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Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 21st May 2021

Dear Parents,

Over the next few weeks the boys in the prep school will be sitting some end-of-year assessments. As Miss Krebs’s Parentmail outlined a few weeks ago, these assessments build in quantity and gravity as the boys progress through the school from Year 3 to Year 8; and, of course, we have taken into account that we have had a slightly unusual school year. As the word ‘preparatory’ suggests in prep schools, a large part of what we are doing here is preparing the boys for their senior schools, university life, and beyond. Whether we like it or not, the boys will be sitting quite a lot of assessments – including some very serious ones –as they hit their teenage years and adulthood. So it really is incumbent on us to get them used to what it looks and feels like, starting in a benign and safe environment, so that when the more consequential assessments come along, they do not come as a surprise, and the boys can do as well as they possibly can. It is also important for us, of course, to continue taking snapshots of the boys’ progress as they progress through the school. Summative end-of-year assessments are by no means the only way to do that, but they are one key tool in our monitoring of the boys’ learning – and they are really quite similar to the kinds of things the boys will need to do as they sit pre-tests and then transition to their senior schools, before the joys of GCSEs (if they are still around by then), A-Levels, degrees, and so on.

At the start of term I gave a Wellbeing talk via Zoom to Years 6-8, the point at which assessments are getting a little more consequential. This was titled ‘How to Prepare for Assessments While Staying Happy and Healthy’. We could have just stopped at the word ‘assessments’, which quite a lot of schools do, but it really is crucial that we get the boys’ attitude towards assessments correct. I talked about the importance of routines, timings, self-care, while also giving some concrete examples of how one can revise as one gets older. Perhaps I am still scarred from my first few weeks at senior school, when we were told that we were going to be given a test on what seemed like an endless number of invertebrate species, but there was a sum total of zero advice on how one might learn them. I had heard that you can learn by putting the information on small pieces of paper under everyday objects, so when you picked up those objects you would see the information and by some miraculous osmosis it would go into your memory. This was perhaps all very well until, as I did, you put the pieces of paper under objects that you never actually picked up, so all it did was leave scraps of paper with key information about molluscs to be discovered months later during a spring clean. The important thing is that I’m over it; I still know very little about invertebrates.

Planning and building race cars in DT; Hatching chicks in the lab; talk on fossils with Dr Bobe; Trial of a highwayman in English

Assessments should be taken seriously, especially as the boys get older, but they should not become a source of worry, panic, or all the other negative potential effects that only serve to close down the mind and undermine the boys’ ability to show what they can really do. Like most things in life, this is easier said than done, but by instilling the right approach from a young age, we can go some way to getting it right for the boys. In my previous incarnation at NCS, I spent many many hours invigilating Year 8 exams – in the old days Common Entrance and now the much-enhanced PSB papers – and I was often heartened by how well the boys took those Year 8 papers in their stride, because there were no surprises, they had had plenty of practice, and they were able to show what they knew, and what they could do, before heading off happily to their senior schools. As above, the key thing is to allow the boys to progress, and to make the missteps from which they learn, in a safe and benign environment, which is precisely what prep schools provide. When you look at senior schools’ exam results in those seemingly much-loved but deeply flawed league tables, then, it is worth remembering the plucky little prep schools who helped put them there by putting in the careful groundwork.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

From Mr Bishop: Once again we have been extremely lucky with the timings of our fixtures this week. We have managed, for the most part, to avoid the downpours and to complete some extremely entertaining games of cricket. Firstly the U9s completed two brilliant games away at The Dragon with the honours even as both schools managed to win a game. In the A team game we lost the toss and we were put into the field by our hosts. A very pleasing performance in the field saw Alexander C-B the pick of the bowlers as he posted figures of 6-1 from his overs. The boys were athletic and determined in the field as they stopped a number of well-struck shots from reaching the boundary. However on this occasion the batting did not quite match the bowling and we fell short of our target of 72 by just 16 runs. Despite our captain, Xander, hitting a brilliant unbeaten 38 runs from 12 balls it was not quite enough and we now look forward to Summer Fields visiting next week. In the B team game we had stand-out performances from Alexander M and Laurence P-A with the ball; both boys bowled with good control to restrict the flow of runs and take wickets at the crucial time at the end of The Dragon’s innings. This meant that NCS emerged the winners by a close but decisive 8 runs!

On Wednesday the U10 and U11 teams faced MCS in two games that promised to very competitive. Away on the Merton fields the U11 team were chasing quite a formidable total but one that Mr Bradley thought achievable. Despite the once again unhealthy number of extras bowled we were sharp in the field, in particular Max B held on to two great catches. This good work meant we had a chance once it was our turn to bat. However with the bat we failed to hit the ball with enough power and we gave away too many unnecessary wickets. At the stumps we fell short of the target by thirty runs and slipped to a defeat that, with a little more discipline, could easily have been a win. Hopefully a couple of good net sessions in training will rectify these errors and the boys can enjoy some more cricket after half term. In the U10s game I was lucky enough to umpire a very exciting match. NCS bowled first and restricted MCS to 72 runs from their 20 overs. Henry W and Jai P were the pick of the bowlers, taking a wicket each, but both being very economical and only giving away 16 runs between them. With the bat the scores were close right up until the end of the twelfth over. Once George W, Jacob W, Mark M and Alexander R came into bat the score really accelerated along with all four boys ending up in double figures and the NCS score ending up on 115 and a really healthy winning margin. Well done, Year 5!

Mr Bradley and Miss Rose have launched a short survey regarding activities, so we can take into account a variety of views as we plan our activities programme for the coming months. The survey can be accessed at the following link; the deadline is Friday 28 May. https://forms.office.com/r/33XFLfcNKL

From Mrs Showell-Rogers: Thank you very much for buying tea towels to support last term's fundraiser for WWF; the boys managed to raise £385! Well done. Charity Week has once again rolled around, this term in aid of Juvenile Idopathic Arthritis (JIA). All money raised will go to the JIA branch of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) who provide information and support services to those affected by this condition. We have a special treat in store for the boys to help them with their fundraising - a magician will be visiting next Wednesday 26 May. The well-regarded Inner Magic Circle magician, Paul Megram will be charming boys with a few of his tricks. Learn more about Paul at www.paulmegram.com and https://magiccastle.co.uk/. Alongside this, boys will have a chance to participate in a bowling competition during morning breaks, buy popcorn for the magic show and wear home clothes (purple theme) on Friday. As usual, we will have our daily bake sale. Prices: Cakes + popcorn - 50p; Bowling competition - 50p; Home Clothes Day - £2. Please send in cakes from Monday and for home baked cakes, please label with date for quarantining purposes. Further information on how the NRAS use donations can be found here. Please consider making a donation through our Just Giving webpage. For further reading on JIA, a booklet on identification and management of is attached to this newsletter.

At the end of this academic year we will say goodbye to one of our VMTs, Mr Rob Howarth, who has given excellent service during his time at NCS. In his stead, we will be welcoming Mr Alex Hughes, who currently teaches piano at Brighton College, Bloxham, and Warwick School. Mr Hughes studied at the Royal Northern College of Music, before beginning his career as musician-in-residence at Christ’s Hospital. I am sure he will be made very welcome as he joins us at NCS in September.

I have had a series of positive meetings over the past couple of weeks regarding the possibility of holding some outdoor end-of-term events in person. Naturally, we will be conforming to government guidelines at any given time, and keeping a close eye on the public health situation nationally and locally. We are aware that any plans may very well need to change at short notice, and also that there may be a degree of anxiety regarding any return to in-person socialising. All of these factors will go into our planning. We probably won’t be able to have our normal full end-of-year programme, but a cautious and judicious return to something resembling normality will be welcomed by many, and we are also especially keen to make the final few weeks of term as special as we can for our leavers. For the moment, please pencil into your diaries the following dates: drinks in New College cloisters (Tuesday 22 June, 18.00-20.00); school fete on field (Saturday 3 July, 12.00-15.00); pre-prep sports day on field (18 June, c.9.30-12 followed by picnic); prep sports day at the University running track on Iffley Road (Tuesday 6 July, c.11-15.00).

Next weekend Winchester College is hosting a 24-hour live streamed concert, featuring NCS alumni, from 14.00 Saturday to 14.00 Sunday. More information can be found at 24 Hour Charity Music Festival (winchestercollege.org) and the link is at WinColl 24 Hour Music | Linktree.

Forthcoming Events

Monday, 24 May 2021

Charity Week

Pre-Prep Reviews start; Years 3 & 4 in-class assessments start

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Orders in Years 3-8 issued

9.00 Chapel (no Years 3-4). Speaker: The Chaplain

Thursday, 27 May 2021

9.45 Year 5 to Natural History museum for Science workshop (return 11.45)

Friday, 28 May 2021

Home Clothes Day

9.45 Year 6 to Natural History museum for Science workshop (return 11.45)

Pre-Prep QED Day

Saturday, 29 May 2021

Start of Half Term

Monday, 7 June 2021

Return from Half-Term

Years 5 – 8 Assessment Week

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Deadline for ABRSM Online Performance Grade exam entries (for examination in July)

9.00 Chapel (no Years 5-8). Speaker: The Chaplain

Friday, 11 June 2021

17.00 Year 8 Leavers' Activities

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Chorister open day

Virtual Open Morning 10.00-12.00

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