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

Letter from the Head, 11 January 2024

Thursday 11 January 2024

Dear Parents

It has been lovely to welcome the children back to school this week and hear about their Christmas holidays. I have especially enjoyed finding out about some of the favourite presents received!

As always, the pupils have settled back incredibly quickly into their work both in and out of the classroom.

Year 2 has been researching all about space and have started to write their own adventures about space using the research they had carried out at the start of the week. They have also been working on their finance skills, working out how much things cost and then ensuring they hand over the correct amount of money and change for their purchases.

In French this week, Year 5 learnt about the Fête des Rois (kings’ day) which is celebrated in France with a special cake. Inside the cake is hidden a small china ornament (une fève) and whoever is lucky enough to find this becomes king for the day. Year 5 had fun celebrating with their own version of the special cake and, true to French tradition, the youngest person in the group hid under a table to say who should receive each slice to ensure there was no cheating!

Year 8 has been studying the reactivity series of metals in science and are about to embark on a series of experiments involving chemical reactions between metals and other substances, whilst in English they have been focused on creative writing and their use of literary devices to enhance their own stories about strange beasts. I thoroughly enjoyed reading some of their very impressive and entertaining storylines.

Our Other Half program has been in full flow from day one of term and it was good to see so many middle section pupils attending the new Attenborough club, learning much about Scandinavia in their first session.

Chess club has started well in the lead up to the house chess tournament later this term and water polo continues to go well, with the children preparing for our first ever water polo fixture next week.

Our football season got underway on the Friday before term started with a pre-season football session for Years 5-8. It was brilliant to have more than 50 pupils attend and this enthusiasm for the game has continued through this week’s games lessons with all years enjoying their training sessions and getting ready for matches to start again next week.

A very enjoyable class pairings took place first thing this morning with older children working alongside younger ones for a shared reading session. It was lovely to see our younger children reading with so much pride to their partners and for our youngest children to be read to by our senior section children.

Finally, good luck to our Year 8 academic scholarship group who start their mock exams next week.

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend ahead.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 14 December 2023

Thursday 14 December 2023

Dear Parents

It is hard to believe that we have reached the end of the Autumn Term and that Christmas is only 11 days away. I have rather a lot of shopping to get done in the intervening period!
It has been a lovely week with lots of celebrations taking place. Today has been packed full of Christmas events and the children’s excitement for the festive period has been very much in evidence.

Our Junior Carol Concert and Senior Carol Concert were both a delight to watch and the children performed beautifully throughout, whether singing or involved with the ensembles or solos. It really does make me proud to see our children performing so confidently and impressively in front of an audience at such a young age. Thank you to everyone who so kindly gave a donation after the services towards our school charity, The Oxford Hospitals Trust. We raised a brilliant £488.75.

Gifts for Grown Ups was a roaring success. Enormous thanks must go to our fantastic parent organisers and helpers. There is an amazing amount of time and effort that goes into getting it all in place and running so smoothly, and our helper team have done a brilliant job and the children have loved the opportunity to buy their surprise gifts for the family. Who knows what may end up beneath your tree this year!

Christmas jumpers abounded in school today and helped get the children into the holiday spirit. My favourite was a particularly impressive light up reindeer. Our catering team did the school proud today with a terrific spread for Christmas lunch. It was lovely to see the children chatting away with their friends whilst tucking into a full plate of turkey and all the trimmings.

The section parties were also hugely enjoyed this afternoon. Christmas party games were great fun to watch and I just do not think you can beat the dressing up and cutting chocolate with a knife and fork game at Christmas time!

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Christmas break and enjoys spending time with friends and family. I look forward to welcoming everyone back to school in January.

Merry Christmas to one and all.

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 7 December 2023

Thursday 7 December 2023

Dear Parents

The Pre-Prep Nativity this afternoon was an absolute delight to watch. The children threw themselves into the performance with real gusto and the singing and acting was terrific. They were clearly loving performing to their families, and I think a few may well be signing up to drama clubs in the future.

Our Year 3 and 4 pupils started the Christmas celebrations today with their visit to the Oxford Playhouse to watch the Pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk. They came back hugely excited and having thoroughly enjoyed the performance. Huge thanks to our JPA for funding this trip (and the ice creams!).

Tuesday and Wednesday saw two visiting artists coming into school to work with Year 8. Tuesday was a clay sculpture workshop for our Arts award and scholarship candidates and they produced some incredible animal figurines (do check out the photos on the website and social media!). On Wednesday all our Year 8s listened to an experimental art history lecture from Elizabeth Rowe complimenting their unit of study in art.

I must also thank everyone for bringing in so many coins for our silver coin trail this week. The children added the coins they had generously brought in to fit around the logo for our school charity, the Oxford Hospitals Trust. We raised £411 which was a fantastic effort.

Tomorrow sees Pre-Prep continue their Christmas celebrations with a whole section trip to Roves Farm where they will see the elves’ workshop, make reindeer food, meet the animals and maybe even catch a glimpse of Santa getting ready for the big day.

This week our rugby teams have performed admirably with our U8s and U9s finishing their season with all 4 teams winning. Our U12 and U13 teams won 3 of their 4 matches whilst our U10 and U11 teams managed to win all of their games too. Far more impressive than winning though was the positive attitude with which the children played the matches and their development over the term has been lovely to watch. The final matches of term take place on Saturday morning against Taunton Prep who are on a rugby tour this weekend. Good luck to the U11 and U13 teams who are playing.

It is hard to believe that we move into the final week of term on Monday. There is still much to do and a few more Christmas celebrations to come. I hope you all enjoy a lovely weekend.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 30 November 2023

Thursday 30 November 2023

Dear Parents

The children have been working hard this week and it has been great to see Pre-Prep so focused on their Nativity rehearsals and thoroughly enjoying singing a range of songs on stage.

Year 1 has been reading the story of ‘Pattan’s Pumpkin’ in class and this week they have just started to write their own stories about a flood, based on the events in the book. There were so many great ideas being spoken about in their lesson and I am looking forward to seeing how their stories come together.

Year 2 have been working hard writing stories of their own about Guy Fawkes and they are all looking forward to baking Christmas pudding cookies tomorrow, having to follow instructions closely from the recipe and learning about how to stay safe when preparing ingredients and cooking them in the oven.

For their study of World War 2, Year 3 have created Blitz pictures showing the devastation of the bombing. They have also explored what it would be like to be a child evacuee leaving their home and parents. They had to really consider which items they would take that could fit into a small suitcase. Not always such an easy choice of what to keep and what to leave behind. In their Maths lessons, they had great fun estimating and measuring lengths. They measured various objects and indeed each other in the classroom, using the trundle wheel to measure the playground area too.

Year 7 has had a brilliant week in Science, creating their own set of Top Trumps cards based on the periodic table. They have included a range of scores from the atomic mass number to the melting point of the numerous elements they have been studying in lessons. This also tied in very well to our class pairings on Thursday where the different year groups partnered up to play card games, including the ever popular, Top Trumps, Uno, and indeed Patience or Rummy.

Year 8 has been studying ‘Of Mice and Men’ and responding to the text with their own reflections about whether Lennie and George viewed life in an overly sentimental and romantic way or whether this was just the driving force of ‘The American Dream’ in the great depression of the 1930s. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing their responses and the fantastic language and vocabulary they were using to explain their viewpoints.

Perhaps the highlight of the week was the Year 6 Pantomime, ‘Cinderella’, in which the children performed brilliantly to a full house on Tuesday evening. There was a wonderful mix of terrible jokes, great acting and sing-along songs ranging from The Beatles to S Club 7! It was so lovely to see the children enjoying themselves so much on stage.

There were a series of terrifically competitive rugby games this week with almost every game ending in a draw or within 1 try of each other. Matches which are this close are always such a great learning curve for the children and I know they will have gained a huge amount from them, as well as enjoying them enormously. Good luck to our U13 cross country team who are competing in the English Schools Athletics Association National Finals just outside Ipswich on Saturday.

Our termly ‘Big Think’ took place on Wednesday. The children were asked to listen to the story of the birth of Jesus from the point of view of the shepherds and then respond to this through a range of different mediums, choosing from art, modelling, poetry, or conversation. The children came up with some fantastic responses and showed a great deal of reflection on how the shepherds might have felt at that time.

As I am sure you can see, even though the school Christmas trees are now up and sparkling beautifully, the children continue to be working hard in their lessons and throwing themselves fully into everything on offer.

I hope you all have an enjoyable weekend ahead.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 23 November 2023

Thursday 23 November 2023

Dear Parents

Another week has flown by at school and the children have been as busy as ever.

Year 5 are currently away on a PGL residential, undertaking a variety of activities to challenge themselves and work together as a team. These include zip wiring, climbing, and tunnel networks to name but a few. I know they are having a fantastic time and we look forward to seeing them return safely back to school on Friday afternoon.

Year 6 rehearsals for their pantomime on Tuesday evening next week are going well and I am looking forward to seeing the performance, Abingdon Prep’s first pantomime for many years. The costumes will certainly add a great deal to the show!

The art room has been a hive of activity this week with the pottery wheel being very well used by some of our senior children. I have been hugely impressed with their skills creating bowls or similar vessels. It is lovely to see them learning new skills in the creative arts.

In Pre-Prep, nativity rehearsals are coming together and the smell of Christmas filled the corridor as Reception baked. Year 1 pupils have been busy learning about fractions and have been using a green screen to magic them on to a snow capped mountain.

Our assembly theme on Monday was ‘celebrating achievements of individuals with a disability’. Elliot and his team of four Year 6 interviewers had recorded a fascinating interview with Blaine Hunt, a current World Champion in C5 track cycling, who spoke about his disability and how he got into track cycling and then became both a world champion and world record holder. It was fascinating to hear his take on disability and his motivation to be the best he can be in his chosen sport of cycling (he had previously skied for GB as well!).

Rugby matches this week saw our U11s take on Magdalen College and our A team were hugely impressive with a strong victory and 12 tries being scored. Our U13s took on Beachborough and performed well, losing a tight game. Our U12s are looking forward to combining with Abingdon School U12s on Saturday morning to take on RGS Guildford in our first joint foundation fixture for the sport. The U9s performed superbly at The Dragon Festival, returning unbeaten with 2 draws and a victory.

I hope everyone has been able to visit the book fair this week. I know the children have been avidly choosing books from a huge selection and it has been particularly enjoyable to hear them recommending titles to each other that they think they will enjoy. In our household, we have added a rather eclectic mix of books about Dragons, Sabre-Tooth tigers and Supertato!

I hope the parent Christmas wreath making workshops for those attending go well and that you all enjoy a good weekend.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 16 November 2023

Thursday 16 November 2023

Dear Parents

I hope that everyone enjoyed the fireworks evening last Friday. We were very lucky with the weather and it was great to see the children running around having so much fun. Huge thanks to all those who kindly returned on Saturday morning to help clear the fields of litter and fireworks debris.

Schools across the country have been focusing on anti-bullying this week and in assemblies and form times we have spoken about ‘making a noise’ and ‘speaking out’ if it happens to you or if you see it happening to someone else. We work hard on the concept of being an ‘upstander’ not a ‘bystander’ at APS and it has been incredibly reassuring to hear from the children their thoughts on how important it is to support friends and call it out when they see it.

It was good to see so many children wearing blue on Tuesday, helping to raise awareness of diabetes. Supporting a wide range of charities in school is a great way to learn more about different issues that affect so many people locally, nationally and internationally.

In the classroom this week I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Year 8 running an experiment on the amount of photosynthesis taking place from pondweed in their biochemistry unit. They had to alter the proximity of a light and heat source to see what effect that had on the amount of oxygen released by the plant. Year 5 were also fully engaged in their living history task, putting themselves into the minds of Victorians, debating whether child labour should be abolished or not.

Congratulations to our U13 footballers who performed terrifically well at the National Finals on Wednesday, losing out on a place in the quarter finals by just a single goal. They were the only team who did not lose to the eventual winners and they should be very proud of their efforts and the standard of football they played.

On the rugby pitch this week, our U11s produced a clean sweep of wins and our U10s performed very well at the Radley tournament. Our U8 and U9s also showed enormous improvement with an even split of wins and losses in their matches.

Our swimming team performed admirably last week at the St Hugh’s Gala and even more strongly at The Dragon Gala on Monday. All their hard work in swimming lessons and in Other Half activities is certainly paying off.

Good luck to our U13 rugby team who are competing in the APS 7s rugby tournament tomorrow and we are looking forward to the Book Fair which starts on Tuesday next week.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 9 November 2023

Thursday 9 November 2023

Dear Parents

I hope you have all had an enjoyable week. Many of our pupils have been out on exciting trips and activities this week which I know they have enjoyed enormously.

Our Year 5s experienced life in Victoian times first hand on Wednesday this week. They travelled to the Black Country Museum, a working life Victorian era open air exhibit. They spent time in a Victorian classroom with a rather forceful Victorian teacher, explored mines and shops, including a genuine confectionery shop where a range of old school sweets were available for purchase. It was great to hear that members of the public commented on how polite our children were and how focused they were on their learning whilst there.

14 pupils spent Tuesday at Radley College, taking part in their Prep School Orchestra day. The children had a fantastic time and joined over 100 other like minded pupils in performing in a concert at the end of the day. Five other Year 8s spent Wednesday at Stowe for their Arts Day and it was lovely to hear about their experience and art work that they produced whilst there, working alongside current Stowe art scholars.

On Monday, Year 4 visited Oxford Castle to bring their study of crime and punishment through the ages alive. It was a great day out with tours of the castle, visits to prison cells, dressing up and workshops broadening the children’s knowledge and understanding significantly. It was lovely to hear them still talking about it so excitedly days after the trip.

On the rugby pitch, all our children from Year 6 to 8 represented APS against Moulsford. There were some terrific matches with perhaps the highlight being the U13 touch team coming away with a remarkable 10-10 draw in a fantastic touch rugby game.

Huge congratulations and indeed commiseration to our Under 11 football team who missed out on qualifying for the national finals by conceding a goal with just 20 seconds of their final match. Their attitude and teamwork were terrific throughout the tournament and they can be proud of their performances.

We have had two very engaging assemblies about Remembrance this week, with our Year 8s sharing war poetry with the rest of the school and reflecting on those who lost their lives in previous conflicts. In Monday’s assembly, the children read out the names of the 73 Old Abingdonians who lost their lives in World War 1. We are looking forward to coming together as a whole school community tomorrow for our two minute silence for our Remembrance service. One of our Year 7 pupils will be playing the trumpet for The Last Post.

On Monday we also had a parent workshop on raising happy children delivered so brilliantly by one of our parents, who has gained a huge amount of experience in this area in her role as a GP and doctor working with children.

Good luck to our swimmers taking part in the St Hugh’s Gala tonight, our cross country runners in the regional finals which they qualified for at the start of term, and our U12 and U13 rugby teams taking on Abingdon School on Saturday morning.

I have my fingers crossed for some good weather tomorrow evening for our Fireworks event. I very much look forward to seeing many of you there. Huge thanks to our JPA team for organising this and also to those of you who have kindly volunteered to come back to help with the clean up early on Saturday morning.

Please do sign up for our coffee morning on Tuesday next week. This is a great opportunity for you to speak with Mr Windsor and a number of other senior school staff who will be happy to answer any questions you might have about life at Abingdon School.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 2 November 2023

Thursday 2 November 2023

Dear Parents

I hope that you all enjoyed a relaxing half term whether you stayed close to home or ventured further afield. It has been a rather wet and windy return to school this week but it has been lovely to hear from the children what they got up to over the break.

In school, we have settled quickly back into the busy schedule of school life.

Year 5 spent a very enjoyable and interesting afternoon across at Abingdon School undertaking science experiments on Tuesday. The hands-on nature of the subject when running experiments really is the perfect way to inspire and generate a passion for such a great subject which so often lasts a lifetime.

Reception had a fantastic visit from a local vet on Wednesday morning which they thoroughly enjoyed. They learnt all about taking care of animals and they even got to practise on a rather large stuffed dog toy to bring it all to life.

Unfortunately, storm Ciarán meant that we had to cancel the Year 3 and 4 rugby tournament today with the high winds and heavy rain preventing the fixtures, but on Wednesday we put out 8 teams across our Year 5 to 8s against Christ Church Cathedral School. After a two week hiatus, it was good to see the children working well as a team and coming away with a fairly even set of wins and losses.

We are looking forward to welcoming prospective parents to our Open Morning on Friday and I hope that our Year 7 tour guides enjoy taking them around our school and answering all manner of questions. Friday after school is another of our very popular platform concerts and it is great to have some new faces putting their names down to perform this time around.

I hope you have a good weekend when it arrives and enjoy any Guy Fawkes celebrations that you might be attending. On that note, if you have not yet purchased your Firestorm tickets for Friday 10 November, please do so. It is always a spectacular fireworks show and the variety of food vendors are well worth a visit for dinner.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 12 October 2023

Thursday 12 October 2023

Dear Parents

It is hard to believe that we will reach half term tomorrow and I am sure that the break will be appreciated by the children. It has been a terrifically busy first half of term and it has been lovely to see the children throwing themselves completely into school life.

This week, different year groups have been out on exciting trips, with Reception visiting Fairytale Farm (their first school trip ever), Year 8 going to the Oxford Natural History Museum for a Science and Art curriculum trip and Year 7 are off to the Roman Baths in Bath tomorrow. I am fortunate to be accompanying them and very much looking forward to learning more about Roman Bath.

Our House charities have now been voted for and I am delighted to announce that this year Dragon will be supporting Sobell House (a local palliative care charity), Griffin will be supporting Heg Community Larder (a local charity working to transform the lives of young people), Phoenix will be supporting Oxford Animal Sanctuary and Unicorn are supporting George’s Rockstars (a musical therapy charity for children in hospital). These are all charities suggested by children in their respective houses and we look forward to helping them over the course of the year.

Class pairings took place this morning and the activity was paired reading. It is one of my favourite class pairing activities as it is so lovely to see the younger children reading to the older ones and sharing their excitement about a book or a story. I hope that the children will have a good book close to hand over half term.

A real academic highlight took place on Monday with all the Year 4-8 pupils taking part in a Maths Escape Room challenge. They were fully engaged in problem solving and unlocking padlocks when, as a group, they had solved a specific problem which could then lead them onto the next task. Their focus was brilliant throughout and it was great to see Maths being learnt and applied in such a fun way.

Lots more matches took place this week with our U8s and U9s performing well in their rugby matches on Tuesday whilst we had a multi-sport set of fixtures on Wednesday with our first ever squash and table tennis matches taking place against Cothill. We also added in some rugby and football matches too for good measure. Twenty four of our U8-U11 pupils are taking part in a cross country event on Thursday afternoon too so it really has been a broad offering of sports for the children this week.

Pre-Prep have their first performance of the term taking place tomorrow, celebrating the Harvest Festival. We look forward to welcoming families in to see all of their pumpkin creations and of course, hear them sing some seasonal songs. It will be a lovely way to finish the first half of term.

I hope you all enjoy a lovely half term break.

With best wishes

Craig Williams

Letter from the Head, 5 October 2023

Thursday 5 October 2023

Dear Parents

It has been a week for trips this week with Year 8 studying sand dune succession and beach profiles down in Dorset, Year 2 visiting Combe Mill, and Year 1 spending the day at Hill End. Educational trips help support and stretch the children’s learning so much and I know that they all really enjoyed taking their learning out of the classroom this week.

Our Parents Association are busily working on events for the children this term, with Firestorm and Gifts for Grown Ups high up on their lists, alongside regular opening times for the Second Hand Uniform Shop (SHUS). I wanted to formally thank Sally Povolotsky for her amazing efforts as chair of the JPA for the past 3 years, and announce that Sarah Dempsey has now taken on the mantle of chair. It was brilliant to have all the class reps in our meeting last week and I know that they will be in touch asking for support and volunteers for future events. As a school we are immensely grateful to the class reps and JPA committee for all that they do to support us. I have included a link to key information about the JPA which I know Sarah and her team would love you to read to find out a bit more about their aims and events that they run for the children.

Huge congratulations to our U13 footballers who won the regional finals last week and will be competing in the national finals later this term for the second year in succession. They played brilliantly as a team, winning all 8 matches, scoring 18 goals and conceding only 2. Perhaps the highlight though was the comment from another coach about how humble our children were when winning. Our cross country team also won their Oxfordshire heat in the English Schools Athletics and have qualified for the regional finals as well.

On the rugby pitch this week there was a block fixture with Cheltenham College with every child in Year 5-8 representing Abingdon Prep. Our U8s and U9s were also all involved in matches against Chandlings this week. It is great for all children to be involved in these matches. Good luck to our U8s who have their first ever Saturday tournament this weekend too.

It was good to have lots of parents join us for our webinar on consent on Monday night, leading into age appropriate workshops for the children on the subject led by Natalie Hunt, a specialist in this field, on Wednesday and Thursday. I was lucky to sit in on the Year 7 and 8 workshop and it was good to hear the children asking pertinent questions and furthering their understanding of the issues surrounding consent.

This morning, our houses all met to hear presentations from some children about which charity they wanted to support this year. It was lovely to hear so many personal reasons for why the charities had been recommended and we look forward to supporting them in the coming months.

We round off the week tomorrow with our second platform concert of the term, which again has a full list of participants, and our Year 7s have a joint quiz and pizza evening with Headington. This event was greatly enjoyed by everyone last year and it is lovely to be giving the children the opportunity to mix with pupils from Headington once again.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend ahead.

With best wishes

Craig Williams