Headmaster's End of Term Letter - Autumn 2016
Dear Parents and Friends
And so we are nearly at the end of 2016 – where did it go?! With such a stunning Indian Summer to welcome us back for the term that lasted to half term and beyond, the children much enjoyed what Ashdown children love best – spending time outside either playing on the Patch, in the Spaghetti Tree,nursing their blisters from their new football boots or sitting reading or chatting with friends. With the addition of the turkeys (Charles and Camilla, but possibly Charles and Charles!) to the menagerie, the skateboards/ripsticks have plenty of ‘hazards’ to negotiate!
It has been a super term with your super children who, it has to be said, are very ready for a much deserved lie in. The pace of life in school is fast and it is amazing how even the smallest members of the community have kept their feet on the pedal and achieved so much. Term started with the 2s departing for the Château de Sauveterre to spend their half term over there; I think the overwhelming consensus amongst them was that they had had an amazing “far too short” trip, but it was good to have them back with us post half term with rather better French than that they had before the trip – and a desire to add some of the peculiarly Sauveterre customs to Ashdown (thus far resisted!). Annie and I had a very useful few days in Bermuda at a Schools Fair over there which spread the Ashdown word to that lovely island and, on our return, the 1s went off to The Old Malthouse to do the Geography fieldwork component of the CE syllabus – another fantastic facility we are lucky enough to be able to benefit from.
Other noteworthy events of the term were our annual walk from The Airman’s Grave on the Ashdown Forest back to school on Remembrance Day. It never ceases to amaze those of us with limited fitness just how robust your children are in making the nigh on nine mile walk up hill and down dale! But a wonderful tribute to those who made rather greater physical sacrifices, as I’m sure you will agree; a huge thank you to Ollie de Havas for playing The Last Post at the ‘grave’. During the final week of course we had our Trips Days when the senior children had a fantastic day at the Queen’s Theatre enjoying a ‘Les Miserables’ workshop followed by a performance of that wonderful musical. The rest of the school had a trip to Harry Potter Studios on the rather less than speedy ‘Ashdown Express’ (courtesy of W & H Travel) whilst the pre prep much enjoyed ‘Sleeping Beauty’ at The Stag Theatre in Sevenoaks. Then we had the excitement of the build up to Christmas with carols, Christmas meals and a chance to tell the man with the snowy beard what we wanted him to fill our stockings with before sending everyone off home after a wonderfully moving Carol Service in Coleman’s Hatch Church. The Chapel Choir were as good as ever and maintained the spine tingling beauty of their performance earlier in the term in Winchester Cathedral. Richard Coppack must be given much credit for helping the children reach the level this standard.
But of course, along with all these extra curricular activities, the core of the school keeps equally busy with lessons, exams, concerts, plays and lots of activity in the art, DT and games departments. The 1s are working hard towards the Common Entrance examinations next summer and, with this in mind, I would
urge anyone whose child is lower down the school to be in touch with me if you are still unsure as to where to send him or her after Ashdown. Thus far we have had two successful scholarships and huge congratulations must go to Jemima Bland for her Academic Scholarship and Eloise van Praagh for her Riding Scholarship, both to St Leonard’s Mayfield. On the games pitches our success has been limited in terms of wins, but much progress has been made by all the teams and we have had some really close and exciting matches along the way. I can’t commend the quality of our coaches highly enough and their commitment along with the team spirit and resilience they instil into their teams is a very important part of the children’s education – to smile in the face of adversity is a terrific life skill.
Wonderful plays from the top and the bottom of the prep school were enjoyed by parents, friends and staff. The 5s performed their very own ‘Hansel and Gretel’ with terrific aplomb and are an exciting prospect for future stage appearances, whilst the 1s ‘Murder on the Thames’ was another de Moraville classic complete with puns. Very many thanks to Suzy Hiron and Suzie Hennegrave for the fantastic sets and of course to the costume and make up artists. Miss Hiron, who has been at Ashdown for nearly 15 years is leaving us this term to return to her native Scilly Isles where she and her sister will be starting their own boutique café and B & B; I’m sure you will have a steady stream of Ashdown visitors, Suzy, and we wish you all the best in your new venture. Suzy will be replaced for the rest of the academic year by David Hunt, a hugely experienced DT teacher who is really looking forward to running the department. We also say a huge thank you and ‘Adeus’ to Sylva de Jesus who has been a real stalwart in the kitchen for more than a quarter of a century, always with a cheerful smile and a willingness to join in on those special occasions, be in dressing in costume for a themed lunch or showing the younger members of staff how to dance! Our gappers return to the southern hemisphere and a warm Christmas and we thank them for their help in all areas of the school – Miss Terri and Miss Abbey go with our very best wishes for their future at university and beyond. Along with my thanks to these hard working departing staff, I must pay tribute to the entire Common Room whose efforts on your children’s behalf are really as good as you will find in any school – 150% commitment and dedication from all is so evident.
Just a couple of housekeeping requests:
- Please do drive really slowly in the car park and once in the drive (there was a tragedy at Sunningdale last year in which a parent was killed)
And a couple of changed dates of which to make you aware:
- Choral Day is now on the last Sunday of next term – Sunday, 19th March and the Mock Trial on the last night of next term – Thursday, 23rd March
- The provisional dates for the Autumn Term 2017 will be changing and confirmed on both the website and in the calendar for next term which will be ready for collection on the first day of term.
We look forward to seeing everyone full of energy and raring to go next term and, in the meantime, wish you all the most wonderful Christmas with your families and a very happy and healthy New Year.
Haydon and Annie