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Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 23rd October 2020

Dear Parents,

When we come back after half term, across the Atlantic we will be witnessing an era-defining election. Maybe that’s being hyperbolic, but it certainly seems that there is a lot at stake in a volatile country. America is not the only volatile country in the world where there is a lot at stake, I grant you, but it is one we are following closely because of our political and cultural crossover, the once much-vaunted ‘special relationship’, and the possibly seismic reverberations around the world. You probably know that we are legally (and ethically) obliged to teach and promote what the government calls ‘Fundamental British Values’: democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance. Clearly these are not exclusively British values, many of us have informed the government, so it is sometimes useful and entertaining to teach the boys about democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance in countries other than our own.

Recently, through our ‘news roundup’ assemblies, I have been attempting to teach the prep school about how the American electoral college system works, and how the popular vote and poll predictions can sometimes go out of the window in such a system. (I reminded the boys that when I gave an assembly ahead of the 2016 US election Hilary Clinton had a 83.5% chance of winning …). Some of you will already be ahead of me, by postulating whether recent US politics have admirably demonstrated mutual respect and tolerance, while there have also been fears about the preservation of the rule of law, differing interpretations of what ‘individual liberty’ means (especially in the context of Covid-19), and just how ‘democratic’ the current electoral system is.

Pre-Prep 'amazing animals' QED day; Charity week fundraising

Many of those things will be for civics lessons in American high schools, but they should most definitely be on our radar too. It is very easy to take ‘Fundamental British Values’ for granted, but if they are not exercised they weaken and wither. We haven’t quite gone down the road of having our own mock US election, with an electoral college giving disproportionate weight to different classes (though the mischievous side of me wishes we had – Reception as California? 8S as Wyoming?). But by keeping engaged with democratic politics around the world, and the different forms it can take, we can hopefully instil in the boys the importance of staying alert, engaged, and involved – and by most definitely voting when they get the chance, and preserving democracy whenever it seems that someone might want to corrupt or twist it for their own purposes.

Sewing in Activities; Winners of the Lego Eiffel Tower competition; artwork by Year 3

Have a great half term. You, and the boys and my colleagues, all deserve it after what has been a very successful first half term to the year. We are all operating under strange and sometimes irksome circumstances, but I am proud and full of admiration for the way in which everyone has responded.

Matt Jenkinson

Person of the Week: Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937)

Artwork of the Week: Florence Price’s (1888-1953) first symphony

Word of the Week: farrago

We have had a very successful Charity Week in aid of Cancer Research UK, with some very imaginative rejigging of our usual charity events to keep them consistent with Covid-19 guidelines. The fun runs have been especially successful and enjoyable events, with some wonderful superhero costumes and moving stories from the boys about the people in aid of whom they have been running. Thank you to everyone who has donated time and money so generously, and especially to Mrs Showell-Rogers who has coordinated the week so energetically. We are pleased to announce that, so far this week, we have raised over £1250 (plus Gift Aid) for Cancer Research UK.

Speaking of charity, after a very successful drive last year, we are once again running our annual Christmas shoebox drive. Although it may seem early to be thinking about Christmas, it is an enjoyable activity to help occupy Half-Term. This year we have selected the charity Link to Hope, which supplies boxes to poverty-stricken communities in eastern Europe. You can find packing guidelines at https://linktohope.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Shoebox-Leaflet-2020.pdf (please do read carefully and attach to shoebox). For families preferring to donate monetarily, further details are available on their website: https://linktohope.co.uk. Unfortunately, the local Project Shoebox for women living in refuges is not running this year. Completed shoeboxes will be stacked in the Sports Hall lobby, on show for the boys and to mark the generosity of the school community. The deadline is 6 November 2020. Many thanks!

Year 7 and 8/8S parents have been sent a separate Parentmail about the remaining schedule for our Tempest rehearsals (the first of which is the last Sunday of the half-term break) and performances. This is a brave new world (see what I did there?) for all of us, with a filmed rather than a live production, and we are very excited about what we will be able to do with some additional technology! Many thanks to Year 8/8S parents for helping the boys do their final line learning over half term, as our rehearsals and performances after the half term break will be script-free.

Parents may be interested to know that Blackwell’s will have 20% off all children's books from 26-29 October. This deal applies to all the children's books they have in stock.

Parents may be aware of the rather dramatic demolition works that have been going on at the site of the Tinbergen Building, at the junction of St Cross and South Parks Roads, which will soon become the University’s new Life and Mind Building. This is an exciting and major project that will be of huge benefit to the University and our own particular part of the city. One issue that we have to bear in mind is that of increased deliveries to the new building (currently proposed off Mansfield Road, next to the University Club) and the impact that this might have on road safety. Obviously, we all want our locality to be safe for pedestrians and cyclists, especially as more and more of us are cycling and walking to school, and the institutions in our area are working together for a sustainable solution which promotes safe and cyclable roads. You will be able to see the application, and have the opportunity to have your say (by 12 November), here: https://public.oxford.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=QHQ97ZMF0XW00

Forthcoming Events

Sunday 1 November 2020

13.30 Tempest rehearsal (Year 8/8S - see rehearsal schedule) until 16.00

Monday, 2 November 2020

Return from Half term

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

10.00 School Service. Speaker: Dr Anna Blomley, Esmee Fairburn Junior Research Fellow in Classics, New College

16.00 The Tempest filming (all of Year 7) until 17.15

17.30 Governors' Meeting

Sunday 8 November 2020

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

Monday, 9 November 2020

NA 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

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