Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 9th July 2021

Dear Parents,

Well – here we are! We have hurtled towards the end of Trinity, and the end of another academic year, and despite the obvious, there is a lot for which to be thankful. Our new playground-bifolds-gym configuration meant that prizegiving could go on almost as normal today, within the DfE’s Covid protocols. This was a very special ceremony for us all, because it gave us a chance to reflect on the year that has passed, to celebrate the boys’ many efforts and achievements, and to focus on the many positives that have come from an all-too-easily negative and frustrating situation.

We came together – if apart – at the end of another unusual year: one in which in-person contact was sometimes replaced with virtual contact; when year-group bubbles replaced our usual multi-year milling around; and when hand sanitiser dispensers, perspex screens, Lateral Flow Tests, and face coverings came to dominate our visual landscape. We had a couple of months of remote learning, with Zoom, mute buttons, the VLE, and independent work coming to the fore. We had to rethink plays, concerts, sport, assemblies – pretty much everything that goes into a ‘normal’ school year. But somehow NCS has felt, well, normal. Because despite all of these changes, despite the forest of perspex, despite staggered arrival and departure times, the boys have been their amazing selves in responding so nimbly and flexibly to how the external things have varied. They remained their cheerful, witty, purposeful selves. Colleagues and parents also had to deal with a lot of change and uncertainty, and there have no doubt been times when juggling jobs and remote learning has been quite a challenge. But I cannot think of another community that would have approached all of this, overall, with such supportive positivity. It can be very difficult to put aside one’s small personal gripes, and to put the difficulties of this year in perspective, but it is our duty as grown-ups to do so, and it is the boys who have often taught us how to do so. I am incredibly proud of them all.


Our Year 8 leavers have now had their top two prep school years somewhat different from the usual final years of such a school. The reason prep schools exist and thrive is because Years 7 and 8 at the top of a school are very special years: they give pupils the opportunity to enter young adulthood in a benign, safe and supportive environment, to be ‘top of the school’ and get leadership experience at a relatively young age, and to really fly academically in schools not preoccupied with public exams and league tables. They are, usually, the stuff of misty eyed memoirs – the formative years of happy and successful adults. It would be easy, then, to concede that Covid-19 has marred these final two years for our leavers. But when I look at them, I don’t see the miserable and wounded, the faces of the lost-outs. I see tenacious and cheerful young men who have learnt to succeed despite the difficulties, who have accepted that life is not perfect, and it certainly is not perfect during a global pandemic. They put their heads down; they got on with it. They did not moan – well maybe at times they did, but not to me – they found new ways to do old things. They have epitomised the wisdom of youth.


They have learnt at a young age that there will be times in their lives that things don’t fully go according to plan. It is how they respond to this that matters. In assemblies, chapel talks, and prizegiving talks I like to bring up poets, because often it is poets who can make observations on life in the most wonderfully pithy and memorable way. Today I talked about e.e. cummings, Edward Estlin Cummings, who is perhaps most famous for not using capital letters in his name. Cummings experienced what many people experienced during the Great Depression in America: the bright young thing, Harvard-educated, from a firmly aristocratic-academic American family, suddenly couldn’t get his work published. Up to that point, because of his innate talent and extraordinary personal connections, he had found it remarkably easy to get his writing in print. It took a long while to find a new publisher – but he did eventually, and when he did, he signalled his success in the most humorously assertive way. He called his new book No, Thanks, to reflect all the rejection letters he had received, and he dedicated the book to the fourteen publishers who had rejected him. I’m not sure what my lesson was, apart from to say that there may be fourteen rejections before the fifteenth success. But along the way, the boys should keep their good humour – and give a little nod to those who didn’t have faith in them, when they inevitably encounter those who rightly do.

One of Cummings’s poems was called ‘you shall above all things be glad and young’. It finishes with two wonderful lines:

I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing

than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance

In those two lines, we see a remarkable optimism and a desire in life to be positive, to learn, to be creative, rather than to be negative, to shut down. One single positive success is more worth celebrating than a lifetime of being negative. We would all rather hear a single bright-eyed ‘yes’ than ten thousand miserable ‘no’s. If the boys make the latter their approach, people just stop listening. If they make the former their mantra in life, they won’t go far wrong, because others will want to be, and work, alongside them. They will support one another, and thereby do great things.

What a year it has been, and I want to finish by thanking every single member of our wonderful community. Who knows what level of normality to which we will be returning in September, but I am sure we will continue to tack nimbly and successfully with your much-valued good humour and support. Before then, have a wonderful summer and I look forward to seeing you in a few weeks!

Matt Jenkinson

I am delighted to say that we have video evidence of the wonderful things that have been going on over the past few weeks. The links are available below:

Year 3-4 Play, The Land of Is: https://youtu.be/-MZbOa69i8E

Pre-Prep’s The Nightingale: https://www.newcollegeschool.org/video-gallery

Leavers' Concert: https://youtu.be/wc8Mfxqpt1Y

Junior Choir: https://youtu.be/Z6xYseoD8-E

Senior Choir: https://youtu.be/7z5JwAMSTyU

Orchestra: https://www.newcollegeschool.org/video-gallery

Mr Bradley’s gunging: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1lk3gapG7Q

Well done to the choristers who sang so beautifully in their end-of-year concert on Monday. And many congratulations to the Year 5 choristers who will be surpliced in chapel on Sunday.

Many thanks to the NCSPA and all those parents who so generously donated to raise funds on the back of our ‘mini fete’ in the playground yesterday. At the time of writing, we have just broken through the £1k barrier! It was great to have some stalls in operation over lunchtime, even if we couldn’t have the full fete on Field as normal. Special thanks to Mr Bradley (aka ‘Candidate A’) for being such a good sport in our gunging stall.

The boys should be returning home with copies of The Newswire and The Nucleus in their bags. We are still one of the few schools out there who get these published in time for the last day of term. They are a great testament to all the things that have been going on at NCS, inside and outside the classroom, over the past year – despite all the hurdles over which we have had to jump. Please let us know in September if you have not received your copies, and we will make sure they get to you.

Please note a slight tweak to our drop-off and pick-up times from September 2021 in the prep school: Years 6-8 should arrive at 8.00 and go straight to their form rooms. Years 3-5 should arrive at 8.10 and go straight to their form rooms. As ever, if there are boys in Years 3-5 who need to arrive earlier than 8.10, we can supervise them in the playground until they go up to their form rooms. Though please remember, and remind your sons, that no pupil is permitted on site before 8.00 as that is when supervision begins. Then, at the end of the day, if the boys do not have other commitments in school, Years 6-8 will depart at 15.45, with Years 3-5 at 15.50. We hope that this helps to ease congestion on Savile Road at the beginning and end of the school day.

You may already be aware of the changes the DfE will be making, which will affect us in the new academic year: children will no longer need to be kept in bubbles or consistent groups at all; from 16 August children under 18 will not be required to self isolate if they have been identified as a contact of a positive case, but will instead be asked to take a PCR test; after step 4 schools will not be required to contact trace - this will be done via Test and Trace; face coverings will not be required anywhere in school for pupils, staff or visitors, nor will they be needed on transport; measures may be needed in the case of an outbreak (e.g. temporary introduction of bubbles or face coverings); testing for Year 7 and above will continue next term. While this regular testing will be done at home, two on site tests should be undertake for each pupil in Year 7 and above at the start of Michaelmas.

The Oxfordshire Libraries and the Reading Agency are running a ‘Wild World Heroes: Summer Challenge’ from 10 July to 11 September. In this fun, free nature-themed reading challenge, children will team up with the Wild World Heroes and their animal friends in Wilderville. As they read, they will help make Wilderville become a better, greener place to live. When they complete the challenge they will win a keyring, medal and certificate, and be entered into a prize draw. They can join at their their nearest Oxfordshire library or through https://summerreadingchallenge.org.uk/.

From Elle Kilkenny in the Finance Office: Statements for Michaelmas will be emailed out the week commencing 16 August 2021 (provisional date 18 August 2021). Please ensure that you check your junk/spam folders, as statements have been known to end up there.

Reading in Interesting Places; Holiday Diaries. We will run our usual Reading in Interesting Places competition over the summer, though I appreciate you will have to use your imaginations around home and the locality rather than seek out the exotic. This is no bad thing – the competition was always intended to encourage the boys to use their imaginations, rather than sit somewhere glamorous or expensive. If your son wishes to submit a photo of him reading in an interesting place, please do so to office@newcollegeschool.org by Monday 6 September. The same applies for holiday diaries. Please do send these in via the school office at the start of the new academic year.

Upcoming Events

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

Monday, 13 September 2021

18.00 Reception and Year 1 form tutor information evening

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

9.00 Visit of O-Pro Dentist

14.00 U8 Football vs Sibford, Home

14.00 U9 Football vs Sibford, Home

18.00 Years 4-6 form tutor information evening, internet safety and 13+ destinations briefing

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

VMT Music lessons begin

8.15 Charity and School Council Meeting

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: The Chaplain

14.00 U10 & U11 A&B Football vs Elstree, Home

14.00 U13 A 11 Football vs Elstree, Away

14.00 U13 B&C 9 Football vs Elstree, Away

14.00 U10 & U11 C Football vs Elstree, Away

18.00 Years 2-3 form tutor information evening and introduction to the prep school

Thursday, 16 September 2021

9.00 Years 3 and 4 to Wittenham Clumps

18.00 Years 7-8 form tutor information evening and PSB briefing

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