Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 15th March 2019

Dear Parents,

As I’m sure your sons will have told you, the STEM festival has made for a most exciting and engaging week. Several of you have told me how your sons have come home buzzing with excitement about the many special activities on offer which have been designed to raise their awareness of the possibilities (and also potential hazards) of artificial intelligence. As was demonstrated in our prep school assembly today, the boys are thinking most reflectively about the effect AI will have on their lives and on the lives of others. But I’m glad to say they are overwhelmingly optimistic about how AI will be a force for good in the future once the major initial challenge of the loss of many traditional jobs has been faced. From the fun and sheer mechanical strength of ‘Robot Wars’ at the beginning of the week, and then the Holloway Lecture with Professor Clifton’s lucid exploration of the science and mathematics behind the development and application of AI, we have been taken through robot workshops, the sci-fi robot dreams of Hollywood, the world of driverless cars and an instructive practical demonstration of robot arms in Pre-Prep, led by 8S pupils. The Pre-Prep certainly seemed impressively informed about the rudiments of AI and the 8S boys made excellent teachers. (And perhaps, as one of boy observed, it will be some time before robots will be able keep effective order in the classroom!) Above all, it’s clear the week has caught the boys’ imaginations and it’s surely the case that most of them will be involved in deploying or developing AI applications in their working lives to make the world a better place – a world in which driverless cars make our cities less congested, a world in which the lonely and the elderly can be cared for more effectively, a world in which famine, poverty and poor health can be alleviated by widespread access to expertise.

STEM Festival: building robots; testing Terrorhurtz's strength; programming with Spheros and Microbit; Holloway Lecture with Prof. David Clifton; debating the ethics of AI; Year 8S and Pre-Prep robot craft.

But perhaps the greatest challenge for the future development of AI is replicating the nuances of human empathy. On College Day this week, the Warden gave the address in Chapel about the College’s El Greco painting of St James, which has recently returned to the Chapel after its loan to the Ashmolean. He recounted the story of its donation to the College, which hinged upon the instinct of a previous Warden to accept a random phone call. But more importantly he highlighted the extraordinary empathetic ability that El Greco had as a painter to draw us into the inner being, the soul, of his subject. Will artificial intelligence ever be able to match that sort of emotional intelligence and if it does what does that mean for human society? A question I’m sure your sons will ponder wisely over the coming years.

College Day

Indeed, there has been much of very wide interest this week for the boys and it’s a pleasure to see how they absorb and reflect upon new experiences so readily. Not only have pre-prep continued to nurture their chicks very ably this week, but today were able to meet and handle some beautiful examples of birds of prey as part of their Wild Learning. I am most grateful to the many colleagues who have enabled a good number of special activities for the boys over the past couple of weeks. As you can imagine, a great deal of time, care and commitment goes into organising these events which add so much to the breadth and quality of the boys’ learning. My warmest thanks to all.

Visit from Millets Farm Falconry



Sport. We’ve had another clutch of superb results ranging from Year 2 right up to Year 8. Year 2 class played in their first ever rugby match on Thursday afternoon against Summer Fields. All three teams had a great afternoon playing some super rugby with skill and speed on show from both sides. In all, 25 tries were scored with honours even at the end of the afternoon. 1 win, 1 draw and 1 loss was a fair result and, more importantly, every boy came off smiling! A little further up the school, the U8 and U9 boys played Brockhurst School at hockey last Friday afternoon. Every boy was representing the School and each one did a fantastic job in ensuring wins for all six of the NCS teams. On the U9 pitches, away at Brockhurst, Josh Cable and Finn Lawrence had brilliant games and were duly voted ‘men of the match’ by the opposition coaches. At home, the U8/9 ‘All Stars’ were in sparkling form: Jacob Whyte was ‘man of the match’ with a special mention for Peter Kendall for his strongly-improved performance. In the U11 age group, the ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams played in the annual Dragon Festival on Wednesday afternoon and both teams were superb. The ‘B’ team played in a very tough group with three other 1st teams and only lost one game all afternoon. In two tough encounters against Dragon ‘A’s and Winchester House ‘A’s, the ‘B’ team held firm and got well-earned draws in both games: 0-0 against Winchester House and 1-1 vs the Dragon where NCS took the lead thanks to a great goal by Theo Knight. The reward was an unprecedented 3rd in their group. Very well done to all. In the ‘A’ team, the boys got off to a flying start by scoring 11 goals in the first two games. In the third game of the afternoon we let slip a lead vs Cheltenham’s 1st team and,, despite the boys best efforts could not quite find the elusive goal to win the game. At the end of the afternoon, after two more cracking wins, the boys ended up in 2nd place overall by just a solitary point. A great achievement once again which deserves much congratulation.

The U11 team were also playing on Monday afternoon this week at the Stowe School Hockey Festival. Mr Bishop and Mr Rose tell me that the boys played some of the best hockey they have seen and, as a result, recorded wins against Ashfold School and Winchester House. A final 1-1 draw against Moulsford Prep meant we qualified for the semi-finals for the second time this term. In a brilliant game vs Northampton School we were desperately unlucky as we hit the post twice and had shots saved off the line in frenetic goalmouth action. Despite our hard work, we lost 2-1 to the eventual winners. After the game the boys enjoyed tea in the Stowe Mansion and, as a bonus, Ben Harkness was voted ‘player of the tournament’ by the Stowe staff: no mean feat bearing in mind there were at least 200 players in attendance. Congratulations to Ben on that accolade!

Finally this week, I’d like to congratulate the U13 1st team on a stunning performance at the South of England regional hockey finals. Twenty of the region’s best teams were competing and in seven extremely tough games and, to their great credit, the boys managed to fight their way to the final of the plate competition. On the way the managed to record wins over Gildridge House, Trinity School and Sir William Borlase Grammar School. In the final they were up against Elstree School and, on this occasion, it just proved a step to far and so we had to settle for being runners-up. However, this does not detract from the fact this team are now ranked in the top ten hockey playing schools in the South of England. A tremendous achievement this season, of which they should be very proud!

Further news of awards to senior schools have been coming through this week. Congratulations and well done to Joseph Conway (Academic Scholarship and Sports Scholarship, Abingdon School), Arnaud Girardin-Potts (Academic Exhibition, MCS), and Sammy Jarvis (Academic Scholarship, Abingdon School).

Years 7 & 8 are looking forward to the Ceilidh Dance tomorrow with OHS, organised by the NCSPA. Timings are 7-9pm in the Sports Hall. Please make sure you drop off and collect your son/daughter from entrance to the Sports Hall.

Not to be outdone, Years 3, 4 and 5 will be having a Pizza and Dance party next Friday at 4.00pm, nobly organised by Miss Krebs and Mrs Showell-Rogers. Details were sent out by Parentmail earlier this week. Please return the pro-forma to the School Office as soon as possible if you wish your son to participate.

The Annual Hockey Match vs NCS YOBS (Young Old Boys) is on Sunday at 10.00am at St Edward’s Astro. All welcome. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with recent leavers and their parents and there are usually some delicious pitch-side refreshments afterwards

I’m looking forward to the Senior Concerts next Wednesday at 5.15pm and 6.15pm. Mr Neal is sending out detailed arrangements for performers. There will be drinks in my study for parents and visitors before each concert.

Next Thursday Pre-Prep have their poetry recitation at 2.00pm followed by their ‘Show and Tell’ afternoon at 2.45pm. They will perform the poems they have learned and take parents through their books and folders. Do join us if you can: it’s always a treat to see their many achievements.

A reminder that there are no activities except Chamber Choir and lunchtime judo in the final week of term. And thank you to parents for effecting the latest sign-up so promptly and efficiently. Please let Mr Hardy-Lenik know of any difficulties with the new system.

Tickets are also now available from We Got Tickets https://www.wegottickets.com/event/464560 for the Chamber Choir and Choral Society’s performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas on Saturday 23rd March at 7.30pm in New College Antechapel.

Tickets (free-of-charge) are now available for the French Play, La Folie de Mort, which takes place on Tuesday, 26th March and Wednesday 27th March at 6.00pm in the School Hall, followed by the French Café in the Sports Hall. It is suggested that Year 5 families attend on the Tuesday and Year 6 families on the Wednesday.

Words and Music will be held in New College Chapel to mark our end-of-term on Friday, 29th March at 11.00am. Term ends at 12 noon.

Staff Appointments for September. Dr Lucy Gallagher will take up the post of Head of English with History from September 2019 in succession to Dr Jenkinson. Dr Gallagher took her degree from Edinburgh University, her doctorate from Newcastle University, and her PGCE from the Oxford University Department of Education. She has recently taught at St Edward’s School and the Oxford Tutorial College. Our congratulations to Miss Sarah Llewellyn-Jones on her appointment to teach English at Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School. There will be time for proper farewells next term, but I'd like to take this first opportunity to express our gratitude for her skilful and thoughtful contributions to the music department, to the Choir, and to the wider cultural and pastoral life of the School. In her place, I have appointed Miss Isobel Rose to be Assistant Director of Music and Chorister Tutor. Miss Rose took her degree from University College, Oxford and has recently been teaching at Magdalen College School.

Dates for next term. Sheldonian Concert. There will be a whole school celebratory concert in the Sheldonian Theatre on Thursday 23rd May at 6.00pm, followed by a reception in New College. Every boy from Reception to Year 8 will take part. The centrepiece will be a performance of Camille Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals. All NCS families present and past are warmly invited: tickets will be available later this term. Wykeham Day, which will include a morning concert by current and former NCS, a cricket match on Field with a barbecue lunch, and then our Summer Fête, will take place on Saturday 22nd June.

With good wishes to all NCS families,

Robert Gullifer

Forthcoming Events

Saturday, 16 March 2019

19.00 NCSPA Ceilidh for Yrs 7 & 8, Sports Hall

Sunday, 17 March 2019

10.00 Old Boys' Hockey Match, St Edward's Astro

Monday, 18 March 2019

Associated Board Music Exams this week

14.30 U13 A&B Hockey vs Thorngrove, Away

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

14.00 U11 Hockey House Matches, Iffley Road

14.00 French play technical rehearsal,

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

10.00 School Service, New College Chapel

Speaker: The Revd Gavin Knight,

Vicar of the Church of St Michael & All Angels, Summertown

Coffee afterwards in the Undercroft for parents and visitors

14.00 U13 B-D Hockey vs Abingdon Prep, St Edward's Astro

17.15 Senior Concerts Pt 1 (Yrs 6,7,8), School Hall

Drinks in HM Study at 5.00pm

18.15 Senior Concerts Pt 2 (Yrs 6,7,8), School Hall

Drinks in HM Study at 6.00pm

Thursday, 21 March 2019

9.00 Pre-Prep Fire Engine Visit

13.45 French Play dress rehearsal

14.00 Pre-Prep Poetry Recitation and ‘Show and Tell’

Friday, 22 March 2019

16.00 Yrs 3,4,5 Pizza and Dance

Saturday 23 March 2019

19.30 NCS Choral Society: Dido & Aeneas, New College Antechapel

Sunday, 24 March 2019

9.00 U13 A IAPS Rugby, Sherbourne

Monday, 25 March 2019

No Activities in final week of term, except Judo and Chamber Choir

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

18.00 Years 5 & 6 French Play and Café, School Hall and Sports Hall

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

9.00 Music practice for Words and Music, New College Chapel

No School Service (Form Period); Orders in Years 3-8 issued.

14.00 U13 A&B Hockey vs Ashfold, St Edward's Astro

14.00 U13 C&D Hockey vs Ashfold, Away

Orders in Years 3-8 issued

18.00 Years 5 & 6 French Play and Café, School Hall and Sports Hall

Thursday, 28 March 2019

9.00 Poetry practice for Words and Music, New College Chapel

13.15 Eco Schools Green Flag Assessor

14.00 U11 A&B Hockey vs MCS, Away

14.00 U11 C&D Hockey vs MCS, Iffley Road

Friday, 29 March 2019

11.00 Words and Music, New College Chapel

12.00 End of term 12 noon

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