Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 13th september 2019
The second week of term has a peculiar quality to it, as the ‘newness’ of things wears off, introductions are pretty much done, and we all start to settle down to day-to-day school life. It is one of the challenges in any role, especially in education, that the day-to-day does not become mundane, but maintains the right balance between stability and excitement. Luckily for me, my colleagues are experts in striking such a balance and NCS boys are so good at responding positively to it.
Many thanks to all of you who took part in our community survey at the end of last term, suggesting three things you’d like kept the same at NCS, and three areas you’d like to see developed. This process generated around 160 responses, representing all NCS constituencies, which in turn produced almost 500 suggestions for each side of the survey. The only advantage to all the travel delays I experienced over the summer was that I had plenty of time in departure lounges to read through and process the results. (There are only so many times you can walk around the shops at Dallas Love Field airport.) I’m pleased to say that the responses were overwhelmingly positive, while offering valuable feedback in how we can make the boys’ – and your – experience at NCS even better.
My colleagues and I are in the process of working on the suggestions and decanting them into our development plan. We are beginning with the highest-frequency themes, but there were also many valuable ‘one-off’ suggestions, so do bear with us as we work through the list. Overall, though, as I say it was a heartwarming experience to read such positive responses. Two comments especially stood out. The first was from a pupil, asking us to ‘keep the school such an enjoyable and welcoming place’; the second was from a parent, noting that NCS ‘breeds happy little gentlemen with a sense of kindness and camaraderie – what else could a parent wish for?’. If you have visited www.newcollegeschool.org recently you will have noticed that this quotation now has pride of place on the homepage – I can’t think of a better way of encompassing what we do here.
Also inspired by the survey, we have slightly rejigged our morning assemblies. Every Monday I will now present a ‘start the week’ session, wherein we talk about what is happening in school and the wider world in the coming seven days. I will also introduce the boys to a ‘person of the week’, ‘artwork of the week’ and ‘word of the week’. By doing all this, we hope to hone the boys’ sense of their place in the world, while broadening their cultural horizons and extending their vocabulary. (This week’s were Toni Morrison, Edward Hopper’s ‘Long Leg’ and ‘germane’.) On Tuesdays, we will focus on a particular pastoral theme, working our way through the ‘wellbeing grid’ that you will find in the boys’ form rooms. On other days we will mark anniversaries or explore my colleagues’ personal passions, as we have always done. This week, we have also been taking the opportunity first thing in the morning to work on our personal targets (academic, pastoral, whatever), responding to a series of prompts to help us hone our thoughts and work out discrete and manageable ways in which we can all ‘be ourselves then a little bit better’.
Of course, the boys' characters should be honed and developed outside the classroom as well as inside it, so on Thursday Years 3 and 4 took advantage of the outdoor activities at Wittenham Clumps to get a bit muddy while bonding with their classmates and developing their self-confidence and teamwork skills. Huge thanks to my colleagues who accompanied the boys on this little excursion and helped to make the day such an enjoyable and valuable time for all.