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Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 19th March 2021

As we can’t really go out anywhere, I have been using the extra time at home to work through some books and films that have been sitting on my shelves waiting for a rainy day. One of those I had been putting off and off, because the topic was not immediately that gripping, was the life of the Italian engineer Adriano Olivetti – a name most often connected with portable typewriters and related technologies (and, incidentally, this week’s ‘person of the week’). Steeling myself for a step-by-step exposition of the evolution of the typewriter, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the topic was not quite so much the product but the man, and the ideas behind the product and the man. Olivetti was a philanthropist and visionary who saw his factory, and the workers within it, as a way to mould and present a vision of a more just society. Central to that vision were the cornerstones of community and culture. As Olivetti put it, his ideal community ‘would provide in all its activities … indispensable cooperation, efficiency, respect for human personality, culture and art’. He said quite a lot more too, but it is the importance of culture and art that I want to dwell on here.

Evacuees in Year 5 History; Poetry competition; Hockey training; Making seawigs in Year 2; Street Tag update

In one of the opening scenes of the Olivetti docudrama, he is portrayed as taking a wrecking ball to the enormous brick walls of the factory he has inherited from his father. This is not to destroy the factory, but to install enormous glass windows to allow light to stream in, and for the factory workers to enjoy the views around Ivrea in Northern Italy. Olivetti sells this to his father as the light triggering endorphins in the workers, thus making them more productive, but it goes further than this: allowing the beauty of nature, of the local architecture, to come inside the factory was the correct humanitarian thing to do. Olivetti believed in access to beauty, to culture, to art as a right, as a key to happiness – not just as a way to make people more efficient. And it is this access to culture that is so crucially important at a school like NCS.

Pre-Prep World Book Day

At a time when there is a constant pressure to reduce the curriculum to core subjects, utilitarian skills, reasoning papers and the like, we need to keep underlining the fundamental value of culture to an excellent education, producing well-rounded and happy children. That culture comes in many different forms and should be everywhere. It is not just in the beautiful world-class music we ordinarily get to enjoy in New College Chapel – the most recent of which can be heard at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hF-XYTZL_Os– it is also on the walls of corridors, in the decoration of classrooms, in the architecture of buildings. And, as you know, in just a few years we will have a spectacular new building which will be an architectural gem adding to the architecture we are so lucky to enjoy in central Oxford. (With the honourable exception of Wadham library, which I get to ‘enjoy’ from my front room at home.) When I was doing my teacher training I observed a History lesson in a classroom where the walls were grey unpainted breezeblocks. I’m not sure it mattered how good the teacher was, if all the pupils could see was a drab grey vista. Of course, no one really chose to leave the breezeblock wall that way, and it was no doubt the result of underfunding, or funding directed away from the learning environment. But it did mar the learning experience, an experience that is the culmination of so many different things – a core one of which is what the place looks like, which contributes to the cultural ambience in which pupils should get to luxuriate and learn.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

Parents of Year 7 and 8 pupils should (via their sons) now be in possession of Covid-19 Lateral Flow Tests for home testing twice a week. We have just had updated guidance that these tests should continue throughout the Easter holiday to help guard against community transmission. I would like to extend my thank to those boys who have been having on-site tests for the past fortnight, and who have done so with such patience and maturity.

Very well done to all those boys who took part in our Zoom Junior and Senior Concerts this week. Though (like everything else) not quite the same as in person, the boys did very well indeed to perform so beautifully for their virtual audience. My thanks to Miss Rose and Mr Neal for putting these concerts together and compering so elegantly, and of course to all our VMTs, parents, grandparents and siblings who have supported the boys’ learning and practice so admirably. And very well done to the choristers who were back in chapel last week for a beautiful (if socially distanced) service for Lent, with readings from John Donne by Professor Peter McCullough of Lincoln College: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hF-XYTZL_Os.

Please could you encourage your sons to look for any NCS library books at home, and to return them to be quarantined in the library before the end of term? Many thanks.

Undaunted by Covid restrictions, our annual Poetry Competition went ahead this week. Our judge, the BAFTA-winning screenwriter Adrian Hodges, very nobly joined us via Zoom to enjoy the boys’ recitations. The results are as follows: Year 3: Isaac L (winner), with Charlie S, Tom D, George T and Henry C highly commended finalists. Year 4: Thomas H (winner), with Michael S, Thomas B, Laurence K, Max L-L and Alex M highly commended finalists. Year 5: Jacob W (winner), with Thomas H, Jake J, Mark K, James A and George M highly commended finalists. Year 6: Didrik T-W (winner), with Zachary W, Edward M, Rishaan C, Dan C and Max J highly commended finalists. Year 7: Paddy A and Benedict F (winners), with Henry E, Jasper N, Luca P and Nahum W highly commended finalists. Year 8/8S: Nat M (winner), with Isaac C, Theo K, Leo H, Tommy P and Angus E highly commended finalists. Congratulations to all!

Thank you for supporting this term's charity, the World Wildlife Fund. Our main fundraiser, the Zoom-styled tea towels – with a fantastic design by Miss Kilkenny – are now available to purchase. Also, a big thank you for Earthshot Prize entries (winners to be announced next week) and supporting Street Tag, both of which further contribute to raising awareness and funds. The Charity Committee have set the price of tea towels at £3.50 each or two for £6, available to purchase next week during morning breaks (Yrs 3-8 only) or by completing the Parentmail form sent yesterday. Please note that the first 100 tea towels sold out within just a few hours of yesterday's parentmail but another delivery will be with us shortly. To end this term's fundraising efforts, the Charity Committee will run some fete-style games and nut-free bake sale during next week's playtimes. We would appreciate that any home baked cake donations are marked with a production date for quarantining purposes.

StreetTag update: Granny Showell-Rogers and Betinka continue their firm hold on 1st and 2nd place and will be hard to catch now before race end on 31st March. Sjc16 continues to inch closer to shovel who is reportedly nervous that their grip on 3rd place is slipping away. Despite cable's best efforts, they have yet to gain on sjc16. Rogers dramatically slumped in the ranks thanks to a sprained ankle whilst kelsey managed to rise up in the league table, along with a kelseymr who now sits in 12th place. Go Team Kelsey! Has anyone solved the riddle of which staff member might be Betinka? Find out in our final assembly next week when winners are announced. Points: today: 1,859,395; two weeks ago: 1,363,105. Team Members: today: 65; previously: 63.

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

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