Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 29th January 2021

One of the themes of the Covid-19 pandemic and our lockdowns has been trying to find the positives in an otherwise very difficult situation. This is much easier said than done, but over the past few months we have talked a lot about slowing down, appreciating those things that we used to take for granted, and working out ways that we can improve our lives when they are able to return to normal. One other positive that we can take out of the situation, though it may not seem it at the time, is the way it has made us rethink how we do what used to seem like easy day-to-day tasks.

When it comes to remote learning, there are many things that need to be transplanted from the automatic to the new way of doing things. The boys are very used to handing in their books by collecting them up at the end of the lesson. Now most of them are handing in their work via the VLE (and getting a sprinkling of virtual confetti when they do so). Just sitting in a lesson is a very different experience when using headphones and the mute button, or saying ‘can you hear me?’ or ‘you’re on mute’ endless times. The NCS teachers, too, are doing a sterling job when it comes to having to think through different ways of doing the same old things. Scanning and uploading resources, sitting in front of a camera, marking online – when we’d all, of course, rather be doing it how we do it in person. But there’s no point getting frustrated about it. Rather, we should do what we can to embrace these changes and to celebrate the ‘nimble thinking’ that comes when we just have to be flexible, when we have no choice but to adapt to a new way of doing things. There is no point stamping our feet or trying to replicate our old habits, just with an added iPad or iMac. There is a certain thrill to getting everything humming along in a different way; it is an enforced guard against complacency and the age-old temptation to say ‘well, it’s worked this way for years so we might as well keep doing it that way’.

Remote and critical worker learning; Year 8 close-up photography and sketching by William and Nat; Drawing around objects by Linkai and Aloysius; Street Tag league table

I am often asked what we will keep from this period when we go back to normal. The real answer is that there is quite an appetite among people wishing to return to their old lives: that Zoom is great for some things, but wine and cheese is better for others. Parents’ evenings, that is; not lessons. Pedagogically, there is also the very real issue that most prep school age pupils need to be handwriting and learning through ‘analogue’ methods, with digital support, rather than the other way around. But what we should take from this experience is the mentality that, as hard as it may be, we have little choice but to be flexible and to navigate our current circumstances nimbly and as best we can. It is natural to want to cling on to our old ways of doing things, or to replicate old habits when everything else is necessarily new. But that can bring as much frustration and tension, probably more, than appreciating that as the world outside changes, we need to change with it.

Have a great weekend.

Matt Jenkinson

Congratulations to the following boys:


Charlie Silver For achieving 200 House Points

Henry C Merit For an impressively drawn surreal elephant


Alex M Merit For an impressive collection of surreal artwork

Myles Merit For an impressive grid drawing of a distorted clock

Tanish Merit For a magical surreal elephant drawing


Peter Silver For achieving 200 House Points


Ashwin Merit For a phenomenal reflection on forgiveness in RSP

Max J Merit For excellent Pop Art converse drawings and colour work


Nat Merit For exciting close-up photographs to assist with a drawing project

Nat Merit For his investigations into air resistance

Jack Merit For his investigations into air resistance

Josh Merit For his investigations into air resistance

Theo Merit For his investigations into air resistance

William Merit For his investigations into air resistance

Mrs Brown represented NCS this week at the AMCIS & IAPS Prep School Connect conference, leading a session on ‘successful partnerships’. I am grateful to Mrs Brown for her work on our school partnerships programme, and to all colleagues, parents and boys who have been supporting her. We are, of course, looking forward to a lot more ‘in person’ events once we are able to take part in, and host, them.

Following the government’s announcement earlier this week about the timing of school returns, we have decided to postpone our SHTEAM Festival, until we can be more certain of being able to run in-person workshops, talks and activities that make the week so special.

This weekend is the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. There are plenty of resources and ideas available at https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/. Perhaps something to help keep the boys occupied over the weekend, communing with nature even if we have to spend so much time inside!

Here’s a little ‘huh!’ moment to lighten up our lockdowns: NCS old boy Edmund Irwin-Singer and his band, Glass Animals, have just had their track ‘Heat Waves’ voted the hottest track at the moment in Australia. It’s well worth a listen.

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