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Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 4th December 2020

Dear Parents,

One of the many charms of NCS pupils is their natural garrulousness: their willingness to chat happily to peers, teachers, and – when we aren’t having to use a bubble system – other pupils whether younger or older. When we have mock interviews in preparation for future schools at 13+ it is always a joy to hear about the boys’ interests, likes and dislikes, and views on the news whether close to home or in the wider world. This week we have been thinking a lot about the importance of talking, firstly through Miss Rose’s assembly on knowing to whom we can talk if we are worried, and secondly through Mr Cui’s on the anniversary of NATO in the context of combating cybercrime. Countries need to talk to one another, just as people do.

Investigating burning in Year 7 Science; House matches: Pre-Prep nativity rehearsals: Language Ambassadors lesson; Drawing in activities

We have been witnessing a very welcome cultural shift in the UK over the past couple of decades, away from the ‘stiff upper lip’ towards an understanding that talking through one’s thoughts and concerns is important, no matter who you are. The former was compounded in schools for generations by the concept of the ‘snitch’ – that one had to suffer in silence for fear of being called one. I am pleased to say that such things are loosening as time progresses and, while every institution needs to keep working on its openness and transparency, it can only be a good thing that we are all aware that unpleasant behaviour is perpetuated by silent complicity. And that, more widely, there is an appreciation that problems are best solved when they are articulated and worked through together. The power of positive conversation should not be underestimated, in the same way that the boys should be taught that negative conversation, whinging and carping, is corrosive to the mental health of all those involved in such conversation, and rarely actually achieves anything.

Artwork by Year 6: Josh, Dan, Didrik

As I write this, the boys are outside chatting happily. The secondary glazing in the study windows prevents me from hearing precisely what it’s about – which is probably a good thing – but the cheerfulness of their interactions is palpable. I am not naïve enough to think that this is always the case, and it is part of the human condition to experience anxieties and unhappiness at different times. The key thing is to make sure that we keep the boys talking – whether it be in wellbeing lessons, form time, or just more generally (I’m sure my colleagues would like me to say that there might be times in lessons, say, when it’s perhaps a little less appropriate to be quite so talkative) – to make sure that those things aren’t bottled up.

Have a great weekend, full of happy positive conversations,

Matt Jenkinson

Person of the Week: James Baldwin (1924-87)

Artwork of the Week: ‘Self-Portrait in a Red Dress’ by Frida Kahlo

Word of the Week: impeccable

Well done to Isaac in Year 3 for being runner up in this year’s National Literacy Trust Christmas Card Competition. There were over 540 entries, so Isaac did especially well, and he has won a set of books for the school. His design is available to order online at: https://makingadifference.cards/supporting/national-literacy-trust/with/christmas-cards-and-ecards-1#charity

Well done, too, to Hugo in Year 4 for winning first prize in the 7-11 age group in the Oxfordshire Poetry Library Competition, based on The Lost Words, a collection of nature-inspired poems by Robert MacFarlane and illustrated by Jackie Morris. The competition was judged by MacFarlane himself and he was impressed by Hugo’s beautifully written and illustrated poem about the Red Kite. Hugo has won signed copies of The Lost Words and its sequel, The Lost Spells. And, if that weren’t enough, well done to Jack in Year 4 as well, who was a runner up in the same competition!

The choristers did a fantastic job singing in last weekend’s Advent services – which have, in the space of a week, had 7k views on YouTube. They will be back in their cassocks on Saturday and Sunday evenings this weekend, for what promise to be two very special carol services. Do tune in at 17.45 each day: Saturday https://youtu.be/XFxkhEmRFps and Sunday https://youtu.be/XFxkhEmRFps

From the library: please could all library books be returned or renewed before the end of term? There are still a large number of books (especially in the science and senior fiction areas) that need to be returned. It would be much appreciated – especially by those frustrated by the absence of these books – if boys could search around at home, in changing rooms and form-rooms. There is a book amnesty for all!

Please also find attached to this Parentmail Mrs Hess’s annual Christmas library quiz. Chocolate Santas are waiting in the wings for winning entries! Please return completed quizzes to elizabeth.hess@newcollegeschool.org, or to her directly in the library, by the end of the first week back in Hilary.

Oxfordshire Book Awards: NCS has been closely involved with the OBA for the past few years and this year was no exception. Pre-Prep in particular read all the picture books and voted on their favourite. Sadly this year it was not possibly to have a “normal” awards ceremony so the committee created a virtual ceremony. Boys and staff were engaged with reading through a long-list to create the short list for the primary novels. It might be an interesting project for some families to embark on over the holidays and it has the advantage of expanding the boys’ reading repertoire! https://www.oxfordshirebookawards.com

From the chaplain: Christmas will not be a the same for most of us this year, but it will be especially challenging for families that are struggling to make ends meet. The chapel is organising a gift collection for the Salvation Army for local children and teenagers. See below for advice on items to donate. If you can’t purchase something, many local charities welcome donations toward their Christmas appeals or through Amazon wishlists such as Crisis and the Gatehouse, both local homelessness charities. The Salvation Army recommends buying dolls and action figures, Lego, science kits, art supplies and craft kits, puzzles and games for children, and for teenagers, make-up, books, accessory, gloves, scarves, hats. Here is a more detailed list https://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/christmas-present-appeal and their Amazon wish list if you don’t have any ideas: https://www.amazon.co.uk/hz/wishlist/ls/2PEPHON8EQ8CZ/ref=hz_ls_biz_ex Tiger is a great place for small, affordable gifts. Please don’t wrap gifts. Donations can be dropped off, via your sons, at the school office by Wednesday 9 December. Many thanks.

Snow (or other extreme weather): In the event of an overnight snowfall or other extreme winter weather, we usually remain open because we have a number of staff who live very locally. But please do not feel that simply because we are open you have to make dangerous efforts to get here if road conditions are problematic. An update on weather conditions here will be sent by Parentmail on any such mornings.

The following plans are in place for the final week of Michaelmas. There will be ‘quarantine’ boxes for Christmas cards in pre-prep and in the entrance lobby of the prep school; cards will be distributed after the appropriate ‘quarantine’ period!

Wednesday 9 December

Crackers to be available in form rooms for form time

Christmas sweater day! £2 each to go to Save the Children

9.50-10.30: Form Time with NCSPA-provided fun

Christmas lunch

Friday 11 December

8.30-9.00 End of Term Assembly

9.00-10.10 Christmas entertainments provided by NCSPA/tidying form rooms

10.10 Break

10.30 Continuation of Christmas entertainments

11.00 Watch Virtual Carol Service in form rooms

Departures begin:

Pre-Prep gate: 11.30 Reception; 11.40 Year 1; 11.50 Year 2

Prep gate: 12.00 Years 7-8; 12.10 Years 5-6; 12.20 Years 3-4

Forthcoming Events

Monday, 7 December 2020

No after school activities in the last week of term

9.00 Flu Immunisations: Rec - Year 7

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Form Period: reports discussed and issued

Christmas Lunch

Friday, 11 December 2020

See above

End of Term 12.00 noon

Monday, 4 January 2021

Staff INSET

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Staff INSET

9.30-11.00 Pre-season hockey training (Years 3-4)

11.30-13.00 Pre-season hockey training (Years 5-6)

14.00-15.30 Pre-season hockey training (Years 7-8)

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Start of Term

After School Activities Start

10.00 School Service, New College Chapel

Speaker: The Headmaster

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