Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 13th March 2020

Dear Parents,

‘Do you often come across people for whom, all their lives, a “subject” remains a “subject”, divided by watertight bulkheads from all other “subjects”, so that they experience very great difficulty in making an immediate mental connection between let us say, algebra and detective fiction, sewage disposal and the price of salmon – or, more generally, between such spheres of knowledge as philosophy and economics, or chemistry and art?’

Dorothy L. Sayers would clearly have approved of the activities that have been going on at NCS this week, as part of our SHTEAM (Sean Connery saying ‘steam’) Festival. We firmly believe in celebrating interdisciplinarity here, making sure the boys do not treat their subjects as standalone and compartmentalised – there are plenty of skills and a great deal of knowledge that can be transferred between them. This can be difficult to remember when traipsing from subject A to subject B to subject C, so it is great to have established in our calendar a week-long festival that celebrates all disciplines and the connections we can see between them.

The NCS SHTEAM Festival
Judo Championships; visit to the Natural History Museum; Pre-Prep orchestra; Ducklings in the lab

Taking our theme to be ‘sound and noise’ this year, it was an especial privilege to begin our festival with Professor Judith Weir, Master of the Queen’s Music, giving this year’s Holloway Lecture. We barely stopped for breath for the remainder of the week, with the boys involved in a remarkable number of activities and workshops, both inside and outside lessons. It would be difficult to list them all, but highlights included: dance and movement workshops based around human reactions to noise and sound; Skype masterclasses with the Hollywood composer David Norland in his LA studio; ‘Sound of Science’ shows presented by Science Oxford; ‘Super senses’ workshops for pre-prep; talks on animal communication by Mrs Williams and Professor Tommaso Pizzari, respectively; music production workshops, focusing especially on Steve Reich’s pendulum music; an ultrasound simulator with Dr Nik Sabharwal; a visit from the ‘School of Noise’; and assembly and chapel talks all based around the theme. Within lessons, too, the theme of noise and sound was embedded into the boys’ day-to-day learning. Where else do you get to learn about Daft Punk in French lessons? The boys have also been working on an enormous sound-inspired piece of ‘public art’ which we will be displaying as soon as we can. Enormous thanks to all those who contributed so much to the festival, and especially to Miss Krebs who coordinated the overall timetable.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

Person of the Week: Professor Judith Weir

Artwork of the Week: ‘The Sound of Silence’ by Simon and Garfunkel

Word of the Week: cacophony

Sport. I am happy to report we have still been playing some top quality hockey this week. The U11 A&B teams spent Wednesday afternoon at the Dragon U11 hockey festival and both teams had a fabulous time. The B team recorded some excellent results including a 0-0 draw against St Hugh’s A team and a cracking 2-0 win over Dragon Cs. Rishaan and Max deserve special mention as they both played extremely well and were instrumental in our attacking play with good passing and strong skills on the ball. However Albie was player of the day thanks to his excellent and quite often brave defending at right back. Well done all.

In the A team the boys played some excellent hockey and were the highest goal scorers of the day. However in a reversal of the previous encounter we suffered a 2-1 defeat to MCS on the final whistle of the match and those two points dropped meant we finished in third place overall. It was still a wonderful afternoon of hockey and a brilliant result as we scored eleven goals in total. The whole team played very well and I am pleased to give Didrik a special mention as he stepped into the team at the last minute and was superb. Again credit must be given to Timon for leading his team so well both on and off the pitch.

Finally this week we had boys competing outside of school in a variety of sports, but again on the hockey pitch the Oxfordshire club county championships took place of the weekend and two NCS boys took part. Firstly Max represented Oxford Hockey Club in the U10s and they were crowned County Champions thanks to their three wins out of three on Sunday. Timon, who represented Oxford Hawks in the U12 category, was also a member of the winning team and is another NCS county Champ’.

Away from the hockey pitch we had four representatives in the annual IAPS National Judo Championships on Saturday. Ethan, Josh, Patrick and Luca all gave a brilliant account of themselves and made the school proud. In particular Ethan managed to win a bronze medal and Patrick went one better and bagged a silver. To have members of the NCS judo team achieving such high honours is a fantastic achievement and we are all very proud of them.

Here are Patrick’s thoughts on his day:

'On March 7th I went to the IAPS Judo competition. I arrived at 8.05am and weighed myself in, I then went to the stands to watch Luca fight before. At 11.50 I was called to the waiting area on the other side of the hall. In my first fight after 30 seconds I was 7 points down and I was thinking I had already gone out! I then came back and won with a 10 point score and was incredibly relieved! In my second fight I won quite quickly and threw him for another 10 point score. I was in the final and this was an extremely hard fight, I was the only person all day to take points of this athlete but in the end I lost. I was very happy with achievements and in particular my silver medal!' CB

Playground. We have been informed that the archaeologists will, after all, need to extend their investigations before building can commence in the summer. This will mainly be done over the Easter vacation so as to minimise disruption to the boys’ play. There will need to be preparation works though, and it is likely that the dig will run into the first week of next term. As the archaeologists need to look under the ‘old’ playground area, this space will be cordoned off the week before and the week after the Easter vacation (a total of five full schooldays when the boys are here). During this time we will press the gym into greater use during breaktimes, which is the long-term plan anyway. It will be open for general milling and small games before and after school, while there will be a rota for the boys to use the gym as an extra football pitch at lunchtimes. We already use the gym for Years 3 and 4 during morning break. As we will inevitably need to ‘breathe in’ a little, compared to usual, I recommend that parents take their boys home at 15.45 during this period if they are not staying for activities or choir. I am also told the hoarding will be slightly lower (preparations for which begin tomorrow), so provision is being made for the return and replacement of lost footballs!

You may be interested to hear that NCS features in the most recent ‘The Week’ Schools Guide under the category ‘great for music’. Alongside the school’s musical culture (‘Boys don’t need to be musical to join the school but they probably will be by the time they leave’) the guide picked out the school’s ‘legendary’ drama productions. Which is nice.

Tracksuits. I trust that the new sports kit regimen is working well for parents. Could we please ask that boys wear the school tracksuits instead of alternatives, as fashionable as they may be? Many thanks.

Parents’ evenings. Please find below a few dates for your diary. Unless otherwise stated, parents’ evenings begin at 18.00, though a few colleagues are usually available a little earlier if you would like to make a head start. Please arrive as early as practicable, and no later than 19.00, so we can finish the evenings by 20.00. If you have any issues that you think would require longer discussion than possible in a five-ish minute meeting, especially with form tutors, please do book a separate appointment.

18 March – Year 5

29 April – Music Teachers

Coronavirus. We continue to monitor the university’s website which advises on risks and precautions concerning coronavirus (and we request parents to follow the travel advice therein): http://www.ox.ac.uk/news-and-events/coronavirus-advice and the government advice for educational settings: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19. We are also taking advice, when appropriate, from Public Health England. We continue to remind the boys of the basic precautions to take to avoid spreading infections, including washing hands regularly and thoroughly, especially before eating. My colleagues are also working on resources and methods to keep the boys occupied should the school need to close in the near future. Depending on the age group, we will be using Parentmail, teachers’ institutional email addresses, the VLE, and work-packs, to enable the boys to continue learning at home. We are reviewing events and trips as the situation develops, so many thanks for your patience as we navigate these unprecedented and tricky waters.

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