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

Letter from the Head, 18 April 2024

Thursday 18 April 2024

Dear Parents

It has been lovely to welcome back the children to school after the Easter holiday. I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing from some of them about the exciting activities they have undertaken over the break, both at home and abroad.

As ever, the children have hit the ground running and settled back into school life very quickly. We started the term with an assembly about dealing with homework or exam worries, looking at different ways to revise or learn for tests and also how to relax and get a good night’s sleep too.

This morning was our class pairings and the mixed groups undertook some great paired reading. Our younger children really seemed to enjoy showing off their reading skills to their older partners and it was clear many of them had enjoyed reading books over the holidays as well.

Year 3 are away from school today visiting Buscot and Coleshill for a ‘Secrets and Spies’ trip. They are finding out about different ways to communicate with others such as morse code, and will be hearing stories of ‘derring-do’.

Before term restarted, it was great to have 36 pupils joining us for pre-season cricket training and another 8 joined Abingdon School pupils for some pre-season tennis training. The weather has been relatively kind this week and all the children have been able to get outside for their sports lessons, with cricket, tennis and athletics taking centre stage.

Good luck to our Year 7s who are off to France on Tuesday for the week. I know they are excited to be going and looking forward to the broad range of activities and the chance to try out their French speaking skills at the shops and markets.

Pre-Prep has been equally busy this week with our phonics group taking on new challenges and earning stickers for hitting their targets. Year 2 have been learning all about measurement this week, they have measured various objects around the classroom, including themselves!

I hope you all have an enjoyable weekend ahead. I am looking forward to playing my first game of cricket for the season on Saturday so hope the weather holds fair!

Best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 21 March 2024

Thursday 21 March 2024

Dear Parents

It seems barely believable that spring term is about to come to an end tomorrow. It feels like just a few short weeks ago we were returning to school at the start of January. The lighter mornings and evenings are, though, greatly appreciated and setting the scene for the summer term ahead.

As with all weeks at Abingdon Prep, the school has been a hive of activity. Reception visited the delightful Cotswold Farm Park and learnt so much by interacting with the animals and asking questions about how the farm worked and who looked after all of the animals!

Year 5 are out today at the Oxford Museums on a combined Science and History trip, linking their current topics of study to real life at the museums, which is always such a great way to cement and further your learning.

Our Year 6s took part in a pilot study with Reading University looking at resilience. The resilience rucksacks they were provided with should stand them in great stead as they move forward in their lives both at school and at home. Developing your resilience is such a key aspect of growing up and it was great to hear them engaging with the researchers so openly and sharing their thoughts and experience about what it means to them to be resilient.

Cross Country took centre stage on Wednesday with the whole school out on Cox’s Field cheering and supporting all the runners taking part. The weather was ideal for running and the children all acquitted themselves brilliantly, earning numerous house points for the half term merit cup award tomorrow. All participants should be immensely proud of their efforts and there were some amazing performances and times set by the winners. A real highlight was having Quinn, an ex APS pupil and current U6th pupil at Abingdon School, act as the hare and present the certificates to the children. Quinn makes his debut for the GB team at the World Cross Country championships in Serbia next week so do look out for him on the screen.

Easter Egg hunts have taken place for all of the year groups and it has been lovely to see the excitement of our youngest and oldest as they rushed around searching for hidden eggs. No-one is ever too old to enjoy an egg hunt! Thank you to all of you who kindly donated eggs and also to our amazing JPA who have supported this as well.

Music has featured heavily this week and I am very much looking forward to the senior section spring concert taking place in the hall this evening. There are a wide variety of performances with choirs, soloists, ensembles, and the orchestra, who I believe are getting proceedings underway with the Star Wars theme!

On Tuesday afternoon, 26 APS pupils joined 30 AS pupils to sing in the chapel at Abingdon School, in a service of thanksgiving to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the foundation. It was a wonderful event and a pleasure to hear the children from both schools performing as one. I am certain this will not be the last time that events like this take place.

We round up the term today with our senior section Shakespeare Sonnet competition in the morning followed by our end of term colours and cups assembly.

I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that Louise Batho, after 12 years of working at APS will be leaving us at the end of this academic year. Louise has been an inspirational teacher to so many children over the years and she will be greatly missed by children and staff alike. We wish her all the very best with her new endeavours.

It has been a fantastic term with the children being involved in so much. If you do have a moment, please do take the opportunity to view the ‘term in pictures’ which will be posted on the website tomorrow.

I hope you all enjoy a lovely holiday.

Happy Easter!

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 14 March 2024

Thursday 14 March 2024

Dear Parents

On Tuesday, our Year 5s continued on from Book Week last week and went to hear Claire Balding speak about her writing career and pass on a huge number of tips and hints about creative writing. I know that the children have been trying to implement them into their own writing this week and very much enjoyed listening to her.

Year 2 took part in a Hockey skills morning today where they were joined by lots of children from local primary and prep schools. They learned a huge amount from the APS team of coaches and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to develop some new skills and play some small sided games on the astro.

Despite the rather damp week we have had, we did manage to play a number of Wednesday matches against The Dragon and St Hugh’s. It was great to see all of our Year 6 pupils representing APS on the hockey pitch with some closely fought matches. In the football fixtures, our U10s performed very well to come away with a series of victories whilst our U12 and U13s finished their football seasons off very strongly with a number of impressive wins. This means that our U11As, U12As and U13As have all remained unbeaten, and our U12As have not conceded a single goal in any match, whilst scoring 75.

Tonight sees our Middle Section take to the stage for their Spring Term music concert. I am very much looking forward to hearing the year groups singing alongside the soloists. I am always so impressed with how well they perform and I am certain that everyone attending tonight will thoroughly enjoy the concert.

Tomorrow we have our Pre-Prep grandparents afternoon which is always a hugely enjoyable event and the children love spending time with them and will proudly show their work to them as well after playing board games in the hall.

Unicorn has their tuck shop charity fundraiser on Friday and I must thank all of you who have kindly supported this with donations. It is also really kind of so many of you to have donated chocolate eggs for the Easter Egg hunts taking place next week. We look forward to seeing whether the Easter Bunny might make an appearance!

To end the week, our Year 8s are going across to Headington School for a ceilidh on Friday evening. I know that they are really looking forward to it and it will be a great chance to make new friendships and have an enjoyable evening.

Finally, good luck to our U8s who are competing in a football tournament on Saturday morning. Fingers crossed the weather stays fine for it.

I hope you all have a good weekend ahead.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 7 March 2024

Thursday 7 March 2024

Dear Parents

It has been another brilliant week with so much happening across all year groups in school.

On Tuesday morning, our Year 7 and 8 pupils made the journey across to Abingdon School to hear the author, Candy Gourlay, talk about her experiences in becoming a writer. This was a joint event with Abingdon School Year 7 and 8 pupils as well and a great chance for the two groups to mix and chat together. Candy spoke so passionately about her heritage and how, when she was growing up in the Philippines, there were no books for her to read with main characters that she could identify with from her culture and background, who had lived her experiences and she wanted to change that. Some Year 8s also took part in a workshop afterwards, where she shared some terrific creative writing tips. She left the children with the key message of being true to themselves and their heritage, writing about your life, from your perspective and that will ensure there is truth in your words. This is more powerful than anything and will help others who come after you to connect with their heritage.

World Book Day today saw some fabulous and very creative costumes in school, from both pupils and teachers. It was great to see everyone celebrating some of their favourite books and authors and trying to guess who was who was great fun. Thank you to all the parents who helped prepare the brilliant costumes for the children.

I hope that many of you are able to dial into our e-safety webinar this evening. It is always an insightful talk, giving current information about the developments in social media, gaming, AI and many other technological areas. I know that in past years parents have found this a hugely helpful event when navigating this tricky world with their children.

On the sports pitches this week, our Year 5 to 8 footballers performed extremely well against Moulsford coming out with a strong number of wins and draws, and playing a high level of football against an impressive opposition. Our U8s and U9s played very well too in their respective matches and tournaments this week with the U9B team showing particular improvement, not losing a match in their tournament.

I hope that everyone is enjoying the warmer, and mostly, drier weather this week with the beautiful spring flowers in full bloom around school.

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 29 February 2024

Thursday 29 February 2024

Dear Parents

On Tuesday, eight of our Year 7 and 8 pupils spent the afternoon at Magdalen College School competing in their annual Geography quiz against 25 other talented teams of geographers. They acquitted themselves brilliantly, with a number of rounds gaining full marks – including a rather tricky country outline round! This was a lovely opportunity for the children to show off their all round geographical knowledge and love of the subject.

On the games field this week, we have seen a lot of hockey matches taking place for our younger children and it was great to hear the children in Year 4 talking about how much they had enjoyed their matches on Tuesday. All the Year 6 children played in hockey matches on Wednesday with a very impressive U11A team victory over Magdalen College School. Our Year 7 and 8 pupils were all involved in football matches on Wednesday, playing The Dragon and Abingdon School. Our U12As continued their fantastic form with another 5 goals in their victory over Abingdon and they are yet to concede a single goal this season.

I wanted to let you know that from September, Stefan Gerrard, our Assistant Head Academic, will be moving from his current role and job sharing the Senior Deputy Head position with Rachel Pairman. Rachel will be moving to 3 days a week and Stefan, 2 days. This means that we are currently recruiting for a new Deputy Head Academic for September and I am very much looking forward to interviewing a number of candidates from a very strong field of applicants.

I very much look forward to seeing many parents at either the coffee morning with Mr Windsor tomorrow or at our Scalextric event in the evening. It is always a very enjoyable evening with cars racing round the different track set ups and me failing to complete anywhere near the number of laps that the children do!

Congratulations to the 12 children who sat their academic scholarship exams this week. We are very proud of their efforts and they have certainly earned a weekend away from their studies.

I hope everyone enjoys a lovely weekend.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 22 February 2024

Thursday 22 February 2024

Dear Parents

I hope that you had a lovely half term break. The children seem to have returned to school refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of the second half of term.

There has been no delay in getting straight back into school life with Year 1 visiting the fantastic Story Museum in Oxford on Wednesday. They thoroughly enjoyed the chance to create their own stories in their workshop after spending time meandering through the myriad of stories in the museum, crossing Pooh’s bridge, entering through the wardrobe to Narnia and even trying to pull the sword from the stone.

Over the next week the children will be involved in Respectful Language workshops delivered by the foundations’ mental health and wellbeing coordinator, Natalie Hunt. The first sessions took place on Wednesday and it was great to hear Natalie’s feedback that the children had been fully engaged in sensitive discussion topics and had put forward their own thoughts on what respectful language looked like and how it could best be consistently used. Do explore this key topic further with your children and hear from them about what they gained from these sessions.

Tonight sees our Junior production, ‘Alex in Wonderland’, take to the stage, and having been fortunate to see a few snippets in the dress rehearsal, I am very much looking forward to watching the show. The children have been rehearsing extremely diligently and it has been lovely to see the smiles on their faces as they have practised and prepared for tonight’s performance.

It was also good to have a number of parents attend the webinar on Monday night, again delivered by Natalie, alongside Richard and Rachel, on the relationships and sex education program at Abingdon Prep. The recording is available in this week’s mailing and I would encourage you to watch it when you get a chance to, as it continues to be a key part of our children’s ongoing education.

Our football teams continue to impress in matches with our U9s, U10s, U11s, U12s and U13s all playing some lovely football in convincing wins this week, with lots of goals being scored and great team spirit being shown. Huge thanks to our friends at Bruern Abbey for coming down to us after their pitches had become waterlogged to enable all matches to go ahead on Wednesday.

On a different note, I wanted to share with you all that we have a new teacher, Ralf Arneil, joining APS as Head of Latin at the start of the summer term. Ralf is a hugely experienced teacher, and is joining us from Cothill, where he is currently Head of Latin, and a member of their senior leadership team. Ralf also teaches English and Sport and I know will be warmly welcomed into the APS community when he joins. I wanted to publicly thank Pascal for the work she has done teaching Latin to our Year 6 to 8s since September.

Finally, good luck to our Year 8s who are sitting their academic scholarships exams next week. They have worked really hard in the lead up to them and we are proud of their efforts. Huge congratulations too to all those Year 8s who undertook scholarships assessments in the wider curriculum subjects before half term, putting an enormous amount of time and effort into their preparations as well. I am delighted to share that APS pupils gained 6 awards across the 5 different subjects.

The daffodils are starting to come out alongside the crocuses across our site and I hope that that is leading us towards the start of spring, with much to look forward to in the coming weeks of term.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 8 February 2024

Thursday 8 February 2024

Dear Parents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 1 February 2024

Thursday 1 February 2024

Dear Parents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you all enjoy a lovely weekend.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 25 January 2024

Thursday 25 January 2024

Dear Parents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you have a lovely weekend when it arrives.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 18 January 2024

Thursday 18 January 2024

Dear Parents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope that everyone has a lovely weekend ahead.

With best wishes

Craig Williams