Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 27th November 2020

Dear Parents,

Maybe it’s because I’m a Spurs fan. Maybe it’s because I spent my formative years watching the English football team get so close, but never quite close enough. Maybe it’s because my ‘house’ at school usually came last or second-to-last. Whatever the reason, I learnt at a fairly young age to become accustomed to ‘losing’. Not only that, but I had to develop strategies to cope with the concept, as unpleasant as it may have seemed at the time. Today we call this ‘resilience’ – but I don’t think such a concept was articulated at my school; we were just expected to get on with it and work it out for ourselves. There may be a virtue in that – part of being resilient is falling back on one’s own resources, avoiding the all-too-easy blame game, and not expecting someone else to sort out all our problems. But if we can get our pupils used to not winning all the time, it is probably a useful skill for their future lives.

Ensemble recordings; a visit from rabbits in the Science lab; building a goal in DT; investigating shadows in Year 1; festivities begin!

Don’t get me wrong – I wish our boys every success in the future. I expect them to be successful, and happy in their success. It is good to win (and sometimes to win bigly). But not every prep can get a ‘10’. Not everyone can be the first team captain. Not every team can win every match. And while we can go to great efforts to spread responsibilities around, or to schedule fixtures that will lead to a morale-maintaining success rate, we have to appreciate that the f-word (failure) might sometimes rear its head. Not that I really like that word – we are big believers here in ‘not yet’ over ‘not’; deferred success, or ‘failing upwards’, perhaps. While it may seem that we are euphemising ourselves away from cruel realities, I would rather we took this middle road: between the gut-punching ‘F’ and the unrealistic ‘everyone’s a winner’ approach to life. The reality is that, once the boys get into the real world, there will be far fewer people caring about their feelings and providing the soft landing when something hasn’t gone quite right. And while there is a particular brand of parenting (not prevalent among NCS parents, I hasten to add) that takes on a second career in ensuring that their children never not succeed, that approach simply doesn’t last in the long-run, when those children face adversity for the first time and collapse into a mess. Such an approach is actually crueller: it just delays the inevitable and makes that inevitable harder to bear. (I should add that there is a tiny minority of people out there who have never ‘failed’ at anything, but they are often insufferable and are perhaps best avoided.)

Artwork by Jack, Alex and Alexander in Year 4

So how do we prepare our pupils not to succeed the whole time? Firstly, by modelling it and modelling appropriate responses. We should not pretend that we are all winners with an impenetrable forcefield of brilliance. Publicly doing something that one is not brilliant at, but at which one is persevering, can be as valuable as standing up and wowing everyone the whole time. By modelling appropriate responses, I mean showing dignity in defeat, appreciating the qualities of the person or team that has succeeded at that moment, and resisting the all-too-easy temptation to cry foul or look for conspiracy theories. No one is saying that every referee decision is guaranteed to be absolutely watertight. But the vast majority are very close to it and there are lots of people working to make sure that we keep going in that direction. The dice are sometimes weighted slightly against us; but to dwell on that is to ignore the fact that they are sometimes weighted slightly in our favour. We should encourage the boys to stand back and appreciate that other people are allowed to succeed too, and very often they deserve that success even if it means that, for the moment, we have not ourselves succeeded. Such a lesson applies whether we are 4 or 74.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

Person of the Week: Grace Darling

Artwork of the Week: ‘The Mousetrap’ by Agatha Christie

Word of the Week: fortitude

Huge congratulations to Mr Andy Bradley and his wife, Adele, on the birth of Erin yesterday at 11.28am. I am sure the whole NCS community wishes the Bradley family every happiness.

An accident this week, involving an adult cyclist, on the corner of Mansfield and Savile Roads should remind all of us in the NCS community about the importance of vigilant road safety – especially in our vicinity with so many children and young people cycling and walking to and from school. Thank you for this continued vigilance and taking extra care and caution, double- and triple-checking, to ensure the safety of those of all ages on our roads.

Sadly the NCSPA is not able to host the normal Christmas Fair and Santa’s Grotto this year for obvious reasons. Instead the they are organising some Christmas activities for the boys which they can enjoy in their classes towards the end of term. In return for these we ask that each family makes a donation to the NCS Parents’ Association on behalf of their son. Details of how to do this will follow next week.

The following plans are in place for the final week of Michaelmas. There will be ‘quarantine’ boxes for Christmas cards in pre-prep and in the entrance lobby of the prep school; cards will be distributed after the appropriate ‘quarantine’ period!

Wednesday 9 December

Crackers to be available in form rooms for form time

Christmas sweater day: £2 each to go to Save the Children

9.50-10.30: Form Time with NCSPA-provided fun

Christmas lunch

Friday 11 December

8.30-9.00 End of Term Assembly

9.00-10.10 Christmas entertainments provided by NCSPA/tidying form rooms

10.10 Break

10.30 Continuation of Christmas entertainments

11.00 Watch Virtual Carol Service in form rooms


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

Please find below the links for this weekend's livestreamed Advent services from New College Chapel:

Saturday 28 November at 5.45pm


Sunday 29 November at 5.45pm


Forthcoming Events

Monday, 30 November 2020

Associated Board Exam Week

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

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

18.00 Year 6 Parents' Evening (Zoom)

Saturday, 5 December 2020

University Term ends

Monday, 7 December 2020

No after school activities in the last week of term

9.00 Flu Immunisations: Rec - Year 7

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Form Period: reports discussed and issued

Christmas Lunch

Friday, 11 December 2020

Last day of term events (see above)

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