Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 22 November 2019

Dear Parents,

I have by my desk two items that, in the course of a potentially cacophonous day, serve as constant reminders of why we all do this. The first is an engraving of the sixteenth-century philosopher Montaigne, with his catchphrase ‘Que sais-je?’: ‘What do I know?’. The second is a wonderful book by Alberto Manguel called Curiosity. It is no coincidence that Montaigne’s pithy epigram features on the second page of Manguel’s book. As Manguel reminds us – and as we have all, to differing degrees of consternation, experienced – one of the first words in a child’s vocabulary is ‘Why?’ Those three letters can provoke very different emotions. To the sleep-deprived parent who has been asked why x is x, or y is y, for the hundredth time, those three little letters can be incendiary. ‘It just is, alright?!’ might slip out through perma-gritted teeth. I am very lucky that, in my job, curiosity is front and centre of what I do. Answers are important for exams, sure, but asking the right questions in the first place is what makes for a healthy and productive mind. It also makes for the kind of person you want to be around. Think about those you know who are dogmatically fixed, unquestioningly, on a worldview that is what it is, no questions asked; or who stay on their tracks, convinced that nothing or nowhere else will interest them. Then think about those who stop to think and smile ‘good question’, and then meander curiously around a problem; who say ‘I haven’t tried that or been there before, but I’ll see what it’s like’. With whom would you rather have dinner?

Indeed, it is both a pedagogical and ethical duty for my colleagues and I to make sure our boys are curious about the world. At a time, and in a setting, when the pressure is increasingly to narrow our focus because (erroneously) that’s what some people think senior schools, universities and workplaces want, I remain passionate about curiosity. Yes, our boys should practise verbal reasoning – to take a random example – if that’s what senior schools partially want (because it’s a good indicator of success at GCSEs, hardly the best gauge of intelligence or potential, but that’s for another day). But I also remind the boys, especially when they come for practice interviews with me, that people and institutions want interesting people who are interested in – curious about – interesting things. When the boys get to Years 7 and 8 at NCS, they get to embark on a special subject on a topic of their choice (within reason), with a year to explore an analytical question that, more often than not, has to start with the word ‘Why?’. When this is explained to the boys, quite often they ask – you guessed it – ‘Why?’. Which, of course, is the perfect prompt to explain to them all of the above. Occasionally, perhaps, through gritted teeth.

Watching the French Play Les Garçons; number ordering in Reception; red cabbage indicators in Year 6 Science; 'dial down and layer up' jumpers for the Eco Committee's energy saving initiative

To underline our commitment to curiosity, Miss Cawood’s pastoral assembly on Tuesday focused on the prompt from our wellbeing grid: ‘I am curious about the world beyond my immediate community and I try to understand its difficulties’. Mrs Williams led a fascinating assembly later in the week, demonstrating the importance of being curious about words, their etymology and pronunciation. In chapel on Wednesday, Professor Chris Timmel carried on our theme and spoke very movingly about some historic, though not that historic, difficulties beyond our immediate community, especially the events leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall thirty years ago. Placing it in the context of other momentous and revolutionary events in history, the boys were encouraged to look at some primary sources from the College archives as they filed out of the service. From the Eikon Basilike of Charles I to Clarendon’s History of the Great Rebellion, there were some tangible artefacts to help coax the boys’ curiosity. And long may they remain curious – in all senses of the word.

I wish you and your families a happy and curious weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

Person of the Week: Margaret Atwood

Artwork of the Week: Prince’s guitar solo from George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2004)

Word of the Week: espouse

Sport. Despite some very damp conditions and sports ground closures we managed to complete some excellent rugby matches this week. Firstly, the U9 A and B teams were in action away against the Dragon. Both teams played some excellent rugby and scored a great deal of tries. In the B team game the final score was 12-9 to our hosts but this did not truly reflect our performance and good defending with James the tackler of the day; some great break-away scores meant this game was extremely tight right until the last few minutes. In the A team match we faced a physical Dragon team but the NCS boys stuck to their game plan of moving the ball away from contact and using the pace of our wingers in the form of Isaac and Alexander to score some super tries. We also defended with a resolute passion that kept out their attackers more often than not with Henry at his tackling best to turn the ball over on three occasions. At the final whistle the score was 7-5 to NCS.

On Wednesday the first team managed to play away at Bruern Abbey. Facing a very large and powerful Bruern team we were well aware of the challenge ahead. However Mr Rose has instilled a great character into this team and self-belief was flowing, helped by the captain Henry’s encouraging words and advice. Despite going 1-0 down the boys rallied and led 2-1 after the first ten minutes. What followed was an epic encounter with both teams playing some scintillating rugby. In the second half fitness began to tell and the large subs bench of our hosts was used to good effect and the game slightly got away from us. A final score of 10-6 was a fantastic effort and with a little more time on the training pitch who knows what could have been?

Finally this week we had all boys from Years 5 and 6 playing against Christ Church. In four great games we had an unprecedented number of tries scored. The C team managed a brilliant 10-10 draw and Mr Rose tells me that as referee he was really entertained with the rugby on show. Albie and Josh had excellent games and were named joint men of the match. In both the B and D team games NCS suffered very narrow defeats and on both occasions it was down to just one or two scores. Maurits for the Bs and Jack for the Ds were both players of the match for their respective teams. I had the pleasure of taking charge of the A team fixture and in recent years this has been a testing game with the scores being very close indeed. This game started off at a very high intensity with George rucking hard and turning the ball over in the first few seconds to set up our opening try in the first 2 minutes. From then on the NCS boys were quite ruthless in attack, scoring nine times thanks to some superb passing and hard running. Timon and Jasper were excellent in midfield as was Carter out wide with his spinning into contact. However it was Leo on the wing who was player of the day thanks to his determined running in limited space to score a wonderful hattrick. At the final whistle the score was 9-1 to NCS and the boys recorded a well-deserved win against our local rivals. CB

Junior concerts; the inter-schools debate; Judo awards

Inter-Schools Debate. Many thanks to Mrs Brown, Dr Gallagher, Mrs Showell-Rogers and all other colleagues who supported our inter-schools debate on Wednesday evening. New College hosted nine NCS Year 8s alongside students from Spires Academy and Cheney to take part in two debates (one for which they had already prepared, one unseen), with Spires coming away the overall winners. Well done, in particular, to Xander for being awarded ‘best summariser’. We are very grateful to the New College undergraduates who chaired the debates, and to all those in College who made the event such an enjoyable success – with a delicious supper in the middle too!

Opera trip. Year 7 had a great time at the New Theatre on Thursday evening, watching Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen. My thanks to Miss Rose and Mr Neal for organising such a special event. This was their second cultural event of the week as they, alongside Year 8, enjoyed a visit from Omati Productions for a French play titled Les Garçons. My thanks to Mme Phillips for her initiative in organising such an engaging event.

Handwriting competition. Congratulations to the following boys who won awards in our recent handwriting competition. Years 7-8: Krishan (first), James C (second), Rishi (third). Years 5-6: Ashwin (first), Luca (second), Dan (third), Nahum and Ishan (highly commended). Years 3-4: Isaac (first), Laurence K (second), Vedant (third), Jack and Jai (highly commended). Left handed prize: Lewie. Year 2: Radin (first), Ollie (second), Henry F and Henry C (third). Year 1: Hugh (first), Aloysius (second), Tassilo (third). Reception: Alex (first), Henry (second), Jacob (third).

Oxfordshire Book Awards. On Wednesday 13 November a small group of intrepid readers from Years 3-6 embarked on a journey to Oxford High School. Their mission was to take part in the Oxfordshire Book Awards 2019. They had been promised cake! We were extremely proud that Jack and Shivam had been asked to review the winning book in the Primary Novel category (Boy Under Water by Adam Baron) They gave an accomplished recommendation of this book, on stage in front of an audience that included the Lord Mayor, a number of eminent authors and illustrators and over 300 children from other schools in the county. After stimulating presentations from other winning authors and illustrators the short-listed books for the 2020 Book Awards were revealed. Some NCS staff and boys had been involved in reading through the long-list so we were pleased to see that books we had recommended had made it through. We look forward to spending time reading and voting on the books for next year and another group of boys enjoying the excellent cake at the end of the OBA ceremony. EH

Judo. During November the boys in Years 2 - 8 took part in the end of term Judo Grading exams under the watchful eye of their club coach and examiner. Each member had to demonstrate a range of Judo throwing, hold down and break fall techniques. In addition, each boy had to translate terms commonly used in Judo sessions from Japanese to English. We are pleased to announce that all taking part passed the Grading with flying colours and were presented with new Judo belts confirming their rank in line with the Grading syllabus.

SHTEAM Festival. You will have seen Miss Krebs’s email about next term’s festival celebrating interdisciplinarity at NCS on the theme of ‘sound and noise’. The week is filling up with activities inside lesson and outside; if you would like to contribute anything to that festival, or if you know of anyone who might like to, do please get in touch at emma.krebs@newcollegeschool.org.

A big thank you to all our families for their very generous donations to the Christmas Shoebox Appeal. We donated twenty eight boxes to Operation Christmas Child run by Samaritan's Purse and a further sixteen to the local Shoebox Oxford for women living in refuges. CSR

To start the weekend, Miss Rose will performing as part of the local Oxford vocal ensemble, Untune the Sky. Made up of young professional singers in the city, they will be performing vocal works by Lili Boulanger, Eric Whitacre, Orlando di Lasso and Judith Weir on Friday 22 November at 8pm at St Michael at the Northgate. Details at https://untune-the-sky.com/upcoming-performances/

The Oxford & Cambridge Singing School Christmas Course will be on Friday 20 December 2019, for children aged 7-13, at St Barnabus' Church, Jericho. The repertoire will centre on sumptuous festive music by Peter Warlock, Thomas Ravenscroft, John Joubert and John Rutter plus some traditional favourites. These courses are for children and young adults who love to sing and are devised to include choral singing, singing lessons in small groups to focus on developing vocal technique, music appreciation, music history, music theory in the form of games and exercises - all to improve their general musicianship, technical ability and confidence. The children will perform an informal concert at the end of the day, to which family are warmly invited to attend. For those who aren't familiar with the courses, please follow this link: https://vimeo.com/288600178/9108897ee8 Bursaries are available on the course courses and booking is via www.oxbridgesingingschool.com

Please note that there will be no Saturday morning school on Saturday 30 November. Enjoy the extra lie-in.

Forthcoming Events

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Choir concert, Broughton Church

Monday, 25 November 2019

14.00 Workshop with Alexander L'Estrange (Chamber Choir), Sports Hall

19.00 Workshop with Alexander L'Estrange (Choral Society), Sports Hall

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

13.00 U8 MCS Rugby Festival, Away

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

9.00 Year 5 to The Prince and The Pauper, Watermill Theatre (return 14.00)

10.00 School Service, New College Chapel

Speaker: The Chaplain. Coffee in the Undercroft afterwards for parents and visitors

14.30 U13 A&B Rugby vs Dragon, Home

17.15 Senior Concerts (Years 6,7 & 8), School Hall

Refreshments beforehand in HM Study at 17.00

18.15 Senior Concerts (Years 6,7 & 8), School Hall

Refreshments beforehand in HM Study at 18.00

Thursday, 28 November 2019

14.00 Pre-Prep Winter Concert, School Hall

Friday, 29 November 2019

14.00 U9 Rugby vs MCS, Away

14.00 U8 Tag Rugby vs MCS, Home

Sunday, 1 December 2019

16.00 Advent Carol Service, New College Chapel (TICKET ONLY)

Monday, 2 December 2019

Associated Board Exam Week

13.45 U13 Rugby House Matches, Home

19.45 NC Choir: Concert at Great Milton Church

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

10.30 U9 Tag Rugby House Matches, Home

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

9.00 U11 A IAPS Stroud Rugby Festival, Away

10.00 School Service, New College Chapel

Speaker: The Chaplain. Coffee in the Undercroft afterwards for parents and visitors

Friday, 6 December 2019

14.00 U8 & U9 Tag Rugby vs Windmill, Home

Saturday, 7 December 2019

University Term ends

Sunday, 8 December 2019

16.00 Christmas Carol Service, New College Chapel (TICKET ONLY)

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