b'HOME COUNTIES WESTSchool, the oldest part, is wheelchair accessible).playwright, Thomas Dolby, musician and pro-Original library in Big School is a bibliophilesducer, actors Tom Hollander, Toby Jones and delight and the 21st century additions such asDavid Mitchell, all ve members of Radiohead, the arts centre, sports centre and the new Yanglots of rowers and rugby players and centuries of Science Centre have been thoughtfully designedchurchmen, soldiers, academics, lawyers and all-and well executed. Brand new Beech Court housesround good chaps.sixth form centre plus a library, UCAS resources and careers ofce. Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline: Parents tell The Yang Science Centre is a superb additionus that the house and tutor system works well to to the schoolthree oors of labs and work roomsensure all boys receive individual academic and with an extraordinary metal tree-like sculpture,pastoral attentionvitally important in such a the Fusion Tower, that lls the stairwell, ascend- big school; staff are very observant, a parent told ing and morphing into a representation of theus. Boys who arrive at age 11, many from local science pursued on each level. Apparently, theprimaries, join Lower School, which gives them only drawback of this is that physicists havetwo years to ease in to things before another nowhere to drop things from. (Surely theyve gotinux at age 13 from preps, including Abingdons gravity sorted out by now?) At the sculptures baseown. In common with other schools, much more are 1,256 discs, one for every boy in the Abingdonattention is now paid to pupils mental as well as foundation at the time of the pieces creation. physical health. Boys can book directly or through On the ground oor is a large, dedicated out- the health centre to see a counsellor (on site, four reach laboratory where pupils of all ages fromdays a week). PHSCE sessionsin class or during local schools and organisations such as Scouts andtutor timecover a multitude of age-appropriate Guides can come for science clubs, projects andtopics including healthy eating and body image, subject extension activities. The work tables andbullying, drugs, alcohol and relationships.seats are designed so that they can be adjusted to fit proto-scientists and there are mini-lab coats and goggles too. Abingdon boys also go out into local primary schools to run science clubsThe Yang Science Centre is superb as part of their service activities. This exciting three floors of labs and work and generously resourced venture has really taken off and the Abingdon Science Partnershiprooms with an extraordinary metal (ASP) co-ordinator told us that the school is nowsculpture that fills the stairwella centre of expertise for science continuing pro-fessional development, running teacher-training workshops for Oxfordshire and neighbouringHigh expectations, both from the school and counties. School has a burgeoning partnershipparents, and long, busy days, generally ensure with Fitzharrys, a local maintained secondary,good behaviour. Rules are sensible and consist-and the classics department has a long-standingently enforced. Theres a lot of banter, but boys tradition of teaching pupils from other local sec- tell us that most know how far they can go. ondaries too. Theres no stereotypical Abingdon boy and school With three other independent schools in thehas enough alternative milieux for the unusual immediate vicinity and several others very closeor eccentric to nd their tribe.by, this corner of south Oxfordshire is rather a hotspot for educational privilege. That being said,Pupils and parents: School buses (all morning and Abingdon School isnt regarded as snobby andsome evening routes shared with the St Helens despite impressive facilities seems to retain thegirls) bring pupils in from as far as Reading, faintest, pleasingly meritocratic whiff of an old- Newbury, Fairford and Bicester. Parents are fairly style grammar. Uniform is fairly standard (greytypical Oxfordshire mix of medics, academics, IT trousers, blue blazer) and most components canprofessionals and business peoplenot conspicu-be bought from M&S; theres also a second-handously wealthy, probably because theyre paying uniform shop, run by the parents association.school fees. Active parents association organises Ties are another matter, almost 50 possibilitiessocials and fundraisers, runs a popular second-at the last count: house ties, half and full colours,hand uniform shop and a car share scheme. Boys scholars, societies, prizes, and so on. Boys knowthemselves are the most persuasive advert for what they all mean, but parents usually lose tracktheir schoolprospective parents attending open after the rst few. days are allocated a current pupil as a guide and Old Abingdonians include Francis Maude,most are ready to sign on the dotted line by the former MP and cabinet minister, Sir Kim Darroch,end of their tour.British ambassador to the US, Tom Kempinski, 341'