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Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 2nd July 2021

Dear parents,

While the boys have been enjoying a wide range of extra-curricular activities in this most unusual of activities weeks (I would usually be on the Sicily trip at this time; please spare your thoughts and prayers) I have been enjoying reading their end-of-year reports. This amounts to almost 2k individual subject reports, so if I look a little cross-eyed at the gate, that’s why. I am frequently impressed with the care that my colleagues take over their reports: looking in detail at areas in which the boys have done well and, as importantly, areas in which they can develop in the future. In the grand scheme of pedagogical history, the latter has only been done well in recent years. Reports in the past tended to be a rubber stamp of the work done and a cursory word or two – ‘good’ or ‘satisfactory’ or whatever – with bad news delivered ham-fistedly with a Simpsons-style ‘F’ or ‘must do better’. I am pleased to say that there is much more of a balance these days, with no loaded criticism intended if a teacher points out that there are one or two areas on which to focus in the coming months.

Activities Week

Speaking of reports in the past, if I am going to pass judgment on the boys’ reports, it is perhaps only fair that I share some of the ones that I received when I was at school (which wasn’t that long ago). One of my most treasured is from when I was in ‘Form 3’. My teacher perspicaciously noted that ‘Matthew enjoys the friendship of others of his age, but I suspect can cope well with his own company too’ before going on to note that ‘He shows positive attitudes to school and is rarely in trouble. He is an industrious boy in class and is polite to members of staff’. I take issue with the word ‘rarely’ here. ‘Never’ would surely be a fairer substitution. Another perceptive teacher reported that ‘Matthew has a very serious attitude to his schoolwork; he produces work of a high standard. He can be relied upon to work independently, take and interpret instruction easily and is happiest when he has plenty to do.’ Some things never change. On another occasion my PE teacher wrote that ‘PE activities do not appear high on Matthew’s scale of preferences but he nevertheless joins in without complaint’. I think that is a compliment, though I would add that ‘PE’ in my primary school consisted of endless forward and backward rolls – on whose ‘scale of preferences’ are those especially high? My two favourite reports came from primary school History and Year 9 English. My History teacher wrote that ‘Topic work on Tudors and Stuarts has been very well presented and questions answered in an orderly and detailed way. He has enjoyed researching into events in this particular period of history’. Which is just as well, because I ended up doing a doctorate in Stuart history, then spent another decade writing another book about it. While the English teacher’s observation that ‘Matthew’s work has been of a consistently high standard. He works well in groups, where he shows his ability to organise and had a considerable understanding of Romeo and Juliet’ will come as a relief to the generations of parents whose sons I taught, well, Romeo and Juliet.

So there you are: I was subject to such reporting, in the same way that the boys are at the moment. The big difference, as I mention above, is the lack of formative comments in how I could have improved, which is now surely a powerful part of the teacher-pupil-parent dialogue that enables the boys to make happy progress. (Which is why, of course, we also have formative marking.) Cheerily pointing out that there are areas for development is not the same thing as denigrating a pupil’s achievements by saying they are not perfect. And perhaps in this next tranche of reports the boys will receive some comments that will signal a particular direction for their future lives – just as my primary school report on the Stuarts did for me.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

This has been a spectacular activities week. We are all disappointed that we cannot be on our usual trips, but my colleagues have put in astonishing amounts of effort to ensure that there have been loads of enjoyable activities for the boys in and around Oxford. The pictures in this newsletter will show just how much fun everyone has been having. Activities included: a visit from Aesop’s Touring Theatre Company; Treasure Island-themed activities; pizza and bread making; an African drumming and dance workshop; the Years 3-4 play (filming and live performance!); Science workshops; map reading and orienteering; French cheese, patisserie and art workshops; petanque and volleyball tournaments; a Thames Path walk; an historical walking tour of Oxford; visits to the College archives, and up New College Tower; older boys teaching the younger ones (with suitable distancing); a trip to Go Ape; plenty of other sports activities; picnics; an architecture competition; balloon debates; and some films to wind down. As you can imagine, doing all of this off-timetable just days after assessment and reports season has been a formidable logistical operation for my colleagues. I would like to thank all of those who have helped out so enthusiastically and positively, and especially those who took the lead with the organisation, which in some instances began this time last year!

A few notes on our proposed end-of-term events are outlined below. We are sure you appreciate by now that these arrangements can change at the last minute, depending on the public health situation nationally and locally. Some are also somewhat weather-dependent, so we may need to make last-minute decisions, which we will communicate to you as soon as we can – please keep a close eye on Parentmail over the next week. Our rule of thumb is that we want to put on events for the boys to make the last week of term special for them, so long as we can do so in a risk-assessed and safe fashion. With the variable English weather, it would be a very good idea to make sure that your son comes to school prepared for all eventualities: it could be a roasting hot day or it could be chucking it down. We may just add ski poles and a snowmobile to the kit list and have done with it. I’m afraid that we will not be able to provide parking on the playground, as we are using it for outdoor events.

Leavers vs Parents cricket – Saturday 3 July (New College Field, 11.00-13.00): All NCS parents and their families are welcome to join the spectators on Field. Spectators must have a negative Lateral Flow Test result before arriving, must follow all Covid-19 hygiene protocols, and must remain seated along the cricket boundary in their separate household bubbles, with distancing between those bubbles. Year 7 and 8 pupils must continue to take their twice-weekly Lateral Flow Tests, with one of these scheduled for the morning of 3 July. Spectators are welcome to bring their own refreshments (e.g. picnic for them and their sons) as we will not be able to provide these. At the time of writing the Met Office says there is a 10% chance of rain late morning, rising to a 40% chance from 13.00. We are also monitoring the rainfall over the weekend as a whole, because this may have a negative impact on the condition of the Field, in which case we may have to rethink our arrangements for …

Sports Day – Tuesday 6 July (New College Field from 11.00): Spectators must have a negative Lateral Flow Test result before arriving, must follow all Covid-19 hygiene protocols, and must remain seated in their separate household bubbles, with distancing between those bubbles. Year 7 and 8 pupils must continue to take their twice-weekly Lateral Flow Tests, with one of these scheduled for the morning of 6 July. Spectators are welcome to bring their own refreshments as we will not be able to provide these. Please follow guidance from my colleagues on the day. The Met Office (again, at time of writing) says there is a 20% chance of rain in the morning, rising to a 40% chance from 13.00. Please could boys in Years 3-8 come to school with a packed lunch on that day as they will not be able to join their parents during the lunchbreak? They should also arrive at school in their kit, with water bottle, hat, and sunscreen already applied (and extra in a bottle if the weather requires it on the day). Many thanks.

Mini Fete – Thursday 8 July (during school day): As you will have heard from the NCSPA, we are putting on a few of the stalls that otherwise went the way of the fete, during the boys’ lunch break. We will have our usual school Covid protocols in place, with the boys remaining in their year group bubbles and attending the stalls in a carousel fashion. Thank you very much for your support of this fundraising initiative. The JustGiving link is: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ncspa-mini-summer-fete. If you wish to donate money to the NCSPA, which is then used to fund extras for the boys throughout the year, you can also choose who would like to get gunged at the end of term. We couldn’t let this favourite stall go by the wayside! Just note in the message box when making your donation which candidate you would like to see gunged, though please do not use names: Candidate A (Mr Bradley), Candidate B (Head Boy and Deputies), Candidate C (Miss Rose). At the time of writing, Candidate A has taken a bit of a lead, but Candidate B and C enthusiasts have plenty of time to put their money where their gunge is. The deadline for these nominations is 21.00 on 7 July, though you can keep donating beyond that time.

Prizegiving – Friday 9 July (NCS Playground): We will be using the playground and the threshold of the sports hall with the bi-fold doors fully open to create a very well-ventilated space. Class bubbles will be appropriately distanced. Prep leavers’ parents will be able to attend, arriving in time for a 10.45 start, sitting outside. They must have a negative Lateral Flow Test result before arriving, must follow all Covid-19 hygiene protocols, and must remain seated in their separate household bubbles, with distancing between those bubbles. Year 7 and 8 pupils must continue to take their twice-weekly Lateral Flow Tests, with one of these scheduled for the morning of 9 July. The event will be livestreamed to allow other parents to watch remotely. The link will be sent to those parents who sign up via the Parentmail form that has been sent out; for obvious safeguarding reasons it must not be distributed beyond those who have signed up, and no recording of the streaming is permitted.

You will have received an e-copy of I’m Glad I Exist, an anthology of forty favourite poems from the NCS community compiled by Dr Gallagher over lockdown. I would like to thank Dr Gallagher for her initiative and dedication in putting the anthology together, and Professor John Batchelor for writing the foreword.

Please note the following departure times for the last day of Trinity, Friday 9 July: Pre-Prep gate: 11.30 Reception; 11.40 Year 1; 11.50 Year 2. Prep gate: 12.00 Years 3-4; 12.10 Years 5-6; 12.20 Years 7-8. There will be no aftercare on the last day of term.

Upcoming Events

Monday, 5 July 2021

9.00 Pre-Prep filming of 'The Nightingale'

No after school activities in the last week of term

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

9.00 Chapel. Leavers' Service. Speaker: The Chaplain

Friday, 9 July 2021

9.00 Final Assembly for Whole School

10.45 Prize-Giving for Years 3-8

12.00 End of Term

Saturday, 10 July 2021

12.30 NC Choir Cricket, Field

Monday, 6 September 2021

INSET for Staff, 9:00-16:00

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

INSET for Staff, 9:00-16:00

9.30-11.00 Pre-season football training (Years 3-4)

11.30-13.00 Pre-season football training (Years 5-8)

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Start of Term

After School Activities start

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: The Headmaster

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