Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 5 June 2020

This week has brought a new vista in our increasingly unusual educational landscape. We now have three year groups on site, in addition to the boys who were already here last half-term, so about a third of us are on Savile Road. The remaining two thirds are at home. We are still all learning remotely, even if we are on site, while my colleagues are doing a phenomenal job of supervising and jollying along, while still keeping the full remote curriculum going. It is, to be honest, bizarre. But it is just one of the unintended consequences of lockdown and our stuttering and slow progress towards what we might, some day, call ‘normality’.

Another unintended consequence is the fact that, even if one third of our community is on site, it is a necessarily fragmented community. We are operating in ‘bubbles’ with contact between those bubbles minimised on site as much as is possible. While this is physically workable, we must guard against some of the psychological consequences of this, especially when we are being told that we cannot share and cannot really play together. In a school where one sixth of our reward system is based around collaboration, this can seem rather odd. That reward system is necessarily becoming lop-sided as we promote the increased independence that inevitably comes with remote learning, while shaving away opportunities for collaboration. At least, collaboration in person. If we are to preserve and promote the community in which we all believe – and which is such a hallmark of a school like NCS – we will need to be imaginative about the ways in which we think about how we all relate to one another now.

You may have encountered the suspicion that can be experienced between two people just passing in the street, if one thinks that the other has not kept the necessary distance, or is breathing too heavily. This social distancing has been a significant part of our experience of lockdown, and it is something with which we are probably going to have to get used to living. But it must not lead to an innate mistrust of one another, a society in which everyone gives a sideways glance each time someone clears their throat. When lockdown began, something very un-British occurred: those few people who did pass one another in the street began saying ‘hello’ to one another, or even perhaps just giving a smile of solidarity, even if they were strangers. That novelty soon wore off, I fear, and many people reverted to staring at the floor, scowling, or jumping into bushes if they thought their six-feet forcefield had been breached. Yes, we need to be vigilant, but we will still have to coexist with one another at some point. This point may not be soon; we still just don’t know. But I, for one, am not sure I could enjoy living in a society based upon suspicion and atomistic self-preservation. We will have to learn to find a middle way – a middle way which, I admit, I am not yet able to describe. That’s the problem with uncertainty. But we must not sacrifice the values we cherish when faced with uncertainty, because those values will be our lodestars as we try to navigate a ‘new normal’ which isn’t really ‘normal’ at all.

Have a great weekend,

Dr J

Artwork: Dream house by Jake; Picture find objects by Jacob; View outside by Ishan; objects painting by Henry C; Models by Alexander C-B; Objects painting by George C; Picture find objects by Luca P; Picture find objects by Max J

Congratulations to the following boys for receiving merit certificates this week:

Victor For superb work on bar charts

James For work done and progress made on the violin this half term

Dominic For his review of a proof copy of an Oxford University Press book

Max For his research on healthy living

George For a stunning ‘picture find’ drawing with perspective in Art

Alexander For his research on healthy living

Dan For a marvellous sketch of a Roman centurion in Classics

Paddy For excellent research and analysis of the shrine at Lourdes in RSP

Jake For outstanding French effort

Max For a powerful Art ‘picture find’

Laurence For an excellent map of China

Peter For outstanding French

Eddie For brilliant independent French work

Eddie For finding the meaning of SPQR in Latin and English

Nat For an excellent piece of work on geometry reflecting an outstanding effort, understanding supported with beautiful mathematical notation

Felix For his work on adaptations

Luca For a thought-provoking ‘picture find’ in Art

Didrik For outstanding work on his comprehension

Isaac For a supreme effort working independently

George For outstanding History research and analysis


Xander Gold Certificate

Thomas Platinum Certificate

Nathanael Platinum Certificate

Monty Platinum Certificate

Alex Headmaster's Award

Well done to Peter who has been named runner-up in the TORCH Storytelling Competition for his re-telling of the story of the Minotaur - 'Theseus, the Minotaur, and the Coffee.' The judges said: "This really made us laugh. It is a very composed and controlled piece of writing." The successful entries are available online at https://www.torch.ox.ac.uk/article/announcement-the-torch-storytelling-competition-winners

Our virtual open morning will take place on Saturday 20 June. Do please pass on the booking link to any friends, colleagues or family who you think might be interested: www.newcollegeschool.org/open-days. You can also share or like our adverts on social media. Many thanks!

We are hosting a few NCS family quizzes via Zoom to help us all keep in touch and to provide a bit of extra entertainment as we head towards the end of term. The questions, set by the NCS SLT, will be aimed at the boys; but we want everyone to get involved and some may require a little parental or sibling help! Our provisional timings are below. Do join us if you aren’t already quizzed out.

Pre-Prep Tuesday 9 June 17.00

Years 3-4 Thursday 11 June 17.00

Years 5-6 Tuesday 16 June 17.00

Years 7-8 Thursday 18 June 17.00

Today marks the launch of the Summer Reading Challenge, presented by The Reading Agency, delivered in partnership with public libraries and funded by Arts Council England. Children are encouraged to read any books of their choice during the summer holidays (we recommend at least six) with collectable incentives and rewards, plus a certificate for every child who completes the Challenge. Usually, the Challenge takes place in public libraries across the country. This year, with the disruption caused by Covid-19 and the impact of social distancing on schools and public libraries, the all-new digital Summer Reading Challenge is launching earlier than usual. For the Summer Reading Challenge 2020, The Reading Agency are asking everyone to get silly with the launch today and beyond. The theme for the Challenge is “Silly Squad” – a celebration of funny books, happiness and laughter, featuring bespoke artwork from award-winning children's author and illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson. There is a whole host of virtual events this evening with guest celebrities and authors to mark the launch of the digital Challenge on their Facebook page from 16.00 to 19.00. The website will also be updated and will include new Home and School Zones. The website is free to access and a place for children to rate and review their books and work towards their reading goal. It will also feature video content, games, quizzes and digital and downloadable activities to incentivise and encourage children and their families to take part in the Challenge at home.

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