Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 3 July 2020

Today marks the end of an historic and dramatic year at NCS. When I began my headship on 1 September last year, I am fairly certain that a pandemic was not on my radar. Nonetheless, we have had no choice but to adapt, to stay calm and purposeful, and to tack judiciously through this worldwide event. New College School is one of the oldest continually functioning schools in the world; it has seen its fair share of seismic events, and it will see this one through too. Very few of us, if any, would have predicted a lockdown that has seen us kept apart from our loved ones, and away from many of the activities that made up our ‘normal’ lives. Over the past few newsletters I have tried to highlight the positives that we can take from the situation, whether that be through reconnecting with friends and family online, slowing down to take stock, or appreciating those things in life that we used to bypass during our busy lives.

One by-product of lockdown has been, I suspect, an increase in the number of hours we spend watching television, whether that be for escapism or just for something to count down the hours until we can go outside freely again. Growing up in the 1980s and 90s, I probably watched more television than was good for me, even without the justification of lockdown. One beneficial side effect has been having an encyclopaedic knowledge of the kind of trashy TV that comes up in pub quiz questions. A lot of those programmes have not stood the test of time, but that does not mean they are not totally without merit and worthy of mention. One such programme that often comes to mind when I’m in New College chapel – the reason for which will hopefully become clear – is one called ‘Celebrity Squares’, hosted by the comedian Bob Monkhouse.

This quiz show pitted two contestants against one another in a giant game of naughts and crosses. The naughts and crosses board was a giant, vertical structure, with nine celebrities, each of whom sat in a section of that giant board. Each contestant would try to win the game of naughts and crosses by choosing a celebrity and then answering a question to turn that celebrity’s box blue with a cross or pink with a naught. The ingenious part of the quiz was that the contestant was able to ask for the relevant celebrity’s help when answering the question. One particular hurdle that the contestant had to face was that the contestant would not necessarily know the answer, or they could easily get the answer wrong. But more often than not the celebrity would help the contestant to get the right answer.

Why do I think of this when I go to New College chapel – the place I would normally be standing to address our leavers? Because – and I hope it’s not sacrilegious to say this – the reredos in chapel resembles a giant naughts and crosses board. And while we don’t have celebrities in each of the lozenge-shaped alcoves, we do have saints and other figures from the bible. And to me it is a constant reminder that, when we don’t know the answer to something, we are allowed to ask for help. As I said, today is my last newsletter of the academic year and it is a special one for our Year 8 leavers. And the message I would like you to take away from it is that, in life, you are not alone. There is always someone to ask for help - it may not be a celebrity or a saint, but there will be someone who has experienced the problem you are facing, or who is trained to help you find your own answer. But you must not face difficulties in silence. It is a strength to ask for help, whatever your need may be.

I want to finish by offering some advice from a very famous doctor. Not a medical doctor as such, but one you will almost certainly have encountered during your time at NCS: the wonderful Dr Seuss. You may be familiar with the classic Dr Seuss book, ‘Oh the Places You’ll Go’. It is a famous text which is often given to children, or young adults, at times of transition in their lives. Unlike a lot of naively optimistic books aimed at children, it is a wonderful combination of looking to the future, while admitting that there may be difficulties. But those difficulties are seen as faceable, as tackleable, as defeatable:


You'll be on your way up!

You'll be seeing great sights!

You'll join the high fliers

who soar to high heights.


You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.

You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.

Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.

Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.


Except when you don't.

Because, sometimes, you won't.


I'm sorry to say so

but, sadly, it's true

that Bang-ups

and Hang-ups

can happen to you.

But on you will go

though the weather be foul.

On you will go

though your enemies prowl.

On you will go

though the Hakken-Kraks howl.

Onward up many

a frightening creek,

though your arms may get sore

and your sneakers may leak.


On and on you will hike,

And I know you'll hike far

and face up to your problems

whatever they are.


You'll get mixed up, of course,

as you already know.

You'll get mixed up

with many strange birds as you go.

So be sure when you step.

Step with care and great tact

and remember that Life's

a Great Balancing Act.

Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.

And never mix up your right foot with your left.

One such way to face difficulties is to ask for help. I hope that we have been able to answer your questions over your years at NCS, and I would like to make it clear that we are still here for you should you want our advice in the future. But you have bright futures to look toward – new teachers, friends, mentors, who will help to guide you along the way. Let them do it – it is a privilege to be able to do so, in the same way that it has been an immense privilege to guide you through your formative years at New College School.

As we come to the end of this academic year, then, I want to say an enormous ‘thank you’ to everyone who has pulled together so nobly to get us through the first stages of a very difficult time. My colleagues have put in an incredible amount of work, and exercised some real ingenuity, to keep remote learning on the road. Our support staff have been tireless in keeping the school going, quite often in ways that you will not have seen or heard. The Warden and governors have kept a close, benign, eye on proceedings to ensure that the NCS quality remains as high as it can be. Parents and siblings have stoically put up with the realities of remote learning and the extra day care that this has involved. Grandparents and other friends have had to spend a few months keeping away from loved ones to keep themselves safe. It is a privilege to lead such a supportive and positive community. I wish you all a happy and extraordinarily well-deserved break.

Have a great summer.

Dr J

Games on Field; New garden furniture, courtesy of Mr Mulford and Mr Bustin; Pre-Prep picnic in college; Sports day awards

Year 3

Laurence K Gold Certificate

Laurence K Platinum Certificate

Year 4

Herbie For completing stage 1 of the touch typing course

Arjun For consistent superb effort and high standards

Year 5

Dan For his independent science experiments

Ashwin For an outstanding short story

Ashwin For outstanding recorder work this term

Year 8/8S

Augustin For an outstanding essay exploring the timelessness of Homer's Odyssey

James For an outstanding essay exploring the timelessness of Homer's Odyssey

Fraser For an outstanding essay exploring the timelessness of Homer's Odyssey

Pebble painting in Pre-Prep art; writing and illustrating miniature books in Year 5; Lockdown baking!

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 7 September. The same applies for holiday diaries. Please do send these in via the school office at the start of the new academic year. I will really enjoy seeing how the boys have occupied their time over this unusual summer.

Well done to Alexander C-B in Year 3 for getting one of his jokes included in The Week Junior: ‘Why was the teacher cross-eyed? Because he couldn’t control his pupils!’. And to Lucas in Year 7 who came 6th in both the 500m and 2-minute races last weekend at the British Rowing Virtual Championships (BRVC). The event had over 1200 entries from over 30 countries across the ages (12-91).

Congratulations to the following boys for their performances in our poetry writing competition: Idris for winning the senior category, with Finn highly commended; and Rufus for winning the junior category, with Monty highly commended.

Congratulations to Nat (Year 7) and Krishan (Year 8S) who have been awarded this year's Warden's Medals, by the Warden of New College, for their special subjects. The Warden read the submissions of independent research projects, which the boys have been working on all year, and thought especially highly of Nat's on cephalopods and Krishan's on (un)healthy lifestyles. As ever, the standard across the board was impressively high, so Nat and Krishan did especially well to stand out.

DfE advice for September. This has now been released and we will be going through it over the next few days and weeks. Thank you for your patience while we do this and while we wait for confirmation – expected mid-August – that the DfE’s current plans will in fact be put in place for September. We are operating on the assumption that all boys will be back and they will be wearing uniform. As ever, we will keep you fully informed of what to expect as and when things change … again. We will also issue the Michaelmas calendar at that time, when we have a clearer idea as to which events can and cannot happen. As ever, term dates are available at https://www.newcollegeschool.org/term-dates

The choristers have been hard at work recording Bach’s Letzte Stunde, produced by Positive Note, and the fabulous fruits of those labours are now available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxqcPCdm0ZI&feature=youtu.be

Virtual concerts. Please find below the links to this term's concerts. Many thanks to Mr Neal and Miss Rose for organising them, for Miss Kilkenny for her tireless work editing the videos, to parents for so patiently recording their sons, and of course to the boys themselves for playing and singing so well!

Pre-Prep Concert: https://youtu.be/zZNLCaaUSyc

Junior Concert: https://youtu.be/vUQjSm7fT68

Senior Concert: https://youtu.be/n4BclOFnD3c

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

Children of the World. Members of Year 3, 4 & 5 have spent this term exploring, learning and virtually performing 'We Are Children of the World' by Lin Marsh. Commissioned in 2018 by the research programme Creative Multilingualism, she wrote this work to celebrate languages, stories, and folk songs from across the world. Boys sent in recordings of Mandarin, Punjabi, Urdu, Arabic, Swahili, Polish, Portuguese, and English to create our very own NCS Virtual Junior Choir! Thanks must go to the boys, and the help of parents, for their invaluable contributions to this project.

Children of the World: https://youtu.be/z-J80FCACRU

Construction. We have a lot of building work going on over the vacation. The old car park area will be entirely releveled (no more curbs!) and resurfaced. Bi-fold doors will be installed in the side of the sports hall. Retractable netting will also be installed to catch wayward footballs. The old playground will also have its new luxurious artificial grass surface, which we will be able to use for much of the year before the site is handed over ready for the construction of our brand-new building. We won’t be able to park on the artificial grass, I’m afraid; while we can park on the new surface by the sports hall at times, I am told we have to minimise three-point-turns for the sake of the new rubberised surface!

Timetable Changes. There will be a few tweaks and improvements from next year when it comes to the timetable too. Games days will be changing slightly to rationalise fixtures (as and when they can happen) and to make sure that all boys in the prep school can have their Games lessons in the afternoons, removing any disruption to morning lessons. Years 3-4 will have their Games lessons on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons; Years 5-6 will have theirs on Wednesday and Friday afternoons; Years 7-8 will have theirs on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. Boys should arrive in school in their Games kit on the given days, as announced earlier this year. Also, following on from the success of ‘Greats’ in Years 3 and 4, we will be replicating this model in Year 5: History, Geography and RSP will now be taught in two double periods called ‘International Relations’, investigating those three subjects by looking in-depth at historical, geographical and religious/philosophical issues throughout the twentieth century. This will free up a period for ‘Thinking and Reasoning’, again following the model currently in Years 3 and 4, in which boys will be able to hone their thinking, study and reasoning skills.

The government will be issuing new legislation regarding Relationships and Sex Education, information about which in the context of NCS can be found at www.newcollegeschool.org/wellbeing-and-happiness. If you have any questions, do please contact brett.morrison@newcollegeschool.org.

Reports. Amidst all the demands of remote learning, my colleagues have been writing end-of-term reports. I have very much enjoyed reading about the boys’ achievements and progress. Please let office@newcollegeschool.org know if you have not received these safely and we will remedy this as soon as possible. Please check your email settings in case the report has ended up in the wrong place.

Newsire and Nucleus. You should also have received a copy of The Newswire and The Nucleus. Many thanks to Miss Krebs and to Miss Rose for their editorial oversight, to Miss Kilkenny for her outstanding graphic design, and to all those who have put in so much effort to ensure the magazines appear at the end of term, rather than (as in many institutions) halfway through next. If you have not received a copy, please let office@newcollegeschool.org know as soon as possible and we will arrange for copies to be put aside for you.

This year we say farewell to Mr Andrew Hardy-Lenik, who has been appointed Head of ICT and Computing at Twickenham Prep School. During Mr Hardy-Lenik’s tenure at NCS the school’s ICT provision has gone from strength to strength. We now have a dual-boot system, lots of shiny iMacs, iPad hubs around the school with older boys enjoying 1:1 use, a hi-tec AVU, as well as some 3D printers which allow the boys to design and print their imaginative creations. I would also like to thank Mr Hardy-Lenik for formally embedding our coding and computing curriculum, for the technical support he has given, and for developing our extra-curricular programme as Director of Activities. We wish him, Tim and Dylan all the very best with this new role. In Mr Hardy-Lenik’s place we have appointed Mr Peter Cui, someone already well known to the NCS community through his excellent contribution to our activities programme. Mr Cui’s degree is from Oxford Brookes and he is currently teaching Coding and Business at Oxford Spires. Mr Cui is also a proficient sportsman, with a particular interest in basketball, so we look forward to his contributions outside of the ICT room too. Mr Andrew Bradley has been appointed Director of Activities, a role he has already been carrying out with a great deal of success in Mr Hardy-Lenik’s absence. I would also like to thank Mr Ross Gales who has covered Mr Hardy-Lenik’s teaching so admirably during his adoption leave.

At the end of this term we say thank you and farewell to Professor Laura Marcus as NCS governor. Professor Marcus has brought a great deal of wisdom to the role and has taken an especial interest in the development of English in the school. I have very fond memories of the two of us leading ‘seminars’ on The Go-Between with generations of Year 7s. Professor Marcus was on sabbatical during Hilary and Trinity of this year; Professor Richard Whittington ably stepped into her shoes and I would also like to thank him for temporarily resuming his gubernatorial duties with such enthusiasm and commitment. We look forward to welcoming Professor Christiane Timmel, Fellow and Tutor in Chemistry at New College, to the school’s governing committee.

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