Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 11th october 2019

Dear Parents,

I have been watching the recent national news coverage of the shifts in the 13+ transition from prep to senior schools with some bemusement – and occasional amusement. This is partly because this isn’t really ‘news’ at all: schools have long been withdrawing from Common Entrance and finding alternatives. And it is partly because many journalists and below-the-line commentators (why do I read below the line?) seem to be getting the wrong end of the stick. Since schools like NCS have taken up, say, the Pre-Senior Baccalaureate, we have been enjoying the freedom to innovate our curriculum, to tailor it to our pupils, and to take a more enlightened and cohesive approach to learning skills and curriculum content.

Playground engineering; making 'eco bricks' in activities; show and tell in Reception; visiting the archaeological dig

Fair enough: some schools have decided to stick with Common Entrance or whatever the new version is going to be called (there isn’t quite the death knell that some Sunday papers have been hearing). But many others have taken advantage of the autonomy bestowed on us by being independent. And, crucially, we haven’t done anything remotely resembling ‘dumbing down’ – the rallying cry of a particular cadre of commentators who ‘sat CE in the 1970s and it didn’t do us any harm’. Our boys still have demanding curriculum content, and they still sit exams. But they do so in a safe environment, knowing that the combination of high challenge and low threat is best for their learning, and gives them the best foundation for the public exams they will be experiencing over the next few years. They are also given credit, let it be said, for everything they do inside and outside the classroom – not just in a narrow set of examined subjects one week in June.

Testing leaves for starch in Year 7; investigating reflection in Year 3; spelling with 'Qu' in Year 1

Our boys only get one childhood, and there are more benign and effective ways of preparing them for adulthood than foisting teenagerdom on them too early with a bunch of pseudo-GCSE exams. They have plenty of time for those ahead. Getting Years 7 and 8, those crucial middle years, ‘right’ has long vexed educationalists. But I’m proud of what we do here in terms of our boys, as they become young men, getting the chance to develop ‘big brother’ (not in the Orwellian sense) leadership skills, and finding their place in the world among the familiar and the nurturing. I vividly remember, at the age of 11, being thrust into a school of a thousand bigger and scarier boys, then treading water until our year group was deemed worthy of attention because we had public exams on the horizon. How I envy our Year 7s and 8s and the opportunities they have to find out who they are before facing the world – and the potentially choppy waters of adolescence – with confidence and integrity at the senior school which best fits them.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

Person of the Week: Jessye Norman

Artwork of the Week: ‘Dido’s Lament’ by Henry Purcell

Word of the Week: Elysian

Sport. We are six weeks into term now and the performances on the football pitch are certainly reflecting the hard work and training the boys have been putting in. This was clearly evident when the Year 3 boys played their opening game of the season against Summer Fields. In both the A and B games the NCS teams quickly took control and looked to score early on. Xander did just that in the A team game and after just three minutes we were 1-0 up. The score remained thus for most of the game right until the final minute when our guests scored against the run of play to ensure honours were even. The same result played out on the B team pitch but all 35 boys came off smiling and enjoyed a good match tea. Also on Friday the U9 teams travelled the short distance to Summer Fields where our three teams found life a little harder and I’m afraid they were not as successful as the their Year 3 counterparts. Despite some excellent play and tireless effort the NCS teams lost to a very strong SF outfit.

Also on the football pitch the U13 teams had their final matches of the season against Cothill and Lambrook. Playing two very large schools, we were under no illusions and knew this would be a tough encounter. Playing at home a much depleted C team gave a good fight and proudly took the game to our guests but eventually were overrun and lost the game. Away from home the A and B team squads had a very positive afternoon with both teams recording strong results. Some superb football was played on the A team pitch, with NCS winning the first game 3-1 against Cothill – William getting two goals and Fraser putting in a brilliant man of the match performance. In the second game a 1-1 draw against Lambrook meant NCS came out on top in the mini triangular festival. For the B team things were a little tougher and coming off the back of a series of good victories they were always hopeful. However as they were also missing a number key regulars we struggled to find the flow of previous matches. The boys fought hard but despite their very best efforts went down 1-0 and 2-0. Felix once again performed at the top of his game with excellent support from Enoch and Dennis.

Away from the football pitches the U9 boys had their first taste of rugby on Wednesday at the annual St Hugh’s rugby festival. Every boy from Year 4 took part and did so with such enthusiasm and gusto. Despite it being their first go at contact rugby the boys did a fantastic job. All afternoon they played some superb rugby with free flowing passing moves and lots of tries being scored. I have seldom seen a defensive group take to tackling as these boys have; they showed brilliant technique and were strong in their attempts to bring down the opposition players. With three teams playing we played a total of fifteen matches with eleven being won, two drawn and only two lost. The A team and B team both topped their groups with un-beaten runs. This performance bodes well for the remainder of the rugby season for these boys.

Back on the football pitch the Year 2 boys had their first taste of representing the school with a brilliant set of matches, again against Summer Fields. Over the course of three very entertaining games the NCS boys emerged victorious taking the fixture 4-1 in total. There was some excellent passing and strong shooting from all of the boys but on this occasion our man of the match was George. Great work, boys! CB

Beginning of Year Service. All boys and teachers new to NCS this term will be formally admitted to the School by the Warden of New College, Mr Miles Young, at our Beginning of Year Service in New College Chapel on Wednesday 16 October at 10.00. Parents, relatives and friends are warmly welcome: please put this very special occasion in your calendars. As ever, there will be coffee/tea after the service for visitors in the undercroft.

Congratulations to Finn, Didrik and Benji who will be surpliced at evensong this Sunday, and best wishes to all choristers as they embark on the university Michaelmas Term at evensong this evening. The service begins at 18.15 and, of course, all NCS families and friends are most welcome.

Road Closures on Monday 14 October. Please be aware that, as Christ Church is hosting the funeral of PC Andrew Harper, there will be some road closures on Monday 14 October. From 8.00 we should expect closures on The Plain, Magdalen Bridge, High Street, St Aldates (from the city centre up to the corner of Speedwell Street). Longwall Street will be open southbound; traffic will then be able to turn left onto the High Street towards the The Plain.

Pre-Prep Reviews will be held throughout the week beginning Monday 21 October. This is a time to ‘touch base’ with your son’s class teacher, have an update on his progress and have an opportunity to raise any queries you may have. Please see your son’s class teacher to arrange a suitable time, if you would like one.

Shoebox Appeal. Please find attached a message from Mrs Showell-Rogers regarding our Christmas Shoebox Appeal for Samaritan’s Purse and Oxford Project Shoebox. We would be delighted if as many NCS families as possible are able to take part. We intend to have ‘trees’ of the shoeboxes on display in the Hall and Pre-Prep before they are sent off.

Miss Rose will be singing alongside members of her newly founded ensemble, The Korrigan Consort, on Saturday 12 October at 20.00 in Christ Church Cathedral. She would be delighted to see members of the NCS community at this educational concert which celebrates a phenomenal figure in Oxford: St Frideswide, the Patron Saint of Oxford. The concert follows in her footsteps by telling her story through an evening of reflection with medieval and Renaissance polyphony, with particular focus on music from convents in France, Italy and the Low Countries. The concert will also feature a new piece setting the legend of St Frideswide, as well as a reading of Jacqueline Holderness’ new book, The Princess Who Hid in a Tree. The performance will be in collaboration with Elizabeth Kenny, Head of Performance at the Faculty of Music, and Sara Salloum. Tickets available on the door and on our website. A wine reception after the concert will be available. https://korriganconsort.com/downloads/life-of-st-frideswide-tickets/

Miss Hinds will be performing at St Nicolas Church, Abingdon, on Sunday 13 October at 15.00: Schubert’s Sonata in A and Janacek’s In the Mists. NCS families are very warmly invited to go along.

Piano recital by Mariangela Vacatello. This will take place in Chapel on Thursday 17 October at 13.15, just after Mariangela’s masterclass with our senior pianists. Entry is free and the recital should last approximately 45 minutes.

Forthcoming Events

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Abingdon pre-test (Year 7 for September 2021 entry)

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Start of University Term

17.45 Chorister Surplicing. Tea beforehand at 3.30pm, Sports Hall

Monday, 14 October 2019

18.15 Old Boys’ Committee Meeting, HM Study

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

HPV (1) Immunisations (Year 8) - catch up

14.15 U11 A-E Football vs Summer Fields, Away

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

10.00 Beginning of Year Service, New College Chapel. Speaker: The Warden

Coffee in the Undercroft afterwards for parents and visitors

14.30 U13 A, B&C Rugby vs CCCS, Home

Thursday, 17 October 2019

9.00 U11 A IAPS Football vs Lambrook

9.00 Rehearsal for Mariangela Vacatello, New College Chapel

10.00 Piano Masterclass with Mariangela Vacatello, School Hall (Piano pupils from Yrs 6, 7, and 8)

13.15 Piano Recital: Mariangela Vacatello, New College Chapel

15.30 U11 B-D Rugby vs MCS, Away

Monday, 21 October 2019

Charity Week

Flu Immunisations Rec-Yr6

Pre-prep reviews start

Thursday, 24 October 2019

14.00 U11A Rugby vs Windmill, Home

13.00 Debate Team Preparation

Friday, 25 October 2019

10.00 School Service, New College Chapel. Speaker: Mrs Ruth Ward, Director of Knowledge, Government Legal Department

Coffee in the Undercroft afterwards for parents and visitors

‘Orders’ issued

Home Clothes Day

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Start of Half-Term

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