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Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 18th september 2020

Dear Parents,

As much as I enjoy reading dispatches from the DfE, this summer I attempted to read some writers whose prose sings a little more. One such author was Natalia Ginzburg, the twentieth-century Sicilian author. Even if I was planning on having a few days away from the world of education, my gaze inevitably drifted towards Ginzburg’s essay on education, which she titled ‘The Little Virtues’. This is a somewhat misleading heading as Ginzburg actually wants us to focus on the great virtues when it comes to education, virtues she summarised as: generosity, an indifference to money, courage, frankness, love of truth, love for one’s neighbour, self-denial, and ‘not a desire for success but a desire to be and to know’. As a significant part of my existence is dedicated to decent education and preparing our boys for happy and successful (however defined) futures, I am always keen to read the guidance of wise authors like Ginzburg. I am not suggesting that she was right in everything she wrote, and some of her points make me ponder rather than nod vigorously in agreement. But there are certainly some ideas worth sharing towards the beginning of this academic year.

A significant proportion of Ginzburg’s essay is devoted to the issue of money and how to bring up children with a healthy attitude towards it. Ginzburg is not a supporter of using cash for children’s rewards, as it mixes money (‘an ignoble thing’) with learning, which is ‘admirable and worthy’. Money is not, for Ginzburg, the ‘crowning reward for work’. In addition, by encouraging children to save money in money boxes, week after week, month after month, Ginzburg argues that children develop too serious a relationship with money. Once that cash has gone on some longed-for item, she argues that children experience a sense of loneliness and end up preferring money to things. A proper relationship with money, for Ginzburg, involves ‘being moderate with oneself and generous with others’, creating an indifference to money rather than worry and regret about it. If children were to spend small amounts of money more frequently, they would consider it to be what it truly is – ‘silly’ – returning instead to the more important concerns of childhood.

Testing nutrient content in Year 8 Science; making up games in Pre-Prep playtime; quiet reading in the Library; Reception Maths

What were those concerns? Well, naturally, a lot of them relate to schools and schooling. Ginzburg is all for parents letting children face their own difficulties in school. She is of the view that life is full of misunderstandings, misinterpretations and injustices, so it is good practice for children to face them from a young age and process them rationally as a preparation for that later life. (I should add here that we try to minimise such things here at NCS, but assuming we are all human, they are sometimes going to happen – it is how we react to and remedy them that matters.) Ginzburg argues that if parents fight their children’s battles, it just makes those children bored and distanced from parents who are themselves posing as ‘victims’. The best reaction, for Ginzburg, is for children to avoid committing injustices themselves, then of course they are minimised in the community as a whole. Parents are there, instead, to console their children when things go wrong, to give them courage to get back up, but also to keep their offspring humble when they do achieve success. Ginzburg implicitly lands on that bedrock of the educational process: the partnership between home and school, when there are appropriate expectations between the two. School is, she argued, ‘a display of offered tools, from which it is perhaps possible to choose one which will be useful tomorrow’.

Enjoying the sunshine in lessons and break time

Ginzburg’s essay concludes beautifully with a simple statement of what parents should do for their children: surround them with ‘shadows and space’ that nurture the development of an existence and a vocation. And that vocation should be a love of life and learning, developed carefully, coaxed gently, away from all the crowbars, bulldozers, snowploughs, helicopters or whatever metaphor is applied in the press to some forms of parenting. Shadows and space. Freedom but gentle protection. What an economically wise way to express a beneficial approach to bringing up and educating children.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

Person of the Week: John Lewis (1940-2020)

Artwork of the Week: ‘Stars’ by Mary Howe (1882-1964)

Word of the Week: docile

Sport. After the first full week back in school we have seen an excellent attitude and approach to games lessons from each and every boy on the games fields. Training has been hard and competitive with each year group showing early signs of improvement and progress. It’s been great to see pre-prep enjoying their football lessons and PE lessons on the new surface, with Mr Collins also saying his tennis club really benefited from the extra bounce of the new playground! I am also pleased to report that a number of boys are beginning to get back to competitive sport with grass roots football being played all around the county. I wish them all the very best in the upcoming matches and very much look forward to match reports on Monday.

Finally it gives me great pleasure to report on one of our Year 7 boys, Patrick, who was selected for the Oxfordshire county cricket squad after a lengthy selection process last year. Due to the obvious circumstances of this year there has not been much cricket played but this has not daunted his spirit and enthusiasm for the game. Both Patrick and his brother, Xander, trained hard all through lock down and honed their skills in anticipation for the return of the game. Thanks to this hard work Patrick was selected to play in the only game this summer against Buckinghamshire, where he performed well with both bat and ball. Both boys are regulars for the Oxford Cricket Club and this year they played together in the same U11 team for the first time, Xander being an U8. There is clearly a bright future for NCS cricket! CB

We have very much enjoyed seeing families via Zoom this week for our series of form tutor introductions and briefings, as well as some sessions on 13+ destinations and wellbeing at NCS. If we can’t see you all in person, it’s the next best thing. The Year 4 form tutor briefing with Mrs Williams, as you will already know, has been postponed until Tuesday 22 September at 18.00.

You will, no doubt, be observing the difficulties wrought nationwide by Covid testing delays and government guidance to stay away from work and school if displaying any Covid symptoms. I am sure you will join me in thanking my colleagues for their efforts to provide some remote learning to absent pupils, when possible and reasonable, while now also doing their fulltime day jobs which involve a considerable amount of (socially distanced) face-to-face time. Thank you for your patience while, outside lessons, they prioritise remote learning for those boys who simply cannot attend school, and for your understanding as we work to make sure that workloads remain manageable at a time when there are naturally extra pressures.

Harvest Festival is on Wednesday 30 September. The boys are encouraged to bring in non-perishable produce for distribution to local food banks. Please do ask your son to give some thought as to what he might bring in and how this might support people in Oxford in need. We will ‘quarantine’ any items the boys bring in before distributing them.

Our Virtual Open Morning is on Saturday 3 October at 9.30 onwards. Prospective parents are asked to register at https://www.newcollegeschool.org/open-days -- do please pass on this link if you know of any families who would be interested in joining our wonderful community.

We are still aiming to have our portrait photos taken (with all the necessary measures in place) on Friday 25 September. Please encourage your sons to bring a comb with them on that day. Years 5 and 6 will need to, as an exception, arrive in school uniform and then get changed for Games later in the day once they have had their photos taken.

Forthcoming Events

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

8.50 Gamelan Music workshop, Year 6, Faculty of Music (all morning; back for lunch) (tbc)

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

10.00 School Service. Speaker: The Revd Professor William Whyte, Tutorial Fellow in History, St John's College

Friday, 25 September 2020

9.00 Portrait photos (sports hall)

Monday, 28 September 2020

19.00 NCSPA AGM

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

10.00 Harvest Festival. Speaker: The Revd Dr Erica Longfellow, School and College Chaplain

Thursday, 1 October 2020

HPV Immunisations (1) (Year 8) (tbc)

Saturday, 3 October 2020

10.00 Open Morning

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