b'HOME COUNTIES WESTcommunity service or the 120+ clubs and societies referred to as extracurricular activities here. At Abingdon such things are not optional extras, butBoys in their pink and black kit essential parts of a well-rounded education. Closejogging down to the beautiful harmony singing? Lego architecture? Ceramics? Entomology? Code-breaking? Take a look at thewooden boathouse are a familiar schools (excellent) website and youll wish yousight on summer afternoonscould sign up for one or two options. Worthy of note are debatingthe debating society is believed to be the schools oldest non-sportinghome to roughly equal numbers of boarders and society and the dinner debates with local girlsday boysensures good integration. Communal schools are a big drawand Abingdon Film Unitareas we saw were well cared for and rather (AFU). The AFU is quite possibly unique, a semi- clubby (pool table, stags head on the wall); bed-autonomous organisation run by professionalrooms are, well, just like those in all the other lm makers to enable secondary school pupils toboys boarding houses weve visited: two or three make short lmsmostly documentaries andbeds, oor garnished with huge trainers, lots of stop-motion animations. Since it was set up inLynx and stashes of snacks. Not overly tidy2003 over 120 films have been produced, aalways a plus point. Each house has a resident number of which have been screened at nationalhousemaster and his family, at least one resi-and international festivals and won awards. dent tutor, and a matron. Other house tutors live nearby. School has its own health centre with a Sport: Abingdons sporting alphabet runs fromnurse on call overnight and an on-site counsel-athletics to water polo, taking in a wide range ofling service. Four meals a day, plus a school caf; team and individual pursuits along the way. Thesixth formers can cook their own lunch in the letter r gets more than its fair share of kudos,house kitchen or forage in Abingdons shops and with rugby and rowing being two of the schoolstakeaways.chief glories, along with hockey. Full-on xtureExcellent range of joint and individual house list for these and other sportsregular oppo- activities and trips, making full use of Abingdons nents include Marlborough, Radley, Bradeld,proximity to Oxford and London. Socials and sixth Wellington and Eton. Fine sports centre withform dinners with girls boarding schools such swimming pool, several grass pitches and popu- as Westonbirt, St Marys Calne and Headington. lar climbing wall on site; more extensive facilitiesBoarding enrichment programme aims to equip including athletics tracks and a 4G pitch justboys with vital life skills such as cooking, cleaning down the road at Tilsley Park. Much success tooand ironing plus information about English law, in less mainstream sports such as fencing, cross- taxes and applying for student loans. Attendance country, sailing and shooting. at boarders chapel services is compulsory and Abingdons pupils have been rowing on thewe heard one or two polite grumbles about this towns stretch of the Thames for nearly 200 years(a bit boring). School says it has listened to boys and boys in their pink and black kit jogging downcomments about this and services are now less to the beautiful wooden boathouse are a famil- frequent.iar sight on summer afternoons. Rowing laurels have suffered a few soggy seasons lately, but boysEthos and heritage: One of Englands oldest told us excitedly that the coach was making hugeschools, Abingdon was ofcially founded in 1256 changes. when the Abbot of Abingdon, John de Blosneville, All boys, including sixth formers, must doleft money for the support of 13 poor schol-at least two sessions of sport a week, but mostars. Earliest references date back to 1100 when do many more, including Saturday training anda school was likely to have been established matches. Lots of tours and specialist developmentalongside Abingdon Abbey. Having survived the camps (some abroad). Boys who duck when theydissolution of the monasteries its fortunes waxed see a ball coming (yes, such boys do exist) areand waned over the ensuing centuries, according expected to have a go at different options andto the generosity of benefactors and the quality nd something they enjoykarate and canoeof headmasters. School moved to its present site, polo have proved popular recent additions to theadjacent to an elegant crescent around a park, sports mix. in 1870 and proceeded to buy up more land and some of the crescents houses. Architecture is Boarding: Majority of international boarders aresturdy Victorian red brick and running up and from Hong Kong and China. Small weekly con- down stone staircases between lessons keeps boys tingent from local families. The three boardingand staff pretty t, but could present a challenge houses (School House, Crescent and Austin) areto those on crutches (most of the school except Big 340'