I would like to share with you four aspects of School that I think you will be interested in:
New Chapel Seating
Some time ago, we had an amusing incident in one Chapel service. One of the chairs creaked and eventually gave way, sending a member of staff sprawling across the Chapel floor. After dignity and decorum were restored, the service continued. On leaving, one Year 11 (5th Form) pupil said to me that this was the “best Chapel ever!” (I am aware that there have been more exciting Chapel services in Abbotsholmian history, but I did not wish to correct him!).
This incident made me realise that the chairs were not now fit for purpose and, in modern day Health and Safety parlance, could be considered even ‘dangerous’.
I asked a Year 10 (4th Form) Maths class to take measurements and present a design to “maximize capacity but maintain beauty”. They rose to the challenge, and we sourced a local carpenter to produce the benches pictured. The benches are, arguably, not as comfortable as the old, well-worn chairs, but, as the design brief states they are “best suited for perfect behinds”. Initial moans from pupils and staff have been, unsurprisingly, muted!
What is important is that these benches have added to the ambiance of our beautiful Chapel.
All pupils in the senior school have been given an iPad for their school work and homework. Abbotsholme has entered the digital age! I did need to be convinced that this was a good idea and was nervous that pupils would just spend their time playing games or emailing each other during lessons. In a practical school like Abbotsholme, did we really need them? I am, however, incredibly impressed with the positive impact that this technology has had on teaching and learning in all areas of school, and my initial Luddite concerns have proven to be unfounded. The staff have taken the new techniques on board, and Abbotsholme, true to its roots, is once again, a truly progressive school.
The Synthetic Pitch
This is an incredible addition to Abbotsholme. Built on Barnfield, the project presented difficult engineering problems and I was so pleased to see it completed in summer 2015. The design is in keeping with Abbotsholme and I was determined that this much-needed pitch would not spoil the approach to the school. We did not want to become like other schools, where the driveway is more like an entrance to an industrial site or sports centre. The subtlety of the design and its success were summed up by one long-standing parent’s comment on the car-park: “Headmaster, where is this synthetic pitch then?”
We really did need to invest in the synthetic pitch. We arguably had the best grass hockey pitches in the country, but nobody wanted to play us on them! The impact on the girls’ and the recently introduced boys’ hockey has been immediate and I am so proud of their achievements. The pitch is for more than hockey, and will be to the benefit of all Abbotsholmian sports people for a long time to come. I am very grateful indeed for the generous donation by the Abbotsholmians' Club which kick-started our appeal and which made a significant contribution to the sum raised.
Lambing duty remains a unique part of Abbotsholme, providing real life lessons for all those involved. In all the changes that I have talked about above, lambing (and sheep) remain constant, the unchanged “tick-tock” of nature. I want Abbotsholmians to understand the value of the environment and the importance of their roles as custodians of our green and pleasant land. The farm provides a vehicle to teach and learn such lessons.