Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 10th february 2017

Dear Parents,

An article in this week’s Sunday Times told the story of an American-born writer who moved to Berlin and was initially shocked by what seemed to be lax parenting. She recalled a moment when she “panicked at a playground where children dangled from a 20ft wooden dragon while nonchalant parents drank coffee below.” But now she’s singing the praises of a tradition of parenting which produces successful and independent young people: she admires giving children “playgrounds where they can build dens using proper hammers and saws; letting children as young as four learn about and handle fire and sharp knives.” But crucially, she notes two cardinal virtues that are insisted upon and, of course, characteristically form the boundaries for everything else: manners and punctuality. Manners, as William of Wykeham would have well understood, are all about the way we treat others. So, if we want our children to respect the safe ‘ground rules’ we put in place when we let them do something risky, then they need an ingrained construct of manners which respects our judgement. Similarly, if we allow them 20 mins of screen time or insist that supper is at 7.00pm, then an innate sense of punctuality will ensure there’s no friction. I certainly don’t want to sound unthinkingly reactionary about this because I hate the way schools and teachers in the past used ‘manners’ and ‘punctuality’ to lord it over their charges. Rather, these ought to be routine habits cultivated by adults in children from an early age. I hope we do our bit in School to support this in an atmosphere of mutual respect. So, with half-term on the horizon and a change in routines, let’s take the opportunity to re-state the overarching boundaries, explain why manners and punctuality help to make family and school life work better for all and then allow our children space. If we’re patiently and doggedly consistent with those two basics, we ought to find a good deal of the rest is self-regulating. And in that spirit I wish everyone as stress-free a half-term as possible with plenty of trouble-free adventures!

Mock trial of a highwayman in Year 5; Charity week cakes; Year 1 and 2 at the Pitt Rivers; Artwork by Haider Lakha

Charity Week (in aid of Mind www.mind.org.uk) was led off with a talk by Miss Cawood about the aims of the charity and a reminder to us all to look after others’ and our own wellbeing and happiness. Some energetic home-baking produced some really tempting cakes and today we have enjoyed that slightly rebellious feeling of Home Clothes Day. My thanks, as ever, to parents for your support and encouragement of the boys. I’m delighted to report that a most pleasing (and numerically consistent – what are the chances of that?) total of £444.44 was raised.

Well done to Year 2 who were, I’m told, great ambassadors for the School on their visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum. There was some imaginative storytelling in that wonderfully quirky environment and the further excitement of shadow puppets. Their beaming faces on their return said it all!

Sport. First of all, congratulations to Freddie Jones on some outstanding racing successes over the last week. He finished 2nd in the very competitive Oxford Mail Cross Country League on Sunday. He followed this up with a superb 4th place in the Chandling’s race and then achieved his silver medal in the ‘Swanbourne Chase’. I’m told he will take on a challenging 2km race in the tough Chiltern League on Saturday, where he currently lies in 2nd place in the championship, for which we offer him all good luck.

And equally, congratulations to the U11 'A' hockey team who returned to School this afternoon as County Champions, having won all five of their games in very convincing fashion. Victories over St Andrew’s and St Nicholas Primary Schools were followed up with wins over fierce local rivals MCS, then a 3-1 win over Chandlings and finally a 4-0 win over St Hugh’s to take the county title. A superb team effort; and special mention to Ben Harkness who stepped into the team at the last minute.

A great many sporting activities have taken place this week, from the Year 3 and 4 hockey house matches to the cross country exploits of the younger pupils and of course the U11 ‘A’ hockey team in action in the Oxon County Cup as mentioned above. On Tuesday, the U8-U11 cross country teams travelled to Chandlings for the annual cross country event. NCS was excellently represented with all four teams scoring well. In each age group we had boys in the top ten with Ethan McMillan and Freddie Jones being our stand out athletes coming in 8th and 4th in their respective races. An overall finish of 10th from 21 schools proved we are force to be reckoned with. This was backed up by the mixed Year 5 and 6 team who travelled to Swanbourne House School on Thursday for the ‘Swanbourne Chase’. A 2.3km race over very tough terrain again saw the NCS team finish 10th overall from 16 schools. Well done to all!

Congratulations to the following boys in Year 8 on obtaining music awards to their chosen senior schools: Kamran Akhavan (Music Tuition Award – St Edward’s), Oscar Bennett (Music Scholarship – Abingdon), Theo Cawood (Music Tuition Award – Eton), Hal Philips (Music Scholarship – Abingdon), Jamie Robson (Music Scholarship – Abingdon), Ardhan Subramaniam (Music Exhibition - Winchester).

Measuring energy transfer in Year 7 Science


We say farewell at this half-term to Miss Emma Purves (Reception Class Teaching Assistant) who leaves us because of increased family commitments. We thank her most warmly for all that she has contributed to the life of the Pre-Prep and for her care of our youngest pupils. We wish her well for the future. In her place, joining us after half-term, I have appointed Miss Lucinda Harrison who took her degree from Exeter University and has experience as a teaching assistant and as a youth mentor. We look forward to welcoming her to the Pre-Prep.

I am sorry to let parents know that Mrs Gail Ryder has to have urgent surgery during half-term and will take a few weeks to recover afterwards. Art lessons will be in the capable hands of Mrs Seema Dehalvi, who is well-known to boys and parents. She will be following Mrs Ryder’s plans and will no doubt continue Mrs Ryder’s good work in bringing out the boys’ creative talents.

Orders for Years 3-8 were given to the boys to take home on Wednesday. If you have not received them, please be in touch with the School Office. If boys were absent from school, Orders will have been posted home.

Please note there is no Saturday Morning Music School on either of the Saturdays of half-term.

Oxford Active Half-Term Holiday Club. As mentioned in earlier newsletters, Oxford Active (who run a successful holiday club at Oxford High School) will be running a football club here at half-term and are also running a free bus shuttle from NCS to their other activities at Oxford High if football doesn’t appeal. For more information and booking, visit www.active-camps.com or call 01865 594325.

You will have received Mrs Ryder’s Parentmail this week about the Young Art Oxford 2017 competition, which is held in aid of Cancer Research UK. The theme for this year’s exhibition is “The world we live in.” The winning pictures from each school will be exhibited in May at the Ashmolean Museum. Do encourage your son to take part and develop those artistic talents over half-term.

A reminder that the Holloway Lecture given by Professor Lord Krebs Kt, FRS, FMedSci, ML on The Truth About Food is immediately after half-term Monday 20th February at 6.00 pm in the University Inorganic Lecture Theatre.

Also after half-term, on the first Wednesday back, the new Headmaster of Abingdon School, Mr Michael Windsor, will be the speaker at our School Service at 10.00am in New College Chapel. He will stay for coffee afterwards to meet parents.

Year 8 Parents’ Evening is also on that Wednesday (22nd February) 6.00pm – 8.00pm in the Sports Hall. All those who teach these forms will be present, including Mr Morrison as Year 8 form tutor. I shall also be available to discuss any matters arising with parents. There is no need to arrive on the dot of 6.00pm, but I would ask you not to arrive not later than 7.00pm to ensure you can get round to all teachers. I should mention that Mrs Ryder (Art) will be available from 5.30pm and will finish slightly earlier than 8.00pm.

Our Annual Poetry Recitation Competition starts to take place in the week beginning 27th February. Whilst there is a competitive element to it from Year 3 upwards, the emphasis is on enjoying the process of choosing a poem and committing it to memory so that I hope the chosen poem becomes a life-long companion. (I’m sure many of us can still remember poems we learned at school – there are very many virtues to the discipline). I’m sure a good number of parents/grandparents would enjoy getting involved in choosing and listening to the boys’ chosen pieces. The coming half-term is a perfect opportunity to do so! Form tutors/English teachers are already giving boys some pointers in their choices.

World Book Day on Thursday 2nd March will also include a DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) session at the start of the school day when everyone in the school community will stop whatever else they are doing and read. It may be useful over half -term for boys to consider what book they might want to read and what character from a favourite book they might come dressed as on World Book Day for the annual parade of literary characters.ww.ctive-camps.com or call 0

Library Books. Like all libraries there is a time limit on how long books can be borrowed from the School Library (although obviously the loan can be renewed). Keeping books for an excess length of time prevents a boy from borrowing further. Mrs Hess tells me that a high percentage of boys have a default position of "I can't find it at home" and as a result a number of books have had to be removed from the library system. Could I ask parents to help boys look at home over half-term for any stray library books, please? It is important that those boys who are listed as having exceeded the borrowing period finally return the books or see Mrs Hess to let her know what might have happened to the book. If boys truly cannot find books at home, a short note from parents explaining this is helpful in making sure we know what replacements may be needed. Many thanks!

Louise and I wish all NCS families a happy and refreshing half-term break. Thank you for all the support you have given the School again over this first half.

Robert Gullifer

Forthcoming Events

Sat 11

Start of Half-Term

Mon 20

Return from Half-Term

Holloway Lecture: Lord Krebs, Inorganic Chemistry Faculty Lecture Theatre, 6.00pm

Tues 21

U11 A Hockey, IAPS Tournament, Haileybury College, pm

U8 A&B Hockey vs MCS, Away, 4.00 pm

Wed 22

School Service - 10.00 am - New College Chapel

Speaker: Mr Michael Windsor, Headmaster, Abingdon School

Coffee afterwards in the Undercroft for parents and visitors

Eco Committee Meeting, Yr 5 Classroom, 12.30 pm

U13 XI Hockey vs Abingdon, St Edward’s Astro, 2.30pm

8S mock scholarship interviews, HM Study, 3.45 – 5.45pm

Year 8 Parents’ Evening, Sports Hall, 6.00 pm

Thurs 23

Abingdon Sports Scholarship

Fri 24

U9 A&B Hockey vs Brockhurst, Iffley Road, 2.00pm

U9 C&D Hockey vs Brockhurst, Away, 2.00pm

Sat 25

U8 A Football vs St Hughes, Away, 10.00am

Mon 27

Abingdon Drama Scholarship

MCS Academic Scholarship starts

U13 Hockey House Matches, St Edward’s Astro, 2.00pm

Junior Concerts (Yrs 3,4,5), School Hall, 5.30 & 6.30 p.m.

Tea/ Drinks in HM Study at 5.00pm and 6.00pm

Tues 28

U9 Hockey House Matches, Iffley Road, 10.30am

U11 B&C Hockey vs Cokethorpe, Away, 2.00pm


Wed 1

Abingdon Art/DT Scholarship

School Service - 10.00 am - New College Chapel

Speaker: Mr Neil McCleery, Assistant School & College Chaplain

Coffee afterwards in the Undercroft for parents and visitors

School Council 12.30 pm

U13 A Hockey vs Dragon, Away, 2.00pm

U13 B&C Hockey vs Dragon, St Edward’s Astro, 2.00pm

ABRSM Grade 5 Theory Exam, Dining Room, 1.45pm

Ash Wednesday Service, New College Chapel, 6.15pm

Thurs 2

World Book Day, including DEAR (Drop Everything and Read)

Fri 3

U9 A,B & C Hockey vs Thorngrove, Iffley Road Astro, 2.00 pm

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