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Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 6th november 2020

Dear Parents,

Welcome back! Although many of our half-term breaks probably weren’t quite so full of travel as we may have liked, I hope that you managed to get a bit of a rest ready for the remainder of Michaelmas. The boys are returning to the part of term we reserve for reviewing the targets that were set at the start of the year – seeing what has gone well and which areas remain for improvement. We have had seven teaching weeks of term now which might not seem like a long time, but it is actually a sizeable chunk of the academic year, and a part of the year when a great deal of curriculum content is delivered. As you will know, our pedagogical approach is not just about top-down delivery (even if there are some times when that is appropriate), but also about making sure that the boys are active participants in that process – taking on board what and how to learn more effectively as they progress through their time here.

That is why one of our housepoint categories is ‘reviewing and improving’, and I can speak from first-hand experience about the joy of being able to give those housepoints when you can identify progress from one lesson to another. There’s as much delight in that – perhaps more – than giving housepoints for just getting the answer right. It’s especially joyous if that progress has come through direct engagement with our marking and our ‘note to self’ system! Indeed, the dialogical approach to education only really works if that conversation does not just go one way. I went through school at a time when most feedback came in the simple ‘tick and turn’ format, with the odd ‘good’ put next to the mark at the end of an exercise. (Even when I went to university and asked for feedback on how I could improve one of my essays, my tutor’s unhelpful response was ‘Oh, you’re one of those are you?’ – I got my revenge by taking about five years to work out which century of French history we’d been ‘learning’ about.) Opinion remains divided about the value of reams of written feedback, but I remain firmly of the view that simple, targeted, discrete targets for further improvement are valuable at the end of a boy’s piece of work – but only if that feedback is read, digested, and acted upon. Hence, indeed, our ‘note to self’ system, and our insistence on these simple, targeted, discrete targets – for the sake of my colleagues’ writing hands and the boys’ own clear development.

Building trucks in DT; Reception Zoom story time; Burning metals in Science; Last museum tour before lockdown

Speaking of housepoints, you may have noticed that we now have three more categories for rewards: mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing and values. This is a very welcome extension of our rewards system to recognise the importance of the boys getting into good behaviours and habits for their overall wellbeing, and for being rewarded when those behaviours and habits are exhibited. Extrinsic rewards are not, in and of themselves, enough to motivate you through life. But if they help to nudge the boys onto the right tracks, then they serve their purpose.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

Person of the Week: Toni Stone (1921-96)

Artwork of the Week: Picasso’s ‘Guernica’

Word of the Week: forebears

I am very pleased with the way in which the boys have responded to the increased vigilance around school as Oxford went into ‘Tier 2’ and the new national lockdown began. As I mentioned in my Parentmail, the vast majority of school life can go on as it has been since the start of Michaelmas. I would be most grateful if parents of Year 7 and 8 boys could continue to remind them to have a washed face covering with them each day, along with an appropriate bag to store it in when not in use. Thank you, too, for continuing to social distance at pick-up and drop-off and leaving plenty of space for the boys to have an ‘exit route’ without having to pass closely by too many other people. I appreciate this is sometimes tricky at the end of a cul-de-sac but the more we can do, the better.

Poppies have been available for boys through their form tutors and will continue to be available through the early part of next week, ready for our Remembrance service on Wednesday (webcast to the boys in their form rooms from New College Chapel). Donations, as ever, will be sent to the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.

Congratulations to Luca in Year 7 who walked 230km during October to raise money for the Great Whales and Dolphins Charity. So far he has raised over £250. Well done, Luca – we are very proud of you.

Good luck to those Year 7 boys having Abingdon interviews via Zoom next week! I very much enjoyed my mock interviews with them a week or so ago, and I am sure they will equip themselves very well.

Forthcoming Events

Sunday 8 November 2020

11.15 Tempest rehearsal (Year 8/8S - see rehearsal schedule) until 14.15

Monday, 9 November 2020

Abingdon 13+ pre-test interviews start

16.00 The Tempest filming (all of Year 8/8S) until 19.00

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

10.00 Remembrance Day Service. Speaker: Mr Edward Hayter, Bursar, St Edward's School

16.00 The Tempest filming (all of Year 8/8S) until 19.00

Monday, 16 November 2020

12.00 Deadline for video submissions for virtual junior concert

Anti-bullying week begins

Tuesday 17th November 2020

Provisional School Nurse Lessons Year 6 P1 & 2, Year 7 P3 & 4 Year 8 P6 & 7

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

10.00 School Service. Speaker: Dr Betheny Sollereder, Postdoctoral Fellow in Science and Religion

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