The extra-curricular opportunities available at The Abbey are wide-ranging, offer great variety and are enthusiastically embraced by the students. The name given to the programme represents our ‘edge’ – the added value of an Abbey education. It is one which gives all our pupils the opportunity to try out new activities and to develop interests and skills which will stand them in valuable stead for the future.
Whether it is learning a new skill at Chess Club, or hiking through the countryside on the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, there is something here to interest and inspire everyone. All girls are strongly encouraged to take part in some activities outside the normal academic part of a school education and our dedicated team of staff ensure the highest possible quality of provision. Sports, crafts, music and much more are represented here and we hope that parents, pupils and prospective pupils alike will enjoy finding out what is available at The Abbey.
Explore the various facets of drama and discover which area you enjoy. We are a welcoming and inclusive department: Drama is not just for those who enjoy performing on stage, and students have recently worked as sound designers, lighting operatives, directors and assistant directors, and costume and make-up assistants on a number of productions.
There are a multitude of clubs and productions across the year. Upper III perform in their own Christmas Pantomime (directed by Sixth Form students!) and Upper III, Lower IV and Upper IV students participate in a biennial Lower School Play, or in the biennial play-in-a-day performance. Autumn 2017 sees the debut of the Sixth Form Play, where rehearsals are already well under way for Lorca’s ‘The House of Bernarda Alba’. Weekly clubs are offered to Upper III and Lower IV, and Upper IV and Lower V. Girls explore devising, improvisation, characterisation, storytelling and text in an enjoyable and relaxed atmosphere. We have also recently introduced a Comedy Club, where girls watch episodes of the classic situation comedy, ‘Frasier’.
Our centerpiece productions, for students from Upper IV – Upper VI, is the biennial Upper School Play. We enjoy an outstanding relationship with our local theatre, South Street Arts Centre, where we stage our Lower School Play and Upper School Play. The professional theatre environment, supported by a professional lighting designer, results in productions of exceptional range and quality. Recent productions have included ‘Arabian Nights’, ‘The Canterbury Tales’, ‘Macbeth’, ‘As You Like It’, ‘Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations’, ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’, ‘Alice in Wonderland’, ‘101 Dalmatians’, and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
The Drama Department has also recently begun collaborating with the Music Department on the School Musical, and March 2017 saw our first joint production: Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’, a superb production, which featured students from Upper IV – Upper VI, and played to packed houses over three nights.
Artist in Residence
The Abbey is also fortunate to have a Theatre Artist in Residence, and a Graduate Theatre Practitioner. Theatre Artist in Residence, Cassie Friend, is an actor, director and deviser, and a founding member of the acclaimed RedCape Theatre Company. Cassie works alongside Head of Drama, Leighton Martin, and our Graduate Theatre Practitioner, to deliver our rich and diverse extra-curricular programme, with a particular focus on the Drama Scholars’ provision.
At whatever age and whatever level, musicians are able to join a variety of Choirs, Orchestras and Ensemble groups. Most clubs meet at lunch time. Spring and Autumn Concerts allow the girls to perform to family and friends whilst the popular Music Competition allows girls to show off their talent to their peers and lift a trophy for putting on the best performance. Sixth Formers run a Singing Club for Upper III and Lower IV (Year 7 and 8) where girls sing a varied repertoire, including songs from films and shows.
Concerts and Tours
The Concert Band, Choir and Orchestra take it in turns to go on overseas tours where they get the opportunity to play in prestigious venues. Recent destinations have been Croatia, Lake Garda, Prague, Germany and Tuscany and for many musical girls the tour will be a highlight of their time at The Abbey. There are joint concerts with boys from Reading School and choirs and ensembles have many other opportunities for performance.
Every two years the Music Department stages a major musical which in recent years have included 'Oklahoma!', 'Kiss Me Kate', 'The Gondoliers','My Fair Lady' and 'Ruddigore'. Our most recent performance was "Beauty and the Beast". It was a superb interpretation of the magical tale, worthy of the West End. Read more about The Abbey's 'Beauty and the Beast.'
Our Outdoor Education programme is truly adventurous and progressive, enabling our girls to gain a wealth of experience, learning and inspiration.
Excellent education and development must go beyond the academic and our Outdoor Education programme is a perfect complement to academic education. Experiential and adventurous education is essential in helping the girls to develop the many skills and attributes required alongside academic ability. Our Outdoor Education programme seeks to provide valuable learning opportunities using three key areas:
Environmental – exposure to, and learning about, different environments, be that in the woods, the hills, the rivers, the mountains, different countries or simply a different place nearby
Activity – learning new, or developing existing, activity skills and abilities, such as camping, map reading, rock climbing, kayaking, sailing, orienteering, hill walking, cooking on camp stoves etc
Personal and Social Development – experiencing living and working with others, including sharing accommodation or tents, eating and cooking together, working with others, problem solving, decision making, leadership, taking responsibility, dealing with challenge, dealing with risk etc
Our Outdoor Education programme is progressive throughout the school from Junior through Senior and Sixth Form. It moves from local, activity-based, instructor led experiences in the Junior School through to genuinely adventurous remote and overseas opportunities in the Sixth Form. Using the above three factors we can ensure that each trip and experience builds on the previous, giving worthwhile developmental opportunities. We encourage the girls to take on responsibility whenever possible in these activities rather than just follow the Instructor.
Our Outdoor Education experiences take on many different guises, from whole year shared residential experiences, such as the Lower III activity week or Upper III bushcraft trip, to optional activity trips to develop specific skills (for example skiing or rock climbing), to challenging expeditions such as Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expeditions or overseas Abbey Challenges. In the past we have visited Morocco, Nepal and Uganda. Plus, for those girls who find a particular activity enjoyable (for example, climbing, sailing or canoeing) there are regular after school clubs in which they can develop their skills and work towards performance awards.
We are very proud of the sporting achievements of the girls both in team competitions and individually. Our core school sports are: Hockey, Netball, Swimming, Biathlon, Cross-Country, Rounders, Tennis, Diving, Athletics and Gymnastics. We have many girls who represent their county and some who are in national squads in a variety of sports ranging from those listed above to Rowing, Cricket, Synchro Swimming and Aerobic Gymnastics.
There are some tournaments / competitions which take place during the school day and on Saturdays and opportunities for squads to play in tours in the UK and overseas.
The Abbey also provides a programme of extra- curricular courses which are run by external coaches. These have proved to be popular with many of the girls who are not necessarily involved in the competitive teams. Recent courses have been in Street Dance, Fencing, Basketball, Golf, Judo, Football and Lacrosse. The Gym and Dance show and House Music and Dance competition also give performance opportunities to girls strong in aesthetics.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has become the most sought after non-academic qualification in the UK by universities and employers. This is not surprising as to gain an award participants have to develop a vast array of skills and attributes which purely academic study does not cover. At The Abbey we have known this for a long time and our ‘DofE Award’ programme is one of the leading examples of the ‘DofE Award’ in the country, both in terms of number of participants and in terms of award completions. The ‘DofE Award’ has become an important part of the culture of the school rather than an ‘add on’ and most staff will be keen to discuss activities and progress with girls.
The ‘DofE Award’ seeks to inspire, guide and support young people in their self-development and recognise their achievements. To achieve an award girls have to take on activities under the following headings: volunteering, skill, physical, expedition and residential. To achieve their award girls will need to show motivation, organisation, commitment, a willingness to try new things, meet new people and overcome challenges. It is therefore no surprise that to complete a ‘DofE Award’ is seen as such a worthwhile achievement. Such is the recognition of achieving a Gold Award that Gold Award holders are presented, often by the Duke of Edinburgh himself, in a ceremony at St James Palace.
The expedition section, which often provides memorable moments and tall tales of adventure from the participants, dovetails into The Abbey’s wider Outdoor Education programme. Our DofE Expedition programme is regarded as one of the best in the country. We often run canoeing and overseas expeditions as well as walking in the UK. Examples of locations used in the past for Abbey DofE Expeditions: New Forest, River Severn, Snowdonia, Morocco.
The Abbey provides opportunities to enrol on the Silver and Gold levels of the programme. Usually over 90% of UV enrol on Silver and approximately 50% of LVI enrol on Gold.
The Abbey is a Directly Licenced Centre, meaning that we have the expertise to licence our own programme of activities under the ‘DofE Award’ heading.
Our impressive, spacious library is well stocked with a wide range of books reflecting the curriculum as well as catering for leisure interests. Other resources include dvds and cds. Periodicals to support most subject areas and national daily newspapers may be used in the library.
The library is open from 8.00am to 5.45pm Monday to Friday with open access for all students and staff before, during and after the school day for research, resource selection and study.
In order to foster intellectual curiosity, reading lists for the girls are available on the library catalogue which may be accessed via the networked computers in school or via the pupils' Citrix connection.
The library keeps its resources regularly updated. 16 networked computers are available on the upper level. This pleasant and spacious environment not only celebrates national events such as Book Week and World Book Day, but is also home to pupils' work in cross-curricular displays. Four book clubs regularly meet in the library, one for UIII and LIV, one for UIV, one for LV and another for UV.
The library staff are always on hand to help and respond to individual requests and the Librarian is pleased to arrange author visits, clubs, promotional trips, quizzes and competitions, as well as offer induction sessions to new pupils and information literacy through PSHE. Recent author visits have included Malorie Blackman (currently the Children's Laureate), John Boyne, Christopher Lloyd and Sally Gardner.
The Abbey's patron of reading is novelist Sophia Bennett. We will be sharing our enthusiasm for reading, books and creative writing with Sophia and getting some exciting previews of her new works. Sophia's letters to the school can be downloaded below. Girls from our book clubs were fortunate to have the opportunity to assist Sophia with her latest novel "Love Song" by offering chapter and plot critiques and helping to proofread pre-publication copies. The also interviewed Sophia for The Guardian website - you can read their interview here.
From geography field trips to Lulworth Cove to the Good Food Show in Birmingham, the Senior School offers a wide variety of curriculum based day trips. Modern Foreign Language trips are very popular with girls travelling to France, Germany, Salamanca and Santander. The Concert Band, Orchestra and Choir tour often with the most recent Orchestra tour to Belgium.
Lower V to Upper VI girls have the opportunity to go on a cultural tip to an unusual destination. Previous destinations have included Costa Rica, Iceland, Uganda and recently, Vietnam and Antigua. Trips for the future include Slovenia and Ecuador. These trips provide a fantastic experience for the girls, immersing themselves in new cultures and making new friends.