should be very proud of their second half display, which, if they can repeat, will lead to victories later in the season.
The first of our ‘class pairings’ took place yesterday. This is a completely new idea to me and I really enjoyed seeing the camaraderie shown between the classes when engaged with their construction projects. The older boys were eager to help the younger ones with the K’Nex and Lego, and the results were spectacular. Seeing boys in different classes working together and enjoying each other’s company reinforced the strong sense of community that pervades the school.
Last Saturday, our Year 6s returned from their Cornbury bushcraft trip still decorated with camo paint from their activities. Some seemed to be still in the same clothing that they were wearing when they departed, just encased in a layer of caked mud! All of them seemed to have had a great time and there is photographic evidence to prove it!
Jez Fernandez visited Abingdon Prep this week to talk to the boys in Years 5-8 about resilience. It was a fascinating presentation which our boys seemed enthralled by. It sent an important message, very closely aligned with growth mindset and being prepared to fail. ‘FAIL’ is simply the First Attempt In Learning, and we can benefit so much from failing the first time and then having to find a solution. As Thomas Edison said about his lightbulb invention, “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. As the nights begin to draw in, we can all be glad that Thomas Edison did not give up!
I hope you all have a good weekend.
Letter from the Head, 8 September 2017
Friday 8 September 2017
I have had a thoroughly enjoyable first week at Abingdon Prep and would like to thank everyone openly for extending such a warm welcome to me. It has been lovely to see the boys come back into school with such positive attitudes and genuine excitement about the term ahead and to meet so many parents at the front entrance in the mornings.
I believe that a positive approach to all aspects of school life will help the boys make the most of their talents. I really enjoyed seeing this in abundance in a Year 4 Drama lesson (where I was asked to join in) and a Year 7 CDT lesson. The Year 7 boys were so excited watching their ‘Jitterbugs’ crashing into each other on the table! Rolling toy cars down half pipes in the Reception play area was another highlight and reminded me of my own attempts at this along a trackway down the stairs when I was their age. A pile up at the bottom always ensued and that certainly hasn’t changed, judging by the mass of cars at the bottom of the pipes!
My first assembly focused on the importance of good manners and always trying one’s best, no matter what the task in front of you. I have been greatly heartened by seeing the boys put these two messages into practice regularly as I have walked around school.
The Multi Use Sports Area (astroturf) has been an enormous hit with the boys in Years 6, 7 and 8 at break times, although, having personally retrieved a number of footballs which had made their way over the high fences, there may be some additional shooting practice required. The redesigned car park seems to have worked well and it is good to see so many of you utilising the drop and go area.
Our first trip of the year took place this week as Year 6 departed for Cornbury Bushcraft. I look forward to hearing the boys’ stories about creepy crawlies and sleeping in self built dens on their return to school. Trips like this are a great way to foster teamwork and an excellent way to start the year for our Year 6s.
I genuinely feel part of the Abingdon family already and I hope that this is also the case for all of our new boys and parents who, like me, have joined Abingdon Prep this term. I hope lots of you will be able to join us at the Informal Parents’ Evening next Tuesday to meet other parents, both new and old, as well as staff.
Once again, thank you for making my first week here such an enjoyable one. With best wishes
Letter from the Head, 1 September 2017
Friday 1 September 2017
I hope you are well and have enjoyed a lovely summer. The start of term is almost upon us and whilst we have been away, Abingdon Prep has been a hive of activity. A huge amount of work has been undertaken and I am sure you will be as delighted as I am with the improvements to both the fabric of the building, the site and the facilities. The boys will benefit enormously from it.
We have fifty one new pupils joining the Abingdon Prep community this term and I would like to offer a very warm welcome to all of them and their families. I am sure that they will really enjoy being part of such a supportive community. As a new starter myself, I am also looking forward to getting to know the boys and their parents, and I hope you will bear with me as I try to learn everyone's names!
On that note, I would like to draw your attention to the Informal Parents’ Evening on Tuesday 12 September which will be an excellent opportunity for you to meet with me, the staff and other parents. I look forward to welcoming as many of you as possible to that event.
At the start of this academic year we are also welcoming a number of new staff:
Jo Caputo joins us as a Year 3 form teacher
Alison Heaton joins us as a Year 4 form teacher
3 new gap year students – Sam Barder, Edward Cockerham and Jamie Webster
Over the summer, as part of the building project, there has been some changes to the School driveway as detailed in Mike Windsor's letter, which includes important information about parking, drop and go, and exit. I am sure that this will ease much of the congestion at busy times, and it will also make the area much safer for the pupils entering and leaving school. Staff will be on hand on the first morning to offer direction and assistance.
I look forward to meeting you all in the very near future and to welcoming your sons into School on Tuesday.