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Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 12th March 2021

It has been wonderful to have boys and colleagues back on-site this week, after our period of remote learning through much of Hilary. I suspect many of us went through the same process of squeezing back into uniform that might have been outgrown, suits that might (just might) be a little tighter around the waist and neck after our lockdown lifestyles, and shoes that are a little less comfortable than the trainers (or slippers) we have been wearing hitherto this term. There may have been some trepidation as the boys returned to the school gate for the first time in a few months, though my observation from standing out front was that it only took a matter of seconds for the boys to return excitedly to their ‘old normal’, catching up with their friends, and enjoying being together without the prism of a Zoom screen. I was particularly impressed with the way in which Years 7 and 8 accustomed themselves so maturely and effortlessly to the new LFT testing regime, which though benign is hardly the most pleasant experience. Those of us who have been working on site through lockdown have been having twice-weekly tests and it has become a customary sight to see colleagues picking up their swabs, disappearing for a few minutes, then returning rather more watery eyed than when they left. Still, it is these small inconveniences that help to keep us all safe. My thanks to Miss Kilkenny and Mrs McCusker for administering these tests, in their full PPE get-up, so efficiently and sensitively.

Pre-Prep catch with the Headmaster; Collaborative maze challenge; Breaktime play; Investigating signs of spring and a downpour of hailstones; Year 7 & 8 testing;

Helping to keep one another safe was the tenor of my message in Monday’s assembly, when I reiterated to boys and colleagues the core values at the heart of NCS. Though these are rarely from our minds, I thought it a good time to revisit the importance of patience, kindness, happiness, and thinking of others. We have all been used to not being around many people for the past few months, so it is quite possible that the transition back into having constant company might feel a little odd or irksome at times. By focusing on the positives and the desire to look out for one another – just as others are looking out for us – this reintegration process should happen easily and smoothly. The vast majority of what we are doing from now on is remarkably similar to the measures and routines we had in place, and which worked so successfully, in Michaelmas. But the one or two tweaks that are occurring are designed for the benefit of others. Perhaps the most visible is the government’s guidance for Years 7 and 8 to wear face coverings in lessons, as well as in other indoor areas where it was difficult to socially distance (something that was already in place). While these face coverings are not always comfortable – and I am well aware that they have become politicised and another front in the ‘culture wars’ in some parts of the world – we have been focusing on the benefits that these should bring to others as a salve and incentive. We have also provided each Year 7 and 8 boy with some specially designed New College face coverings as well, so they can look stylish while promoting safety!

Science Week: UV reactions

Science Week: Fruit batteries; Reception meet Art Gecko; Year 8S demonstrating the Mentos and coke experiment fro Pre-Prep; Making slime

While I am confident that the return-to-on-site-school process is a huge positive and relatively easy for many pupils, we are remaining vigilant to keep an eye out for those pupils for whom the transition might be a little more difficult. As ever, do please keep a dialogue going with form tutors, our wider pastoral team, and myself if there are particular issues or concerns that you have concerning your son’s reintroduction to Savile Road. To return to one of the core features of NCS I talked about in Monday’s assembly: we are all in this together, and we are all here to help. Thank you for your extraordinary levels of patience and support over these past few months, and we are really looking forward to even more great things now that school life looks and feels a lot more like it used to.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

You will have noticed from the pictures in this newsletter that, despite the disruption, events have still gone ahead at NCS to mark this year’s Science Week. There have been plenty of hands-on activities – including the making of slime – and it was a great joy to watch pre-prep boys’ reaction to the classic Mento in Coke experiment! Reception even had their first encounter with Arty the Gecko. Thanks to Miss Krebs for organising so many engaging activities across the school, and to all those colleagues who have assisted so cheerfully.

As we head towards the end of term (I know, I know), please note the following departure times for the last day of term, Friday 26 March:

Pre-Prep gate: 11.30 Reception; 11.40 Year 1; 11.50 Year 2

Prep gate: 12.00 Years 7-8; 12.10 Years 5-6; 12.20 Years 3-4

A note from some researchers at Oxford University who are recruiting children aged between 8 and 11 to take part in an online programme—OxComp. OxComp is designed to enhance children’s learning motivation and comprehension skills in English. Participating children are encouraged to spend approximately 10 minutes a day on their interactive exercise over a period of one month (but note that it's fine to drop out at any time!). They expect to see marked improvement in comprehension and vocabulary skills in the participating children. For more details and to sign up, please visit https://oxfordblavatnik.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_1ZCxLngY1MNccJ0 or email matthew.mak@bsg.ox.ac.uk

The Easter Singing Course will be taking place at St Barnabas’ church, Jericho, Oxford on the 12 & 13 April 2021. These courses are for children and young adults aged 7-13 who love to sing. They have some wonderful music planned for this Easter, including some Mozart, Handel, a medieval piece, Sumer is Icemen in, plus some fabulous traditional folk songs. Many children have really struggled with isolation during lockdown and singing is a wonderful way for them to connect with others their age. Research at Oxford University into the benefits of singing shows “that group singing not only helps forge social bonds” and that “Music making exercises the brain as well as the body, but singing is particularly beneficial for improving breathing, posture and muscle tension.”

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