Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 11th september 2020

Dear Parents,

A very warm welcome back to New College School, after what I hope has been a happy and restful summer. And an especially warm welcome to those of you who have just joined the NCS community – you are extremely welcome and I hope you and your sons have a very happy time here. I would like to be able to write that, after the dramatic end to Trinity, we are all returning to normality. Thankfully, many things will look and feel normal – having everyone back on site full time, in school uniform, with normal lessons, and so on. Obviously, as you will have seen from our return to school guide, some things have needed to be tweaked behind the scenes to conform to DfE guidance. Some things just can’t go back to normal yet, which is a shame, but we will do all we can to keep the boys settled and learning and enjoying as many extra opportunities as possible, within the DfE regulations which are designed to keep the boys and my colleagues as safe and happy as possible.

One key part of the guidance has the boys remaining in their year group ‘bubbles’ for a great deal of the time. While there is some latitude in the DfE’s guidelines, it makes sense for us to stay in those bubbles as much as possible, carefully risk assessing those occasions when it is pedagogically or socially important for us to combine individuals from different classes in a safe and appropriately distanced way. This goes somewhat against the ‘verticality’ that we value so much at NCS: that boys from different year groups get to socialise with one another and, often, become great friends. This measure is only temporary, but we will be careful to guard against any possible erosion to this sense of verticality and the very special feature of what is (I know I’m biased) our very special community.

It was that word ‘community’ that I focused on during our first virtual chapel on Wednesday. As I said to the boys, schools should be communities, not just grade machines. They are places to learn to coexist with one another, to help one another, and to sometimes put our own interests second to the needs of someone else. As a community we value the same things, otherwise we would not be here – such things as a passion for learning, for music and the arts, for sport, and so on. But communities do not just happen, nor survive without loyalty and hard work. We might all wear the same school uniform, for example, but if we do not put in considerable effort for the benefit of the community, then that community simply falls apart. At the centre of that effort, I reminded the boys, is how we treat one another.

Break time play; Microscopes in Year 7 Science; investigating the properties of living things in Year 3; fitness training in the new playground

The NCS code of conduct includes certain things like acting with courtesy and consideration towards others at all times; trying to see the other person’s point of view; making it possible for everyone to work in the correct atmosphere; behaving in an orderly manner; speaking and behaving politely to everyone; keeping the place tidy; respecting other boys’ work and property around the school; all focusing on the motto ‘manners makyth man’. I reassured the boys that the adults in our community also sign up to their own code of conduct, which includes such things as treating one another with dignity and respect; being aware of the effect that one’s own behaviour and activities can impact on others; setting a positive example to all colleagues; considering the language, attitudes and culture of others; and thinking before making personal comments to or about others. These codes are there to keep the community working together healthily, for one another; to keep us all safe and feeling safe so we can come to school being able to focus simply on the improvement of ourselves and others. By being very careful about how we speak to one another, and about one another, by focusing on the positive, we can scaffold one another’s lives in a happy and healthy community.

Thank you for being such a valuable member of that community and, even if parents can’t really cross the threshold as much as we are used to, you are still much appreciated and missed.

With all best wishes,

Matt Jenkinson

Social Distancing on Savile Road. As the first few days have progressed it has been great to see the new routines and arrangements becoming embedded. Thank you for social distancing as much as possible on Savile Road at drop-off and pick-up time. There are red markers on the hoarding all the way along Savile Road at 2m intervals to help with this. Please avoid congregating in groups and it would be great if parents could continue to take their sons as soon as they appear at the gate, to allow other parents with later time slots to arrive and wait more safely. Many thanks.

Start of Year Form Briefings etc.: we are very much looking forward to seeing you on Zoom next week for a series of form tutor briefings and, for certain year groups, an introduction to the prep school, sessions on 13+ destination schools, internet and phone safety, and the pre-senior baccalaureate. The links for next week’s meetings will be sent out via Parentmail on Monday.

  • Reception and Year 1 form tutor information evening Tuesday 15 September 18.00
  • Years 4-6 form tutor information evening, wellbeing (inc. internet/phone safety) and 13+ destinations briefing Tuesday 15 September 18.00
  • Years 2-3 form tutor information evening, and introduction to the prep school Wednesday 16 September 18.00
  • Years 7-8/8S form tutor information evening and PSB briefing Thursday 17 September 18.00

Congratulations to Miss Kate Lam and her now husband, Lee, who were married over the summer vacation.

Welcome to Mr Peter Cui who will be teaching Coding and Computing, as well as offering ICT support and contributing significantly to our Games and Activities provision. Mr Nick Hanson has kindly agreed to take on some extra Chorister Tutor duties. Professor Christiane Timmel, Fellow and Tutor in Chemistry at New College, is our newest addition to the school’s governing committee. She is someone who knows the school extremely well, having been a parent here for nine years, and I am sure she will make an enormously positive contribution to the school’s governance over the next few years.

Well done to George and Henry, who were awarded players of the season in their age groups at Stow Rugby Club for the 2019-20 season.

Site improvements. I appreciate that with DfE regulations being what they are, parents can’t get that close to the new playing surfaces in school. There has been constant building activity over the past nine weeks, as anyone who was working here over the summer will testify, but the results are magnificent: bi-fold doors in the side of the sports hall to make this facility a more flexible play space at break and lunchtimes; retractable netting to catch footballs (though the new five-a-side goals should encourage the boys to aim a little lower); a new artificial grass surface on the old playground, which we will be able to use for the next two terms until the construction of our new building begins in earnest; and a new rubberised surface in the front play space. Should there be events or occasions when parents are able to park on this latter surface (let’s see what the DfE guidance holds in the future …), we have been advised to minimise three-point-turns and use of power steering, to preserve the new surface.

NCSPA Chair/Co-Chair. After fantastic service to the NCSPA over recent years, our current chair and co-chair, Ann Millar and Rachel Hazard, are planning to step down over the course of this year. We are looking for parents who would be interested in taking on these roles, including a co-chair for this year who could take on the role of chair next academic year. If you are interested, please email office@newcollegeschool.org or ncspa@newcollegeschool.org and you will be put in touch with the relevant parties.

Reading in interesting places. Entries for this year’s competition should have been submitted (preferably by email; office@newcollegeschool.org) by Monday 7 September, but we are happy to extend that deadline for another week to Monday 14 September. We are also looking forward to reading about the boys’ exploits via their holiday diaries. Written, photographic or video diaries are all welcome. Please ask your sons to drop them into the school office or email them to office@newcollegeschool.org.

Allergies. A reminder at the start of the new school year that, due to a number of children with allergies, we request that nuts are not put in to school snack boxes, cakes etc.

The government has issued new legislation regarding Relationships and Sex Education, information about which in the context of NCS can be found at www.newcollegeschool.org/wellbeing-and-happiness. If you have any questions, do please contact brett.morrison@newcollegeschool.org.

A Note on Learning Enrichment from Mrs Showell-Rogers: I hope that the first few days have been a welcome relief not only for your sons but for you as well. I am writing to give you an update around how 1:1 and small group sessions will run in the Learning Enrichment and Counselling services. Learning Enrichment is thrilled to be able to resume sessions endeavours to provide academic and emotional support so children feel they can move towards accomplishing their best in their personal and academic lives. Support can take place in-class (assisting a teacher), in small groups, or as 1:1 sessions. Sometimes a set number of sessions will be enough to help a child on their way and for some children a weekly lesson (or two) indefinitely will develop essential skills alongside classroom learning. As the benefits of support take root, it is important that Mrs Showell-Rogers and Ms Parsons maintain regular contact with your sons.

To help with this, Mrs Showell-Rogers and Ms Parsons will continue to be present across school life – teaching activities, clubs, reasoning skills and assisting teachers and classes. They will continue to visit classrooms to maintain a presence and build relationships with your sons and 1:1 and small group lessons will resume over the next couple of weeks as boys settle into their classes. As usual, your son’s teacher would be in touch should it be felt that your son would benefit from 1:1 attention and has never received extra lessons before. Measures to reduce transmission in 1:1 and small group sessions include: a screen dividing pupil and teacher in the Learning Enrichment Room (located above the library); wearing face shields if a child needs direct assistance that breaks social distancing rules; hand sanitizing; regular disinfecting of surfaces; and use of larger, well ventilated spaces such as the gym and library whenever possible. Speech and language and other therapists are welcome to visit the school now as well when necessary, on condition they too are taking measures to reduce transmission.

A Note on the School Counselling Service from Ms Katia Houghton: Counselling went online along with the rest of the School in March, but we are now back in person and I wanted to update you on the adaptations we have put in place in order to reduce transmission. The current situation prohibits drop-in sessions, so boys will need to approach a member of staff or their parents if they would like to meet with me. The best way to contact me to set up a meeting, or to talk more about whether counselling might help, is by email or phone: katia.houghton@newcollegeschool.org, 07897 669113. A first session needs to be arranged at least a week in advance. Counselling creates an emotionally safe space for staff and boys to talk about (or express creatively) any matter of concern. Its pace and content are led by the client, and we may work together for just a few sessions or more long term. The therapeutic relationship built up through the regularity of meeting can be very stabilising.

To make that space safer physically we have also introduced the following measures. Social distancing and ventilation: we will be working at a social distance of at least 2 metres with a perspex screen between counsellor and client; the main door to the room remains open except during sessions, as does the window; an air purifier with True HEPA filter is running in the room; to avoid any cross-contamination during play therapy, each pupil will have their own individual box of resources and tissues. We may work collaboratively over separate iPads. Hygiene/disinfection measures: hands will be sanitised on entry and boys are in charge of collecting, opening and tidying away their own resources box; hard surfaces are wiped down between clients and the sofa is disinfected with fabric spray; waste is disposed of in the closed bin. Meetings with parents: these will be conducted via videocall or phone. Adapting to circumstances: if counsellor or client are required to be in isolation, the work may continue by videocall or phone; virtual sessions remain an option if face-to-face meetings are not possible for any other reason.

Forthcoming Events

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

18.00 Form tutor information evening, Reception & Year 1 (Zoom)

18.00 Form tutor information evening & 13+ destinations briefing, Years 4-6 (Zoom)

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

10.00 School Service. Speaker: The Revd Dr Erica Longfellow, School and College Chaplain

18.00 Form tutor information evening & introduction to the prep school, Years 2-3 (Zoom)

Thursday, 17 September 2020

18.00 Form tutor information evening & PSB briefing, Years 7-8/8S (Zoom)

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

8.50 Gamelan Music workshop, Year 6, Faculty of Music (all morning; back for lunch) (tbc)

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

10.00 School Service. Speaker: The Revd Professor William Whyte, Tutorial Fellow in History, St John's College

Friday, 25 September 2020

9.00 Portrait photos (sports hall)

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