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Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 26 June 2020

As we hurtle towards the end of the academic year, I am spending a great deal of time reading through everyone’s reports. Even with the inevitable disruption caused by the Covid-19 situation, I am very impressed with the way in which NCS boys have kept a steady course and carried on with their learning, even if it is being done remotely in a large number of cases. As I mentioned at the start of Trinity, one irony of our situation is that the boys are actually accessing more curriculum content than they normally would at this point in the year. With fewer distractions on the cricket field, no trips, no sports day – and the like – we have more time to devote to the curriculum. While this might provide some irritation in the short term – for teachers as well as pupils alike, I confess – put in perspective, it means that by Michaelmas we will be in a better place, academically, than we might normally be.

Though it is something of a Herculean task, it is also a pleasure and privilege to read through every single report written by colleagues. It is great to see what the boys have achieved over the course of the year, and it is a totally healthy part of the educational process to have further areas for progression gently suggested. It is an intrinsic part of the pedagogical process that we maintain a dialogue between all of the parties involved – most especially the boys themselves – so we can discuss targets, review them, and see where they might progress even further in the coming months. Even the brightest pupils I have taught – and I have taught a lot of very bright people at NCS – have something on which they can work.

But that something need not always be an academic goal. One of the strengths and joys of NCS is that we provide a values-based education, alongside an ambitious academic one. The boys are encouraged to think about their values as well as their goals. Yes, they may have the goal of moving their ‘8’ in English to a ‘9’ or ‘10’, or their goal might be to make it into the first team in tiddlywinks. That is all well and good – but it is not enough. By identifying and developing the boys’ values we are setting them up for lives beyond the selfish acquisition of personal success. I am not naïve enough to think that our boys don’t need to be equipped for successful careers, much of which will be based on what their brains can do. But that is not enough to live a happy and fulfilled life. They will be defined by their values as much – perhaps even more – than their CVs. They will be judged, and they will judge themselves, on how they treat others, what they do for their community, what positives they bring to the world beyond their GCSE or A-Level results. And if those positive values sit comfortably alongside academic success, I would venture to say that our pupils are more likely to be happy later in life. As someone who spends a lot of time looking at other people’s CVs, then meeting them in interview, I admit that the sparkling CV can sometimes be put to one side if I have queries about the person’s values – if they are prioritising their own personal success above doing what they can for others. In a week or so, then, the boys’ reports will be winging their way home; keep an eye out for what the boys are as well as what they have done.

Maths tower construction project; Year 3 masks activity; 'a taste of France' week; fancy dress remote learning!

Have a great weekend and an enjoyable last week of term.

Dr J

Congratulations to the following boys for their achievements this week:

Year 3

Thomas B For an extremely informative fact sheet

Eugene For an expertly created montage of nature photos

Eugene For writing a super poem about what he misses about school

Laurence K For creating an excellent comic strip about Mary Anning

Laurence K For writing a super poem about what he misses about school

Michael For writing a lovely poem about what he misses at school,

Michael For excellent comic strip about Mary Anning

Michael For creating an excellent 'Alice in Wonderland' potion recipe

Tanish Gold Certificate

Toby Gold Certificate

Alexander Gold Certificate

Alexander Platinum Certificate

Laurence P-A Headmaster's Commendation

Nathanael Headmaster's Commendation

Year 4

James For a stunning mandala inspired by cutlery

George C For superb imaginative responses to writing a diary from the point of view of a bug

George C For a lovely response to a 'View From My Window' art task

Roshan For a lovely response to a 'View From My Window' art task

Thomas For superb imaginative responses to writing a diary from the point of view of a bug

Peter For a lovely response to a 'View From My Window' art task

Eddie For a stunning mandala inspired by cutlery

George W For superb imaginative responses to writing a diary from the point of view of a bug

Jacob For a lovely response to a 'View From My Window' art task

Emil For a lovely response to a 'View From My Window' art task

Year 5

Dan For working consistently on his Viola and for some lovely duets with his sister!

Year 6

Luca For his research on coral reef conservation

Year 7

Isaac For outstanding work on some very challenging scholarship questions

Isaac Platinum Certificate

Sebastian For his independent work on sunflowers in science

Year 8/8S

Barnaby For an essay on Homer's Odyssey so brilliant there is not a superlative strong enough to describe it

Arcimboldo faces: Ayan; Oliver B; Isaac L; Henry F; George C

The SWYFt (Saying what YOU Feel) Study, put on by researchers at the University of Oxford Department of Education, is now seeking participants for its online child development study on language, emotion, and social skill. They hope to recruit children ages 8 to 11/in Years 4 and 6 to gain a deeper understanding of how children understand emotions and develop their social skill at an individual level. Participating would involve 2 sessions via Skype, one-on-one with the graduate researcher Aneyn O'Grady, scheduled at times most convenient for you and your child. If you would like to find out more about the study and sign up your child to participate, please click here: https://bit.ly/OxSWYFtStudy. You may also contact the Principal Investigator Dr. Sonali Nag, Associate Professor of Education and the Developing Child (sonali.nag@education.ox.ac.uk) and Aneyn O'Grady (aneyn.ogrady@education.ox.ac.uk) for any queries.

From the library: Reading is so important for all of us, especially the boys in the school. We would like to encourage the boys to borrow up to 6 books for the summer (a mixture of fiction and non-fiction). This will be achieved in a different way from normal in accordance with current guidelines. For this to be possible it is imperative that all school library books are returned before the end of the school year. Please have a hunt at home! In requesting the books for the holidays, have a look at our library catalogue and send a request for the books you would like to borrow. As long as they are on the shelves (some have currently "wandered") I will sign out the books for summer reading. There is an attachment which gives fuller details of how your son can use the library catalogue, and discover his individual borrowing record, from home. Many boys might be interested in taking part in the annual Summer Reading Challenge. More information can be found on https://summerreadingchallenge.org.uk. Thank you for your understanding and happy reading, listening and sharing stories! Elizabeth Hess

We are promised imminent guidance from the DfE about what they intend schools to look like come September. As soon as we receive this guidance, my colleagues and I will be working out the implications for NCS and we will be in touch to let parents and boys know our arrangements. Enormous thanks, as ever, for your patience, support and good humour as we work on our next iteration.

NCS parents may be interested to read the new issue of Attain which is now available online: https://attain.education/magazine/newcollege. There are several articles of interest, not least how pupils can continue to be supported through Covid-19, and how we can develop their skills alongside their curriculum knowledge.

It has been great having more boys on site this week. A polite reminder that we strongly discourage congregating at the gate for any length of time and we thank you for respecting social distancing during drop-off and pick-up. It is especially important that the driving and parking on Savile Road remain as respectful as possible, as there are now inevitably more people waiting at the side of the road because they cannot wait on site. Lifts should only be shared in the case of an emergency to preserve social distancing as much as possible.

Finally, you may remember that I informed you a few weeks or months ago about some Roman discoveries under the old Year 3-4 building: a kiln and a coin. The archaeologists have since been digging under the old playground and they have come across a slightly more dramatic discovery: two adult burials which are also thought to be Roman. The burials have been treated with the utmost respect and they have now been exhumed and moved for reburial. While it is likely that these burials are indeed over 1.5k years old, I appreciate that some boys may be a little concerned and worried about the discovery, and they may trigger discussions about death and bereavement. Do, please, reassure them if they are worried that the burials have been treated with respect and the remains are being reburied elsewhere in an appropriate place. The evidence also points to these being formal burials of adults who died peacefully a very long time ago. These aren’t the words you want to hear in the final weeks of your first year as headmaster in the middle of a pandemic: ‘We’ve found some human remains under your playground …’.

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