Letter from the Head, 1 May 2020
Friday 1 May 2020
The boys have had another busy week and I have been hugely impressed with the way they seem to have adapted to their remote learning. The teachers have told me that almost all of the boys have become far more adept in their use of the technology and are producing some excellent work. It has also been lovely to hear that they are enjoying the opportunity of chatting via their Zoom times with the form and sharing their experiences of lockdown. I was particularly impressed with the middle section remote scavenger hunt that took place on Wednesday afternoon. It sounded like great fun!
The weather has certainly taken a turn for the worse this week and the rain has curtailed some of our social distancing cricket sessions at key worker care. I hope that you have been able to continue to get outside and I have enjoyed seeing many families taking part in the million metre weekly challenge.
I would definitely encourage you to keep up to date with the school website, twitter and instagram pages as they are a great way to see what many of our boys and families have been getting up to in the week. This week I have been hugely impressed with the marble maze creations and some fantastic models of plant and animal cells. The creative element of education at school is still going strong during this period of lockdown. More instrumental pieces have been added to the musical section on Google Classroom which have been particularly enjoyable to listen to and if you have not listened to our director of music playing Bach on his home made organ, then I would also suggest this is well worth a listen.
I have attached below the link to my video assembly from earlier in the week and also my message to the boys from today if you would like to watch either, along with the school’s social media addresses for you to keep up to date with what is going on.
Social Media Addresses
I hope you are all looking after one another and yourselves as we continue with the lockdown period and I hope that you will be able to have an enjoyable weekend and create some wonderful new family memories.
Letter from the Head, 24 April 2020
Friday 24 April 2020
I hope that many of you were able to see my video that was sent out on Tuesday. I am glad to say that the birds have continued to visit our feeders, but no goldfinches yet, and the bumble bees have remained busy in the garden. After a long day in front of a screen, it is a lovely way to wind down a little outside watching nature going about its business. I should add though that Quinn has become very excited about seeing upside down squirrels stealing food from the bird feeders and seeing the numerous rabbits that have now invaded the garden and dug holes across it!
I think it is really important for me to say thank you to all of you for your support and patience as we undertake this new way of educating your boys. It has been lovely to receive so many positive messages about things that have worked well but also the constructive feedback where there are areas that we still need to work on so that the boys can get the maximum benefit out of their time in front of a screen. The staff have been working really hard in all areas of the school and I know from speaking virtually with them, there has been some fantastic work submitted by the boys. I have no doubt that the boys’ level of IT literacy will have skyrocketed by the time life returns to normal.
One of the highlights this week for me was seeing some of the instrumental performances boys have uploaded to the ‘whole school assemblies and singing’ Google Classroom. It was fantastic to see a few boys playing pieces on their different instruments at home. I would love to see a few more of these, so please do encourage your sons to get uploading. I would be really impressed if there were a virtual collaboration between boys up there next week!
Pre-Prep produced some amazing augmented reality images this week in their IT lesson. They were clearly having a huge amount of fun with this and a whole range of different animals were appearing on screen with them, with my favourite being the emperor penguin. Do look at our homepage on the website to see some of these great images.
I have also enjoyed hearing about how many boys have thrown themselves into the more creative aspects of the curriculum with their Lego projects and other artistic endeavours, and it is clear that the boys are also enjoying taking on some of the physical challenges and recording their efforts. These aspects of the curriculum are just as important now as during ‘normal’ school, perhaps even more so.
Please could I ask you to remind your boys (Years 3-8), as their form teachers have, that their first port of call for each lesson or activity is their Google Classroom area for that subject. I hope that our ‘IT helpline,’ through Jo Allen, has been useful and answered many of your questions and that the boys are starting to navigate their way through the system with a little more ease.
I have shared again below the links to both APS News from last term and also Abingdon news so that you can see for yourselves all the great events that took place across both schools last term. I hope that in some quiet time, you will enjoy reflecting on these. I have also attached a video that I have made for the boys and shared with them in their whole school assemblies Google Classroom area (or via an email to Pre-Prep parents).
Please do check through the mailing this week, as you would normally do, as we will continue to send out information via our normal platforms.
I hope you all have an enjoyable weekend ahead and are able to get out into your gardens and surrounding area to enjoy nature at this lovely time of year.
Letter from the Head, 27 March 2020
Friday 27 March 2020
I have taken the step of sending my letter this week via email, as well as in the weekly mailing, to ensure that I have been able to have some contact with you all in these difficult and uncertain times.
It seems a long time ago that we started a new calendar year, and I am sure we would all happily skip forward the next few months. However, I have every confidence in Abingdon Prep; I have been so encouraged by the strength of our community and how well our boys are coping. I am also enormously grateful for the support from staff and parents who have been outstanding.
At the end of term, it is a tradition to look back with the boys at the term in pictures and to appreciate life at Abingdon Prep. More than ever I think it is important to do this, and to remind everyone of how wonderful our school is and to look ahead to when we are all safely back together. Please follow this link and enjoy.
We have been delighted to be able to support our key workers by maintaining a provision for their children and we will continue to offer this service throughout the school holidays. The key workers are all doing an incredible job for this country and we, as a school and community, are hugely appreciative.
It has been lovely to receive a few photos of some of our boys busily working at home or indeed keeping themselves fit, healthy and engaged trying out some of the activities uploaded to the sports, music and arts google classrooms. We would love to continue to receive these and at some point hope to share some of them with you all.
The fact that the sun has been shining all week has certainly been of great benefit and I hope that this good weather remains for much of the Easter period.
Encouraging your boys to get out into the garden and play, and parents too, will hopefully be a great tonic to the worries that come with this extraordinary time.
As a school, we are continuing to look at the offering we are providing to the boys to ensure their continued academic progress. We will be in contact again before the start of next term with any updates to our processes. There has been some fantastic work submitted by the boys so far and it is great to see that they are working so well with the new systems in place. I appreciate that, particularly with some of the younger boys, there will need to be some parental input but I hope that you are enjoying being a part of their education and seeing their progress first hand.
I will sign off now with a genuine wish that all of the Abingdon Prep community stay well and safe over the Easter break and make the most of the time that can be spent together as a family in these very trying and difficult circumstances.
Letter from the Head, 20 March 2020
Friday 20 March 2020
I wanted to start this week by saying thank you for all the incredibly kind messages of support that you have taken the time to send in, as well as the positive conversations that I have had with so many of you at drop off time. It is often, that only in the face of true adversity, people really do come together and go above and beyond to help and support those in need and the community as a whole. I hope that we can all, where possible, continue to support our neighbours, friends, colleagues, children and indeed anyone else in need during these uncertain and worrying times.
As a school, we will continue to provide care for the children of key workers, where it is needed, although it is important to remember that the best option, as the advice states, is to keep children at home to ensure social distancing and protect our families and the wider community.
I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you that this is also an opportunity for all of us to really connect with our children and spend genuine quality time with them. There is huge value in simply playing in the garden, building a den, gardening as a family, throwing a ball around. Whilst we are, of course, fully set up for remote working and the boys will continue to learn through the work being set in term time, please do not allow them to become slaves to their screens. Fresh air and exercise will play a key part in keeping the boys healthy, both physically and mentally, and I certainly can see a renaissance for family board games on the cards, although I often found that Monopoly could get a little too heated in the Williams’ household when I was growing up!
Staying in touch with people will also be vital across the next few weeks and possibly months, so make sure that we phone each other, FaceTime, video call, as it will be hugely important to continue with some sense of normality. The boys’ friendships will stay strong, of that I am sure, and with social media use it should be easier than ever to maintain those strong bonds.
Please do stay in close contact with the school via form teachers, subject teachers and of course myself. Our lines of communication are very much open. I cannot tell you when I will next be able to welcome you all at the front gates of school, but I know that we have simply moved into a new and different way of educating your boys remotely for the time being, but they are still very much seen as the heartbeat of our school.
I truly hope that you will all stay healthy and even enjoy this new way of working next week.
Letter from the Head, 13 March 2020
Friday 13 March 2020
Drama took centre stage this week at school with our Year 6s performing extracts from Macbeth on Tuesday evening. It was great to see the boys enjoying Shakespeare so much as they experienced the Bard’s work for the first time. They delivered their lines really well with great clarity and they had clearly worked incredibly hard on their movement round the stage and facial expressions. They should be very proud of their performances.
Yesterday, our Year 5s took to the stage to perform in their soirée. There was performance group poetry, drama scenes from Romeo and Juliet, rapping of Romeo and Juliet, instrumental performances and some lovely singing, with Elton John’s ‘Can you feel the love tonight’ rounding off a terrific evening. It was a great event with indoor picnics and families enjoying the entertainment.
The focus of our Science Week has been ‘Our Diverse Planet’ and all the boys have been involved in a range of experiments and activities. Some have had talks from Science Oxford whilst others have investigated microbes and viruses – rather apt! We have welcomed children from Standlake Primary School who joined us for a science lesson and also St Helen’s and St Katharine’s Year 5 girls joined our boys to produce density rainbows using different coloured liquids. Science continues to be a passion for so many of our boys with experiments at the heart of their learning.
The author, Mini Grey, visited school yesterday and spoke to some of our boys about her love of writing and books. Our boys really enjoyed meeting her and I know she will have inspired many of them to read more and enjoy all that books have to offer.
Matches took place this week against Moulsford, Pinewood and Cothill, with some excellent football being played and honours pretty much even. Some of our U13s played in two great hockey fixtures where there was just one goal in it with one win and one loss.
The coronavirus situation continues to change rapidly and I would like to reassure the Abingdon Prep community that we are keeping a very close watch on the recommendations of the government and Public Health England and will continue to put the welfare of the boys at the heart of our decision making. We will regularly communicate with you all when it is appropriate and notify you of any changes to routines. We have hand sanitisers at the front door and would ask parents and boys to use these on entering the school when they arrive in the mornings.
I hope you all have a great weekend.
Letter from the Head, 6 March 2020
Friday 6 March 2020
It has been another really busy week at school, with perhaps the highlight being our fantastic World Book Day. The boys pulled out all the stops and we had some amazing costumes from some of the boys’ favourite books. Pippi Longstocking, Maid Marian, Fantastic Mr Fox, Hagrid, Mary Poppins, Bilbo Baggins and Gangster Granny, to name but a few, were all very impressive. The book quiz in assembly was great fun too and the boys who volunteered to answer questions shone with their knowledge of children’s books. If ever inspiration was required when it comes to reading, today clearly provided it across all year groups.
Football matches this week were against Moulsford and despite the rain on Wednesday, all five games with the senior boys were very closely fought contests with APS winning three and losing two. Our U8s winning streak came to an end with two losses and two wins in their matches with Moulsford whilst all of our Year 6 boys played in hockey matches against The Dragon which again were very enjoyable contests.
The Oratory Prep School cross country event took place at the start of the week and our boys worked incredibly hard to compete at such a high standard event. The U8 and U12/13 teams both ended victorious with all boys involved from all year groups taking great credit from their gutsy performances.
Yesterday’s Balloon Debate for Year 6 was a super event with some very cogent and persuasive arguments being put forward by the boys who had researched their characters in great detail and some even seemed to have understood their personality traits too. The art of debating is certainly alive and well at school.
Our Year 7s were also involved in some public speaking today as they delivered speeches about famous Victorians dressed as their waxwork characters! We heard from the likes of Ada Lovelace, Michael Faraday, Queen Victoria and even Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The boys’ knowledge of their accomplishments was really impressive and they all delivered their speeches with confidence and even a little panache!
Our academic scholarship group have this week completed their exams and I would like to congratulate them all on their efforts. They have certainly worked hard in the lead up to it.
Sadly, I made the difficult decision this week to cancel the Year 7 trip to Normandy next week due to the current situation regarding coronavirus in France, and the increasing number of cases in the UK. I would encourage everyone to continue to ensure that hygiene is at the forefront of the boys’ thoughts during this difficult time.
I hope you all have an enjoyable weekend ahead.
Letter from the Head, 28 February 2020
Friday 28 February 2020
I hope that you all had a very enjoyable half-term. This week saw the weather turning wintry and bringing the first snowfall of the year yesterday morning. Some of the boys certainly seemed to enjoy catching snowflakes in their mouths on the way in through the school gates. There was also some disappointment that the snow did not settle!
It is a difficult time with the ever changing situation regarding the coronavirus but please be assured that we are constantly looking at the fast changing situation and government advice and will keep you updated with any changes that may come into force. In the meantime please do continue to be vigilant and ensure that general hygiene (coughing / sneezing into tissues and binning them, using hand sanitizers and hand washing regularly), which is being constantly reinforced in school, is uppermost in your and your boys’ thoughts.
The first day back from half term saw our junior section go off to Hazard Alley on their trip. The boys had a great time learning and interacting with dangerous and tricky situations, and having to make decisions about what they would do in different emergency situations. They came back very animated and discussing all the different scenarios, from how to ring 999 in an emergency and what happens when you do ring that number to dealing with animal and insect bites to ensure they do not get infected. It was great opportunity for our boys to get some hands on experiences of some of the dangers that they could face either now or in the future.
This week saw all year groups take on either Bruern Abbey or Christ Church Cathedral School on the football pitch. The boys played some terrific football with a lot of goals scored. Of the eleven matches played, nine were won, one was drawn and one was lost. A super effort from all involved.
After much consideration, we sadly had to postpone the Inter-House Cross-Country that was due to take place today with the weather looking very poor. We will let you know when it is to be rescheduled as soon as possible.
I would like to take this chance to congratulate the five boys who sat for Art and Drama Scholarships this week at Abingdon School and also to wish good luck to those sitting the Academic Scholarship next week. They have all, no matter which discipline, worked incredibly hard towards their assessments.
This morning some of our Year 7’s were fortunate enough to see the England Rugby team in training, at Abingdon School. This was a rather last minute addition to the boys’ timetable today, but a great opportunity for them to see their heroes in action and to witness the dedication and commitment that the members of the squad bring with them to every training session.
Finally, good luck to the senior teams playing football against The Dragon tomorrow.
Letter from the Head, 14 February 2020
Friday 14 February 2020
I had feared that on Monday morning I would be coming into school to find tiles off the roof and a few trees down, but luckily Storm Ciara only caused one casualty at school, and that was an upside down shelter in the Cox’s Field hedge. I hope that Storm Dennis does not affect anyone’s travel plans over the weekend.
Our fantastic Junior Section production took place on Thursday evening this week. The boys performed ‘Hoodwinked’, a tale of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, and they were clearly loving the opportunity to be on stage and playing to a capacity crowd. Huge credit should go to the boys and the staff who put this amazing production together. It was great fun to watch and will undoubtedly have started many of them off on their school drama careers. Some of the songs are still going round in my head today as I find myself humming along as I walk around school.
For the first time ever, we had a Street Dance taster session which was very well attended by more than forty boys. We are hoping to be able to run this as a club in the summer term. Kelly was an inspiring dance teacher and the boys really enjoyed their first experience of this modern form of dance. Needless to say I did not recognise the music which they were putting their routine together to, but the boys all seemed to know it!
A range of sports took place this week. Football against Christ Church went ahead for two U10 and two U11 teams. The boys worked really hard again and managed to come away with four victories in matches that both teams can take great credit from.
There was a super cross-country event at Chandlings with 22 schools competing. Our Year 3s performed amazingly well and won their section, whilst overall, Abingdon Prep placed 3rd in the ‘boys’ category, which was a terrific effort.
The IAPS regional swimming qualifiers are taking place this afternoon and our boys have trained hard to be selected for this event. We have 18 boys representing the school and I know they will give their best in a very competitive set of regional heats. We hope that some boys will qualify for the national finals later in the year at the London Aquatics Centre.
The CDT recycled material boats contest took place this week for a group of our Year 8s. It is a highly competitive race and whilst a number of fans used to power the boats did sink to a watery grave, one boat triumphed with three successful crossings of the swimming pool in very fast times. The catamaran design was clearly a very sensible one which worked brilliantly.
Our bench / seating area project was formally opened this week with an assembly explaining to the boys how it had all come together over a two year period. I would like to publicly thank everyone involved, from the boys who came up with the designs to a number of highly skilled parents and staff who have managed to produce an incredible seating area for the boys down by the MUSA. This was a project which our current Year 8s had started in Year 6 with their designs for this area and they were able to see the final product which will be in use after we return from half-term. I would encourage you all to pop over to the MUSA to see it for yourself. It is a very impressive addition.
I hope that you will all have a lovely half-term break and enjoy spending time together as a family. Finally, congratulations to Dragon House who won the House Merit cup for this half term.
Letter from the Head, 7 February 2020
Friday 7 February 2020
It has been a really exciting week being able to announce the news of our new development and the further improvement of our facilities here at Abingdon Prep. I have really enjoyed chatting to many of you about the plans and I hope that you have been able to access the link and see for yourself the artists impressions of the new building. I have added the link again here for you in case you have not yet been able to see it.
In my visits to lessons this week I witnessed some impressive direct speech writing in Year 3 with some terrific vocabulary being added, such as stammered, stuttered and suspiciously. Year 6 were fully engrossed in testing materials to decide on whether they were conductors or insulators. The graphite element of a pencil proved to be a surprise conductor for one group.
I was also lucky to hear a brief snippet from one of the songs coming up in the junior production of ‘Hoodwinked’. I cannot wait to see the production next week and I know the boys have been rehearsing diligently all week.
Football matches this week took place for every boy in Years 5-8 against Oratory Prep. There were some terrific matches with the Under 10 As shining in their 4-0 victory demonstrating excellent teamwork passing the ball all over the pitch. On Monday our Year 5s all experienced their first ever hockey matches against The Dragon. The games were all played in a great spirit and were extremely close contests with the A team winning well whilst the other three teams all lost by just a single goal. Most importantly, the boys really seemed to enjoy trying out what is a new sport for many of them. Our U8s and U9s played against The Manor on Tuesday and continued to impress with all six teams winning their matches which were played in a lovely spirit.
Three middle section boys enjoyed the opportunity to compete in a debating competition this week against pupils from a wide range of schools. They really enjoyed the event and showed terrific confidence expressing themselves so clearly to everyone in the room. Our debating club continues to be a very popular Other Half activity helping to prepare them for events like this.
Thursday was our e-safety day and all the boys were involved in workshops to help them understand more about the world of the internet and how to get the most out of it, whilst keeping themselves safe. This is such an important message for our boys as they continue to navigate the ever evolving world of connectivity and social media. It was great to have such a good turnout for our parental talk about e-safety in the evening. I know it is a topic that is hotly debated throughout homes across the country and I firmly believe that the better informed we are, as parents, the more we can help our children to find their way safely through the world wide web.
We had our first Year 5 book share this morning and I hope that parents enjoyed seeing lots of examples of work that the boys have been busily producing this term.
Finally, it was great to see a number of parents at Coffee and Catch up this morning. It was a great opportunity to talk more about our new development.
I hope you all enjoy a lovely weekend and that we miss Storm Ciara as it makes its way across the country.
Letter from the Head, 31 January 2020
Friday 31 January 2020
I would like to start this week with a massive thank you to all of the boys who gave up so much of their time last Sunday to swim huge numbers of lengths for our school charity, Be Free Young Carers. Thank you too, to all the parents who were so assiduously counting the lengths their boys completed. I did, however, feel a little sorry for those parents who had sponsored per length as the boys just seemed to go on and on and on. Some, quite literally, swam miles, but no matter how talented a swimmer, every boy pushed themselves to go the extra mile and they should be incredibly proud of their efforts. I certainly am.
On Tuesday, our Open Morning took place and again I must thank all of the boys in Year 7 who acted as tour guides. They did a fantastic job and as always, proved to be the School’s biggest asset. I hope that they enjoyed the experience as for some, it was their first opportunity to be involved in an Open Morning in this way.
It has been a busy week on the sports pitches with fixtures for almost every team. The U8s and U9s played on Tuesday against St Hugh’s and performed brilliantly with six wins and two draws. Our 10s and 11s also played St Hugh’s and finished with an even spread of wins, draws and losses. The Oratory were the opponents for our senior teams and ended up with honours even, whilst our other senior boys played their first hockey matches of the season against Cothill, losing in two very close contests. There was more swimming on Monday in a gala against The Dragon and our boys performed admirably with some impressive times in individual events.
A wet and muddy Pinewood cross-country took place yesterday where we had a very creditable 8th, 13th and 15th place in one of the biggest events of the season.
Our Pre-Prep boys enjoyed a fantastic drama workshop this week with the theme of ‘Around the world with Phileas Fogg’. I have been told that the boys threw themselves into this with gusto and loved the chance to pretend they were travelling to the farthest corners of the globe!
Tomorrow, our Saturday Art Workshop returns, where the boys will be turning their hand to some dry point etching with insects being the theme this time around. I know that the boys will produce some stunning images and learn a brilliant new technique to further their artistic development.
Please do take the chance to come to ‘Coffee and Catch up’ next Friday morning in the Drama studio. It is always nice for me to have a chat with parents over a pastry at drop off time.
I hope you all have a lovely weekend.