Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 20th March 2020

Dear Parents,

This was going to be a newsletter about College Day. It was going to be about being appreciative of the opportunities we enjoy and the responsibilities they bring. It was going to be about the privileges we enjoy in a school like NCS, with its medieval chapel and easy access, say, to Isaac Newton’s notebooks or (the boys’ favourite) College’s curly fries. But recent events have made us all re-evaluate what we appreciate, what opportunities we enjoy, as they are slowly – if temporarily – taken away.

As cliched as it may be to note that ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone’, it is worth reminding ourselves of the simple things in life that we are indeed privileged to enjoy. Privilege does not need to pertain to beautiful architecture, committed and talented peers, or generous resources. We are simply privileged to have access to loved ones, to be able to enjoy the company of family and friends at home or in public, to be able to attend a match or film. It is a privilege to be able to hug our parents and grandparents; for the boys to be read bedtime stories by them; to slowly doze off in front of the television together. And these experiences will, for many, need to be allayed over the next few months. It is an eventuality that none (or very, very few) of us could have foreseen just a little while ago.

Investigating static electricity; Preparing presentations on renewable energy sources; the Roman kiln; Pre-Prep play; 'Rice to the Challenge' assembly

But it is the new normal, and it is a normality to which we are quickly having to adjust. A school is built around its ritual year, but that ritual year has itself inevitably been put to one side as we rethink how we interact with one another for the safety and wellbeing of the greater community. But this period of rethinking need not be totally negative. We will have to Facetime and Skype more, yes, but we will also have to think more creatively about how we look after one another and ourselves. We will be forced to think more resourcefully, to take time off the conveyer belt and perhaps consider better ways of getting back on it. A lot of people will have a lot more time to themselves, a time perhaps for self-improvement in ways that were not previously thought possible, or for appreciation of those things we do normally have – even those little things that might not be with us for a while. Calm mutual support will get us through this; a school is a community, not just a collection of buildings. There will, of course, be many families for whom this period will be extraordinarily difficult, most notably those providing healthcare for the rest of us – many NCS families are in that category and, from the rest of us, can I please offer a heartfelt thanks.

Take care of yourselves and one another,

Matt Jenkinson

Person of the Week: Anna Atkins (1799-1871)

Artwork of the Week: ‘Mannish Boy’ by Muddy Waters (1913-83)

Word of the Week: filch

Covid-19. Obviously we have entered the next phase of the government managing the situation, which has led to the closure of school sites for all pupils except vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. (Please see my separate Parentmails about arrangements for these boys and please ensure they come to school with any remote learning materials they have already been sent.) This will be the case until further notice from the government. For those pupils still attending, please note that the school will run from 8.00am until 5.00pm. We continue to monitor the university’s website which advises on risks and precautions concerning coronavirus (and we request parents to follow the 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. We are reviewing everything day-by-day as the situation develops, so many thanks for your patience as we navigate these unprecedented and tricky waters.

You will hopefully have received a separate Parentmail (with attachments) outlining our remote learning provision. Depending on the age group, we will be using Parentmail, teachers’ institutional email addresses, Foldr, the VLE, Google Hangout/Meet (when appropriate), and work-packs, to enable the boys to continue learning at home. I would like to pay public tribute to my colleagues who have done such a phenomenal job getting materials together and preparing for the period ahead, while still keeping up their classroom teaching and activities.

You may not be a medic but if you want to help the local community in Oxford, then be part of Oxford Together - building a community response to coronavirus. If you’re healthy and low-risk you can be a community champion and help others across the city. Sign up now to help out! More than 1,600 people have already signed up to volunteer in different roles, and Oxford Hub is organising as fast as it can.

The Chaplain and Associate Chaplain have conceived an occasional blog, ‘wisdom from New College Chapel for the Coronavirus Crisis and beyond’. https://liveasthoughyouareloved.com/. ‘Live as though you are loved’ is one of a number of New College initiatives to help divert us during the Covid-19 situation. More on these in due course.

Congratulations to the following boys who have received awards to their senior schools: Idris (music scholarship, Marlborough); Thomas (music scholarship, Harrow); Edward (academic and music exhibitions, MCS); Julien (music scholarship, Abingdon) and Fraser (sports scholarship, MCS). I will keep you updated as and when we hear further results.

Well done to the following boys for winning prizes in this year’s SHTEAM competition, which centred on creating an instrument or device that made the most interesting and unusual sound. Pre-Prep: Isaac (first), Harvey and Henry M (second). Years 3-5: Ashwin (first), Max J and Alexander C (second). Years 6-8: Lucas (first), Nahum (second).

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Mr Ross Gales for holding the ICT fort and Dr James Lancelot for covering chapel services this term. We look forward to welcoming back Mr Hardy-Lenik and Mr Quinney when we reconvene.

You may be interested to learn that a Roman kiln has been found on the site under our old school buildings. Add that to our coin and pottery and we’ll soon have a little museum.

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