Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 7th May 2021

Dear Parents,

Last week many of the boys, my colleagues and I enjoyed a rather tasty beef lunch. ‘So what?’, I hear you cry (and special apologies to the non-meat eaters out there). Well, the reason I bring it up is because it was the result of one of the more unusual – yet still generous – gifts we have been given by an NCS alumnus. We are quite used to being gifted benches, or cups, by old boys. It is something quite different to receive a phone call out of the blue one day, to be told that one such old boy wishes to donate a topside of beef. Never ones to look a gift horse (cow?) in the mouth, we were very happy to go along with that alum’s wishes. It came, I fear, from his time at the school a few decades ago when perhaps the roasts weren’t quite up to scratch. We have accounts of lunches from the early twentieth century (way before this particular alum’s time, I should add) when the Headmaster’s wife would serve salt beef alongside soup made from the water in which the beef was boiled; or when the Headmaster sent a piece of over-cooked liver flying across the room as he stabbed it too hard; or the boys flicked food off their plates into their handkerchiefs, so it could be disposed of in the River Cherwell a bit later. In the 1890s the boys went so far as to keep envelopes in their blazer pockets in which to deposit inedible food. None of that is necessary today, I’m pleased to say.

Anyway, this newsletter isn’t really about beef. It is about our wider community, our alumni, leavers, their successes and their generosity. The beef lunch came just days after the band Low Island, three of whom are NCS alumni, had their first album – self-produced and independently released – reach no. 15 in the charts. Which itself came just as we were hearing from a good number of old boys, some of whom are now rather starry, wishing to play for our virtual Wykeham Day concert. (If there is one benefit to having more things online these days, it is that very busy people who live rather far away can still contribute to, and enjoy, our events.) In just a couple of months we will have another generation of NCS old boys, heading off to their senior schools and taking with them a lot of happy memories, knowledge and skills to prepare them for the future lives. Before then, they have the rites of passage that prep schools provide, some of which might seem inconsequential to the uninformed eye, but which actually mean a lot to the boys and their families. Last year’s generation of leavers had their departure from the school disrupted by Covid, but we were able to get them back towards the end of Trinity for some cricket on field, and an open-air short ceremony when I handed out their leavers’ ties. Despite all of the disruption and ad hoc nature of so many things at that time, you could tell from the boys’ faces just what a momentous moment it was. Not quite ‘goodbye’, but a recognition of an important transition, and one which comes at just the right moment in prep schools.

Viking shields in Yr 4 Greats; Examining fossils in museum activities; Modelling microbes in Year 5 Science; Hatching the chicks in Pre-Prep

It was especially interesting, then, to read (with just a hint of confirmation bias) about Sandra Leaton Gray’s recent Moving Up report and its conclusion that Covid bubbles had actually – accidentally – been good for the younger students in 11-18 schools. This was because ‘they were shielded from older pupils’ at a time when ‘very young pupils are thrown together with a large number of older pupils immediately upon arrival in September’ – ‘It potentially makes behaviour management more difficult within schools, as younger pupils learn bad habits from older ones and younger pupils are afraid of being bullied … The large size of the buildings causes a great deal of stress to some younger pupils as they are genuinely fearful of becoming lost or disoriented and worried’. Keeping those pupils away from their older peers ‘can then free up children’s cognitive energies for enhanced learning and better-quality social engagement’. Which is why, for centuries, prep schools have finished at the end of Year 8, when pupils are older, wiser and more comfortable in their own skin, ready to make the transition to secondary school.

Break-time play

We are remaining vigilant and flexible to see what June and July will bring for us all, and for our current generation of leavers. We are hopeful that there will be plenty of experiences and events that create happy memories for them, while remaining aware that we are at the mercy of DfE regulations, government guidelines, and keeping everyone as happy and healthy as we can. Before then, we have a few more weeks of ‘normal’ school (whatever that means these days), with some ‘normal’ work, revision, and assessments coming up. It can’t all be cricket.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

We will have our class photos next Monday, 10 May, so please could those boys who would normally arrive in games kit on a Monday wear school uniform? They will then have a chance to change, in their year group bubbles, later in the day. Many thanks.

From Mr Bishop: Finally! We have something on which to report the sports fields. I know all of the boys here at NCS have been looking forward to this moment and through their hard work and dedication in their training sessions and lessons they are more than ready! The U9s had the honour of re-starting our fixtures programme with a brilliant first game against local rivals MCS. In the three games, the 20 boys of Year 4 demonstrated a very impressive understanding of the game and an equally impressive level of skill. The batting in all three teams was particularly good with every boy able to strike the ball well to score runs. In the field we were dynamic and quick to prevent our opponents from scoring too heavily with good ground work and sharp throws. The highlight of the afternoon was the A team fixture in which Xander top scored with 25 not out from his 2 overs which, as you can see, is a rather impressive scoring rate. The boys executed 3 run outs along the way to recording a 12-run win with the final over being crucial, in which Tristan and Thomas ran 8 singles to secure the win. A special mention must also go to Dominic in the B team and to Eugene in the C team for their performances. Top work, boys, and we can’t wait for next week when the U11, U10, U9 and U8s are all in action! Away from the cricket pitch there has been some pleasing news in other sports. Firstly William in Year 8 competed in the English School Cross Country Championships over the Easter break and I’ve recently had the results through. William finished in 153rd place in the national event out of over 650 athletes and in Oxfordshire he was the third quickest runner. Huge congratulations to William. On the hockey pitch Max J from Year 6 has been invited to attend the U13 Oxfordshire development centre. This is a great achievement and Max has been working extremely hard at his club, Oxford Hawks, and really deserves this opportunity to develop his skills and hopefully be even more devastating for the NCS teams next season.

Some good news regarding fixtures: NCS parents (members of the boys’ household bubbles) are now permitted to attend our cricket fixtures on site, so long as they remain outside, maintain social distancing, and follow all of the normal guidance and regulations in operation during Covid.

From Mr Moyse (ECF Level 2 Chess Coach): If your child enjoys or has enjoyed coming along to a chess club at school, I suggest you encourage them to play online and am writing to inform you about a platform called ChessKid – a safe chess environment for kids. There are several exciting activities for budding chess players including tournaments of varying types and it is an ideal place in which to enhance one’s chess abilities. https://www.chesskid.com/ The first UK National Championships will be held on 5 June. This will be a huge event and it is advisable to enter early. This is a very impressive event and I advise everyone to enter before it fills up. The tournament is in age group sections denoted by K and in each section, there are loads of prizes. You do not need a chess kid account to play in this event as one will be provided. https://www.chesskid.com/article/view/coming-soon-chesskid-uk-championship. The entry fee for this event is £35. There are no further entries after 31 May, however if you enter before 24 May the entry fee is £25. You can get a further £5 discount by entering the code UKWillmoth. You can enter the event via https://www.events4chess.com/events/?event_ID=1373. Please could you let Mr Moyse know if you have entered. Please also contact him if you have any questions regarding chess. nigel.moyse@gmail.com

Forthcoming Events

Monday, 10 May 2021

9.00 Class Group photos

10.30 Year 7 workshop with Royal Observatory in Science lesson (Zoom)

19.00 NCSPA Meeting

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

8.30 Eco Committee Meeting

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: Mr Stephen Jones, Warden, St Edward's

Thursday, 13 May 2021

10.30 Year 5 workshop with Royal Observatory in Science lesson (Zoom)

Monday, 17 May 2021

This week: Abingdon Music Scholarship auditions

National Walk to School Week

Incredible Eggs (delivery for Science lab)

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: Mr Robert Quinney, Organist, New College

13.00 Charity Committee Meeting (Assembly Rehearsal)

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