Head's Letters | Abingdon Prep School

Letter from the Head, 24 January 2020

Friday 24 January 2020

Dear Parents

I have been fortunate to see a range of CDT activities this week in school and it never ceases to amaze me how creative our boys are and how much they enjoy producing pieces for this subject. The jitterbug pens in Year 7 were a real treat as they careered their way across paper on the tables creating a myriad of patterns with the felt tip pens used as legs. I was reliably informed that the key to success is to have the weighty motor 5 mm off-centre to create an uneven weight distribution! The boys loved seeing their motorised contraptions speeding off across the desk tops.

House meetings took place yesterday morning with the boys being put into mixed year groups to undertake some team building exercises. It is hard to explain the sharks in the sea game but with ten boys and just two small mats, they had to traverse across the hall without anyone touching the floor. It led to some creative solutions to moving the mats as quickly as possible whilst keeping all the boys tightly together on the other one. The Year 8 house captains and vice-captains organised the events extremely well and certainly ensured a good deal of house spirit was generated.

Our U8s and U9s played Chandlings this week and the U8s produced a remarkable set of victories in all the teams and played some superb football. Our U9s also performed admirably against some very good opponents and will have learnt a great deal for future matches.

All the boys in Years 5 and 6 played in matches against Pinewood and there were some very good performances across the board. Perhaps the highlights being a terrific 4-4 draw for the U11As and a great 5-1 win for the U10Ds. The senior boys played Cokethorpe and the U13As secured a well fought 5-3 victory whilst honours were even in the other matches.

A number of boys sat their LAMDA (Drama) exams today and I would like to congratulate them on how well they had all learned their performance pieces. The boys seemed to relish the opportunity to share their performances with the examiner and I am sure they will have achieved an excellent set of results.

I hope that you will all have a relaxing weekend.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 17 January 2020

Friday 17 January 2020

Dear Parents

I would like to start my letter this week by congratulating 8R who have completed their final mock exam today. They have worked hard to prepare for these and I know that they will have benefited a great deal from this preparation before they sit the academic scholarship exams to Abingdon School in the second half of this term.

Despite the rather changeable and inclement weather this week, the boys have been fully involved in their Other Half activities. There were the first fixtures of term on Monday against Chandlings for our U11s and U10 A and D teams. Some closely contested games saw us win three, draw two and lose one. On Wednesday, our U13A and B teams took on Davenies, after the wet weather had rained off the away fixtures, and we shared the spoils with one win and one loss.

Abingdon School’s cross country event took place on Tuesday. A small group of our Year 7 and 8 boys took part and performed admirably in a field of over 90 runners, with the team finishing in 4th place overall, and our highest individual finishers in 10th and 14th positions. It is the start of a busy term for cross country.

I had a very enjoyable walk around the classrooms on Thursday and sat in on a fascinating Year 7 lesson about the Anglo-Saxons. The boys were having to work as a group to rank key events and discoveries about the period in order of importance to justify whether this was a ‘Golden Age’ or indeed ‘The Dark Ages’ as they have been known to us for so long. It was lovely to hear the boys debating the relative importance of the Sutton Hoo ship burial discovery compared to the writings of Venerable Bede.

Year 6 were busily engaged in creating their own monster poetry with evil characters rising from the pages of the boys’ exercise books. Whilst a little gruesome on occasion, it was great to see the descriptive vocabulary and imagery they were creating with their work.

This Saturday another art workshop is happening with the theme being ‘wire and ModRoc sculptures’. I cannot wait to see what the boys who have signed up are going to produce. I am not convinced that even at my age I am quite sure what ‘ModRoc’ art will look like. I know the boys will enjoy the day though.

Tomorrow afternoon, our U11 A and B teams take on The Dragon and I wish them the best of luck for this. I will be bringing my umbrella for the touchline!

I hope you all have a good weekend ahead.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 10 January 2020

Friday 10 January 2020

Dear Parents

I hope that you all enjoyed a lovely Christmas and a good New Year too. I thoroughly enjoyed welcoming the boys back to school on Tuesday and I have really enjoyed hearing from some of the boys about their best presents and their travels over the break. They have certainly returned refreshed and re-energised looking forward to the term ahead!

We have welcomed four new children into the Abingdon Prep community this week and it has been lovely to see their peers looking after them and showing them around, ensuring that they quickly find their way and settle into the routines of daily life at school.

On the Friday before the start of term, we ran a very successful pre-season football session for Year groups 5 to 8. We had 54 boys attend and it was heartening to see them enjoying themselves and also playing some very nice football at such an early stage of the season. Fingers crossed the weather remains kind over the season ahead.

On Wednesday, our Year 8s had a fascinating Art History talk from Liz Rowe. They learned about architecture from an artistic perspective and focused on the design of numerous buildings, such as The White House and The Taj Mahal. Judging by some of their responses to her questions, we may well have some budding architects in this group.

Yesterday, class pairings took place with board games being the theme. A number of Christmas presents made their way into school and it was great to see the boys partnering up so well together across the different age groups.

Our Other Half program got underway on the first day of term and it always delights me to see how many boys have signed up for the range of clubs on offer.

Today, Unicorn House members have enjoyed their home clothes celebration after winning the house Merit cup at the end of last term and I have been impressed with the number of golds and merits collected already this week.

I hope that the boys have taken on board one of the messages I gave to them in the first assembly of term. This message was to seize the opportunity that a new year offers and to be the very best version of themselves that they can be and address some of their targets which were set in their reports. It certainly seems that on my visits to classrooms this week the boys have started term with a very positive work ethic and desire to succeed.

If I may end this week with a quote from Edith Lovejoy Pierce, a twentieth century poet, which I shared with the boys, ‘We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day’.

I hope you all have a good weekend.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 13 December 2019

Friday 13 December 2019

Dear Parent

I sit here in my office writing this as the term has drawn to a close and the boys have all left the site to start on their exciting Christmas adventures. It seems eerily quiet without the hum of boys going eagerly about their work. It does not seem a week ago that the hall was filled with excited boys playing the Bazaar games, stalls selling Christmas trinkets and the buzz of the raffle. It was a terrific event and I would like to personally thank all the people who were kind enough to organise and participate in both the lead up to it and on the day. These events simply cannot happen without the energy, time and organisational skills given by our fabulous JPA and so many other supportive parents and staff. I really enjoyed the event taking place in December this year as it felt even more Christmassy than usual.

Our Christmas lunch took place yesterday – turkey and all the trimmings followed by a choice of either Christmas pudding, mince pies or jelly with cream (or all three in the case of some of the Year 8s). It was so lovely to sit through a leisurely lunch and simply chat to the boys on the table with me. It is perhaps, one of the underrated highlights of Christmas that families and friends can simply take the time to talk to each other rather than having to rush off here or there for the next appointment. Perhaps there is not enough of that in our everyday lives.

Our beautiful Carol Service, a real highlight in the school calendar, took place on Tuesday in the gorgeous St Helen’s church. It was lovely to see the boys proudly standing on stage and singing their carols so well. Music continues to be such an important part of the boys lives at Abingdon Prep. Thank you so much for your incredibly generous donations for the collection too. We were able to raise an additional £720 for our school charity, Be Free Young Carers, which will be added to the rest of the money that we have raised during the term with our silver coin trail and our Christmas Bazaar.

At the start of the week, Reception visited Cogges Farm where they experienced a Victorian Christmas. Santa visited the Reception boys too this week and left gifts for them under the tree. It was lovely to see how excited they were with their various construction themed presents. They were all very keen to see him again at Christmas.

Gifts for Grown Ups took place yesterday and after a mammoth amount of organisation over the course of the whole year. The event went off seamlessly and the boys have hopefully popped their gifts under the Christmas Tree at home, ready for the big day. Thanks to all the volunteers on the day and throughout the year for producing a really amazing event which the boys loved.

The House Merits cup for this term went to Unicorn, with just 35 points separating 3rd from 1st. I know they will enjoy their non-uniform day in January and the closeness of the result shows just how important it is that all the boys hand in their merits and golds which have been hard earned.

I would like to take this opportunity to give a huge thank you to our catering team, our cleaning team, our grounds team, and our amazing office team. School simply would not function without them but I wanted to thank them publicly for all that they do for the Abingdon Prep community.

I hope that the boys, and yourselves, will enjoy a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year and take the opportunity to slow down and appreciate just being with family and friends, at such a special time of year.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 6 December 2019

Friday 6 December 2019

Dear Parents

As the penultimate week of term comes to an end and the nights draw in even faster, it has definitely started to feel like Christmas is on its way, even if my personal Christmas present shopping has yet to even cross my mind!

Yesterday, it was time for our Pre-Prep Nativity to take place. This year they performed ‘Born in a Barn’, and every single one of the boys should be incredibly proud of their performances on stage. Their singing was superb and they clearly loved performing to so many of their family members. It certainly was one of the real highlights of the term and reinforced the real build up to the 25th.

Pre-Prep continued their busy week today with a trip to Roves Farm. The boys were excitedly chattering about it on their way into school and I know that the coach journey itself was being seen as part of the adventure too. I look forward to hearing all about what they got up to on their return.

Tuesday saw the annual Junior Section trip to the pantomime at The Playhouse in Oxford to watch ‘Beauty and the Beast’. The boys came back extremely excited having thoroughly enjoyed the performance, and also the ice creams! I am sure they will have taken some tips for their own production next term. I have heard from a few parents that lines are being learned already –  ‘Hoodwinked’ is on its way.

On Tuesday afternoon, it was the house public speaking and debating competition for Years 5 to 8. Yet again, the boys who took part were quite superb in their cogent arguments for topics such as nuclear power, the effect of social media on society and the role of the monarchy to name but a few. The audience even directed questions at the older boys who had to respond. I have huge admiration for these boys as at their age, there would have been no chance of me standing up in front of an audience and speaking with such knowledge, passion and energy. Debating Club has never been so popular.

Our successful run continued on the rugby pitch this week with all four teams winning against Cothill last Saturday and five of the six teams winning against Cokethorpe. The U13 matches were incredibly close with just a single try separating the teams in both games. Across the school, there has been huge improvement in the boys rugby this term and that is great credit to the boys who really seem to enjoy playing the sport. I would particularly like to mention the unbeaten U11C team who have played some really great rugby this term.

It is the Christmas Bazaar tomorrow and I am looking forward to seeing most of you there to really kick start the celebrations for Christmas. There are more external stalls that have joined us this year so I hope that you will enjoy browsing their wares whilst your boys make their way round the games in the hall and elsewhere. The raffle prizes seem to get bigger and better each year, so do remember to buy those tickets when you arrive. I really would like to pay tribute to our JPA and staff who have worked so hard to put this together for the boys. Their work is greatly appreciated.

Good luck to our U11 and U13 rugby teams who are playing Taunton Prep School tomorrow morning. Taunton Prep is on tour this weekend and I am particularly looking forward to watching one of my old schools playing and catching up with their staff.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 29 November 2019

Friday 29 November 2019

Dear Parents

Individual music exams took place on Monday and I am sure that all the practice that went in to preparing for them will have paid off. It never ceases to amaze me how talented some of our musicians are and it was great to see so many of our younger boys sitting these exams at the start of their musical journeys.

The sound of the African savannah has been drifting out of the music room this week with the singing auditions taking place for our senior production, The Lion King. The boys seem really enthused by the choice of musical and will be looking forward to starting rehearsals next term.

Yesterday Magdalen College Geography Quiz was held and it was a great success with eight of our boys showing off their geographical knowledge. Whilst we may not have won the event, we did win the fieldwork round which was lovely having so recently returned with our Year 8s from their Swanage field trip.

It has been a very busy week for rugby matches with 16 teams taking on Magdalen College. I was lucky enough to see some of the U10s play and delighted to see the work rate and enjoyment that the boys were clearly showing on the pitch. It was an incredibly successful week with Abingdon Prep winning all 16 of the matches played.

Rugby continues this weekend with matches against Cothill and I am looking forward to watching the boys play and hopefully chatting to some of you on the touchline. In addition to the rugby on Saturday, we are running another Art Workshop too, focusing on Franz Marc and his futurist animal painting. I cannot wait to see what the boys are able to create.

The first swimming gala of the year took place on Monday at The Dragon and our boys from Year 3-8 swam really well with particularly strong performances from our Year 8s and Year 3 and 4 boys. I know the boys are looking forward to next term when the bulk of the swimming galas take place.

This afternoon, the Director of Hockey at Abingdon School, Olly Deasy, came across to run a session for 24 of our senior boys. Olly plays for Reading in the National League and it was great to have such a talented player and coach working with some of our boys. I must admit, I picked up a few good tips myself during the session as I have my first hockey match in over a year coming up next Sunday!

The Christmas season is well and truly upon us now with the Pre-Prep Nativity rehearsals in full swing and the Christmas trees are up at the front of school and also in the Hall. Thank you to the JPA for coming in to help decorate it today.

I hope you all have a good weekend.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 22 November 2019

Friday 22 November 2019

Dear Parents

Another busy week has flown by with the cold wind still biting and more woolly hats being worn than I can remember in previous years – including the staff! The build up to Christmas definitely started this week with the first carol being sung in our Tuesday morning singing practice and the school Christmas tree delivery email gracing my inbox! However, the boys were certainly fully engaged in the classroom too with Year 5 focusing on angles and using protractors, whilst Year 4 were designing their own islands as they learnt about four figure grid references.

Wednesday saw representatives from Griffin’s House Charity last year, the Sumatran Orangutan Society, share a little of their story and explain what the money we raised for them will be able to support. Some of the gorgeous pictures drew an audible murmur of delight and it was heartening to hear about the way that some of their rainforest habitat has been regenerated allowing them, and other key species such as Sumatran tigers and rhinos, to recolonise the area. Nature has an amazing way of healing itself if we can just give it the start it needs and an incredible four year turnaround in some parts of Sumatra has been achieved through specific replanting of certain pioneer species.

The Rugby 7s season is well and truly upon us with two tournaments this week for our U13s. They performed admirably at Pinewood securing three wins and three losses and both As and Bs showed some great skill in our own tournament this afternoon.

Our U12As played in the St Edward’s Tournament where they competed brilliantly against some enormous schools, both physically and in terms of numbers! Our U13 Cs lost a close game with Christ Church’s B team, whilst our U8As and U9As both had close matches with Cokethorpe but managed to win showing real determination at the end to stay ahead.

It was lovely to see some of you at Coffee and Catch up this morning. It is always a good chance to chat about your boys and what they have been getting up to over the term. The warm pain au chocolat was also a winner with the cold weather outside!

I hope you all have a good weekend ahead.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 15 November 2019

Friday 15 November 2019

Dear Parents

The autumnal weather certainly seems to have left us well and truly behind this week with biting winds and numerous downpours replacing it. Good use is being made of the boys’ coats and woolly hats!

Across the country, it has been ‘Anti-Bullying Week’, and our boys have been looking at school policies, having assemblies and participating in workshops too. The message was ‘change starts with us’ and I really enjoyed hearing the boys talk so passionately about what they could do to make a difference. The pledges made by 5L in their assembly were incredibly thoughtful.

Earlier on in the week I was fortunate enough to be taught by some Reception boys how to safely hammer nails into something; in this case a pumpkin. It was great to see the boys developing their fine motor skills and explaining how I should be doing it safely in such detail. I am still not allowed to hammer any nails in around our house though as I may not have always covered myself in glory when it has come to DIY previously!

The Book Fair took place on Wednesday and I really enjoyed popping over to see the great range of books available, with so many new titles and authors in amongst some of the more recognisable classics – well more recognisable to my generation anyway, even with a redesign! It was lovely to see the excitement of the boys as they flicked through the books. A love of reading and books is certainly still alive and well at Abingdon Prep.

This week saw some fantastic rugby matches against Chandlings and Abingdon School. I was lucky enough to see all of our U8 matches where our boys competed brilliantly and ended up winning all three games by just a single try or two. Both schools should be congratulated on the standard of rugby being played at that age and the obvious sportsmanship and enjoyment on show. Our seniors took on Abingdon School and our U13As and U12As both won excellent contests whilst our U12Bs managed a second half comeback to draw their match. The camaraderie on show from both schools was lovely to see as so many of the boys already knew each other from outside of school.

Tomorrow, our U10As are playing at Twickenham before the Barbarians match against Fiji. This should be an incredible occasion for them and I know they are relishing the prospect of running out on the hallowed turf.

Our new website went live this week so if you have not yet been able to have a good look at it, then please do. As you can imagine, there is a huge amount of work that goes into this and I would like to thank all of those who were involved.

Finally, I would like to take this chance to let you know about Coffee and Catch up with me next Friday morning. This will be in the drama studio between 8.15-9.15am. I do hope many of you can join me for a pastry and a hot drink.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 8 November 2019

Friday 8 November 2019

Dear Parents

I would like to start my letter this week with a huge thank you to the JPA for all their hard work organising such an enjoyable Firestorm event last Friday evening. Even the weather played ball this year and the boys seemed to have a great time with the lightsabres and such a terrific fireworks display, accompanied by the traditional hog roast or hot dogs. Sadly the next morning’s rugby did not quite live up to its billing but the sportsmanship on show was a great example to all.

On Tuesday our Orchestra went across to Radley to join their Orchestral day and after speaking to a number of the boys, it seems they had a great day out and really enjoyed joining together with other like minded musicians, producing a terrific concert at the end of the day.

Wednesday’s assembly was a lovely reflection on Remembrance with local resident and historian, Mr Hoath, coming in to tell us of the contribution to both world wars of local people from Frilford, Marcham and Garford. It was fascinating to learn about the families that were affected and the sacrifice of so many young men, and indeed women, from the local area. We even heard about the Bond brothers who lived in Josca’s House at the time of the First World War and went off to fight on the Western Front. We have our Remembrance service on Monday and we will all come together as a community to reflect in the two minute silence.

It was lovely to welcome two of our governors into school this week and take them into some of the lessons to see what our boys were learning about. It was great to see such a range of activities going on with English presentations to the class, persuasive speech writing, Kosher food and world timezones all featuring.

Year 2 this week in RE gave presentations on something that was really special to them and all of them should be incredibly proud of the way they presented to the rest of the class and spoke so clearly with genuine passion about their chosen object. I think we may have some budding orators amongst them.

There were a full set of fixtures for our U10s and U11s this week and the boys performed admirably with an even split of wins and losses, whilst some combined A / B teams at senior level took on Bruern Abbey and played some excellent rugby against some towering 12 and 13 year olds. Thursday saw our annual U8s and U9s rugby festival take place here at APS. All the teams enjoyed their three matches and produced some very impressive free flowing rugby.

Finally, good luck to our U11 rugby team who are off tomorrow to Buckinghamshire to compete in an IAPS rugby festival and also to the boys attending the U12 and U13 Prep Schools Regional Football trials.

Best wishes

Craig

Letter from the Head, 1 November 2019

1 November 2019

Dear Parents

I do hope that you all managed to have an enjoyable half term break. It certainly feels that autumn is well and truly upon us now with misty mornings and the occasional scraping of ice off the windscreen. The boys certainly seem to have returned to school with renewed energy.

Over half term, a number of boys took part in the Abingdon Vale Biathlon and U11 Prep schools lions football trials. I would like to congratulate everyone who took part in these events and hope they enjoyed the experience. At the biathlon we achieved a Silver and Bronze medal which was a terrific effort against such strong competition.

This week saw a full range of rugby fixtures against Oratory Prep. There were impressive wins for the U13As, U13Cs and Under U11Cs and a thrilling draw for the U12As. All our teams competed admirably in fixtures against a strong rugby playing school and acquitted themselves well.

Yesterday, I observed a number of Year 6 groups presenting to their class about their findings on metric and imperial measurement in Maths. I really enjoyed learning a few new facts as well as seeing how the different groups had researched and presented their findings. Finding out why the 17th Century Swedish ship ‘Vasa’ sank on its maiden voyage was a real highlight.

Today, our Year 7s have been out of school on their classics and history trip to see the Roman Baths, in Bath. I have been there myself on numerous occasions and I know they will have really enjoyed experiencing the thermal pools and the Roman architecture in place, alongside artefact’s from the Roman period. It will certainly bring a new dimension to what they have been learning in their Latin lessons.

Today has also been Griffin’s home clothes day to celebrate winning the house merit cup last half of term. I am sure that the other three houses are looking to move up the table, so do remind your boys to collect their golds and merits.

I know the boys are very excited about Firestorm this evening and although there may be a little rain, the forecast is certainly nothing like last year! I hope to see many of you at the fireworks enjoying the hog roast and the display. Please do feel free to come along at 2pm on Saturday, should you be able, to help pick up the firework residue from the pitches – payment in pastries! Hopefully we will be discussing an England victory in the Rugby World Cup Final.

Best wishes

Craig