Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 2nd october 2020

Dear Parents,

Amidst the chaos and u-turns of results season this summer, it can be easy to forget one of the original injustices that attracted the ire of columnists and the Twitterati: that senior schools were going to be allowed to quietly drop poetry for a year, to recognise that the full GCSE curriculum would not have been covered in many schools due to lockdown. The hysteria was a little misplaced, arguably, as this was not – as some commentators portrayed it – a permanent junking of poetry from the school curriculum. (And, I think I’m right in saying, there’s been another volte face since then.) As someone who likes reading and writing about poetry, and who used to like teaching it, it did smart rather the implication that poetry would be the easiest thing to ditch. Surely it’s easier and quicker to cover poems than doorstop Victorian novels? In any case, I could point them to a very useful book if they wanted to learn independently how poems work.

We are thinking about poetry a lot this week because 1 October was National Poetry Day. Despite the DfE policy above, my sense is that poetry is actually on the ascendant, in many forms, across UK schools. You may have encountered Kate Clanchy, writer in residence at Oxford Spires, who has been publishing poetry from her school. Some of these poems were published in the national press mid-results debacle, as illustrations of times when Clanchy’s poets had been marked down by external moderators. It seems an odd thing to me anyway, marking poetry. I confess that in the days when I taught and assessed poetry, I shied away from putting a mark on the boys’ own poetry, preferring to give a grade for technical analysis, while leaving the boys’ emotions unmeasured. You will also be aware of Dr Gallagher’s passion for poetry, as illustrated in the poems of the week we have enjoyed, especially during lockdown when poems were a much-needed salve among the uncertainty of a pandemic. I would like to thank all of my colleagues who greeted National Poetry Day with such enthusiasm, and especially Mrs Hess for once again marking a literary festival with such imagination and commitment.

Investigating digestion in Year 8 Science; Reception and the Harvest Festival collection

Poetry will always have a place at the heart of learning at NCS. It is a pedagogue’s toolbox: using rhyme to aid memory; deploying economical language to convey larger passions; giving us a flavour of the styles of different time periods; reminding us that people’s worries and passions are timeless and they appear in poetry from, say, the fifteenth century as well as the nineteenth or twenty-first; honing our analytical skills; and, crucially, providing us with a great deal of enjoyment. It is easy to deride poetry as inaccessible, dry or irrelevant – especially if one has had a bad experience of being taught poetry at school. Generations of pupils – including our own – continue to demonstrate that this simply isn’t true, especially if they are guided in the right way.

Have a wonderful weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

Person of the Week: Confucius

Artwork of the Week: ‘Breakfast in Bed’ by Mary Cassatt

Word of the Week: foible

Well done to Luca in Year 7 who, throughout September, joined his dad, mum, sister, aunt, uncle and grandparents walking, cycling, swimming and running a total of 285.12 miles to raise funds for the British Red Cross Miles for Refugees campaign. That's the distance between Paris and London, only a fraction of some of the journeys refugees often cover. They raised an amazing £3115, thanks to the generosity of many family and friends, some from NCS. Thank you!

Our Virtual Open Morning is tomorrow, Saturday 3 October, at 9.30 onwards. Prospective parents are asked to register at https://www.newcollegeschool.org/open-days -- do please pass on this link if you know of any families who would be interested in joining our wonderful community. Those who sign up will have a chance to look at a special section on our website, with videos from Mrs Cox and myself, as well as some information about future developments at the school. There will then be an opportunity to speak to our SLT and Mrs McCusker via Zoom, and a Q and A with some current parents and pupils.

As the weather starts to take a turn, please could boys have a coat with them in school? With the need to keep indoor areas ventilated as well, the more layers we have available the better, and of course we want to keep the boys warm and dry when they are outside.

Speaking of community, many thanks to all those families who so generously donated goods to our Harvest Festival collection this Wednesday. After a period of quarantine, those goods will be donated to our local, most notably the Gatehouse and the Oxford Food Bank. Thanks, too, to all those parents who contributed to a positive and productive NCSPA meeting on Monday evening. As ever, if there are any concerns day-to-day do please feel free to get in touch, either via your son’s form tutor or office@newcollegeschool.org.

There is a new page on our website devoted to different ways people can support NCS, most notably through our Wykeham Bursary Fund. More information can be found at https://www.newcollegeschool.org/supporting-new-college-school

A reminder that if you click on the attachment below there is a letter that has been sent to all schools from the NHS to help parents identify Covid-19 (or non-Covid-19) symptoms, and to help them decide whether or not their child should get a test. https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/UKDFE/2020/09/23/file_attachments/1553140/23rd%20September%20-%20PHE%20letter%20to%20parents%20and%20guardians.pdf

Oxford Science Ideas Festival is online this year. I’m sure there is a lot that would be of interest to NCS families at https://if-oxford.com/events/

Forthcoming Events

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

10.00 School Service. Speaker: Dr Peggy Frith, Deputy Director of Clinical Studies, Oxford University Medical School

11.10 Year 5 Zoom Music Masterclass

18.00 Year 7 Parents' Evening

Sunday, 11 October 2020

University term starts

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