This year at The Abbey, we have been celebrating creative arts throughout the school, exploring what happens when we harness the might of community to create art, drive culture, bridge diversity, change outlooks and take charge of our future. 

It takes a village to raise a child and a bold, liberal school such as The Abbey to enable a young girl’s dream to come to life. Behind every one of our Junior School child’s ambitions to master the harp, to sing their first solo or to take to the stage in dramatic performance, is an equally sparkling family – made up of dedicated teachers, tireless administrators and committed estates staff to offer an inspiring learning environment – all banding together to help put our spirited girls out into the world. Our close-knit staff body works hard each day to make happy memories with the young children in our care – a joyful testament to the power of community.

I first launched my career into education as a scientist, following a number of years leading global teams in the pharmaceutical industry. Since then, I have tried to be open about the meaning of my support network of friends, family and professional champions through the various job roles I have held. There have been individual icons who have influenced my thinking as a compassionate leader, a trusted teacher and a progressive educational lecturer. Fellow school Heads with whom I work have had an enormous influence on my thinking and sway on the direction of my travel. The privilege of inspecting numerous other schools similar to our own opens my eyes to developing our school with courage and care. More than anything, however, is my personal, all girls’ education which offered me a nurturing sisterhood, a mindset of possibility and an upbeat view of self belief – which is why I will always stand up for what we do.

In our line of work, we hold a unique privilege. We foster talents and share in a particular thrill as we catch children on the cusp of developing a love for learning something new. We witness countless moments, often leaving us speechless, of children growing in confidence and exceeding our every expectation. Our Junior School offers girls space to grow in rooms full of playfulness, lightness and humour. We offer a buoyant and powerful platform for them to inspire action, to raise meaningful questions, stoke dialogue and galvanise change, growing in strength as young female leaders. Which is what makes The Abbey Junior School’s short-listing for TES’s Independent Prep School of the Year – for a second year in a row, no less – so special. It reflects our desire to offer the very best Prep School experience in the land. It is a delightful, humbling acknowledgement of the power of our dedicated community and the impact we have on the children in our care.

This could not have been more poignantly highlighted than during the recent beautiful funeral service of a student who had not long passed through our doors. Isobel ‘Izzy’ Petersen attended The Abbey from Reception to Year 13 and was a good friend to my younger daughter. She will be remembered for her courage, her fierce independence, her resilience in the face of poor health and her fun-filled, creative mind. Tributes to Izzy reflected through speeches and conversations spoke of The Abbey Junior School’s influence which had developed these traits, enabling her to unfurl her wings and fly the nest towards a career-path which tapped all these strengths. The sheer physical presence of Junior School colleagues at the service celebrating her life, of former Abbey Heads upon whose shoulders I now stand and of the parents with whom I have kept a close personal tie was a devastatingly sad reminder of the power of our school community. The hymn we sang together was one which marks the start and end of each Junior School year; the words “One more step” a mixed source of both sadness and strength. 

So as the nation awaits the world’s largest (and perhaps slightly bonkers) annual Eurovision extravaganza this weekend, it may be worth reflecting upon where the aspirations of some of the endearingly eccentric audio-visual dreams began. And indeed, the generosity of the enormous community in Malmo who will be hosting the extraordinary event. More than anything, may we take a moment to be grateful and proud of the short life we share and to acknowledge the power of community and the creative arts to carry us through the harder times. 

In loving memory of Isobel Alice Petersen, June 2002 – March 2024

Nisha Kaura, Head of The Abbey Junior School