15 May 2020


This week’s mailing is:



From the Headmaster to all parents: 

Dear Parents

I’m sure many of us gathered round the television last Sunday to hear the announcement from the Prime Minister and that we’ve subsequently read the various pieces of guidance that the Government has issued to clarify and explain. You will be aware that the initial focus, in terms of a return to school, is on primary school children and we are communicating with parents at Abingdon Prep School today about the plans that we are working on there. Secondary schools are likely to remain closed until September, so our continued focus at Abingdon School will be to ensure our remote offering is of the highest possible quality, and I remain grateful to all my colleagues who are working so hard to maintain and develop this. The boys have shown remarkable flexibility and resilience in their approach to their studies and I congratulate them heartily.

The Government did suggest that schools should offer Y10 and Y12 (i.e. 4th Year and Lower Sixth) students ‘some face-to-face support to supplement the remote education they are receiving’ during the second half of term. We believe that it is better to continue to focus on providing a high-quality remote learning provision rather than trying to set up occasional sessions for day pupils, which boarders would not be able to attend, and which would involve significant measures to manage the risk to both pupils and staff, diminishing the quality of any offer. We are pleased with the progress that our 4th Year and Lower Sixth students are making via our comprehensive remote provision and are confident they will be well-placed to succeed in their public exams as long as they continue to engage positively with their online lessons.

We will continue to monitor government guidance and if opportunities become available for social interaction at school for these or other year groups, we will explore them fully and be in touch with parents.

Our provision for the children of key workers will of course remain in place. I remain very grateful to Mr Jenkins who continues to coordinate this support for us.

As we plan for the future, we will continue to focus on achieving a balance between the educational needs of the pupils and the health and safety of everyone at school. Please rest assured that we will monitor this fast-changing situation carefully and that we will communicate with parents as plans develop.

It has, sadly, become clear that pupils in the 5th Year and the Upper Sixth will not be returning to school in the second half of term. I’ve been impressed by the positive mindset that both sets of boys have shown and it has been great to see them engaging with their lessons this term.

Today the Upper Sixth come to the end of their A Level courses. There is information below about arrangements for next week for this year group and for the pre-university courses which will run for them after half term. The boys have coped exceptionally well with the disappointment of not being in school for the usual rites of passage for leavers and we continue to hope that we can mark their departure as a year group, together with their parents, next term. The leavers of 2020 will certainly always be a special group of boys for us.

We have been marking Mental Health Awareness Week this week by focusing on the importance of kindness, and teachers have been passing on their own examples of kindness in a series of short films which have been shared with pupils. It’s also been inspiring to hear about the acts of kindness which our pupils have been carrying out in their families and communities.

I am sure that we want to express our gratitude to all those who are working with such dedication to counter the coronavirus and keep our communities going. We have established, together with our partner schools in Abingdon, a social media campaign called #AbingdonSaysThanks, which will give us all a chance to thank people to whom we are particularly grateful. I hope pupils and parents will be inspired to take part and to say thank you to people who deserve our support.

A reminder of the term dates for 2020-21 is included with this weekly mailing and, as ever, we ask parents to pay careful consideration to them. Please be aware that St Helen and St Katharine’s have opted to alter the start date of the coming autumn term in September. We have decided to keep the dates as previously announced, primarily to accommodate the arrival of our boarders and our induction days for new pupils. We do endeavour to keep term dates the same across both schools but in this case there were differing imperatives; I regret the inconvenience caused.

I hope you and your families are able to enjoy time together this weekend. I would urge pupils (and parents, if you wish!) to support our attempt to run the circumference of the globe. Mr Birkbeck, who is leading the project, is giving regular progress reports. The last time I looked we’d got as far as Greece but there is still a very long way to go! All help is gratefully received, even if it’s a quick walk round the park.

Best wishes, Mike Windsor

For U6 Parents – Pre-University Programme, June 2020 

U6 students planning to attend university next year or the year after (following a gap year) are invited to participate in a Pre-University Programme which will run during the first three weeks of June. This Programme, custom-designed by Abingdon School, features academic lessons and videos that will help students get ready for their chosen university course of study, as well as presentations and group
discussions covering different aspects of the transition from school to university. The Programme will also offer a range of financial education seminars and give assistance to boys planning to take a gap year. From Michael Triff, Head of Career Guidance, careerguidance@abingdon.org.uk.

For Parents of 5th Year Pupils – STEP: Summer Term Extension Programme

All 5th Year students were sent the following letter on Monday 11 May regarding STEP. This is a new, optional Summer term academic extension programme, tailor-made for their remaining time at Abingdon during lockdown.

Thames Valley Police and safeguarding

Thames Valley Police have launched a media campaign which highlights some of the safeguarding issues that are impacting children around increased use of social media and online platforms. Please see this letter with a number of bullet points with their key messages for children and parents.  From Mark Hindley, Deputy Head Pastoral.

Annual Data Check – Final Reminder 

The Annual Data Check forms were sent to parents on Wednesday 29 April via iSAMS email.   The deadline to submit forms is today, Friday 15 May. The Data Check is an online process that takes a few minutes to complete. If you have any queries regarding the process please email elizabeth.reed@abingdon.org.uk

Latest school blog: The importance of spatial thinking in an uncertain world

Geographic information systems, GIS, was noted as one of the 25 most important developments for human impact in the 20th Century. In the latest school blog, geography teacher Saoirse Pottie reflects on the importance of GIS and how it offers students the opportunity to engage with a new way of seeing, thinking and interacting with the world around them. Follow this link.

Term Dates 2021/22

Please see this link.

(A reminder of the term dates for 2020/21 can be found here.)

News from the Week:

School Calendar

Given the number of calendar changes, owing to the impact of Covid-19, please continue to consult the School Calendar.

Here is the link to previous weekly mailings.