Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 17th January 2020

Dear Parents,

There is no escaping the fact that we are in the centre of a city defined by its high standards. There is nothing wrong with that – most of us would agree that high standards are worth aiming for. Most of us like a challenge (when combined with low threat, ideally) and we may as well make the most of the limited time we have here. Over time, though, high standards can creep dangerously into the quest for perfection – both in ourselves, those around us, and in our children. I speak with some authority: I aim to run the perfect school and frequently have to remind myself that definitions of the ‘perfect school’ vary according to the observer, and that perfection is an unattainable standard. (I suspect that won’t stop me trying.)

Music scholars' masterclass and concert rehearsals; stop motion animation on the sources of fossil fuels in Science; reenacting the Battle of Culloden in Year 8 History

The issue is that, aside from the fact that we aren’t really going to achieve perfection, the negative fallout of the quest for that perfection is becoming increasingly writ large across society. This is another peril against which we have to guard the boys, who can grow up seeing ‘perfect’ lives mediated through illusory media (social and otherwise) or who might be encouraged to think that their value comes from achieving perfection in the short, medium and long terms – perfect grades, the perfect university, the perfect job etc. etc. etc. The potential consequences of such an approach to life were neatly summarised in the media over Christmas: ‘beating yourself up when you think you’ve failed … falling into a vortex of self-loathing at minor rejections … an ever-present stream of self-criticism … a risk factor for a host of disorders’. It’s all rather worrying, so it is important that we talk about it, that we address it in this city of all cities.

Year 1 learning about the French tradition of the Galette des rois; talk in Year 8 Science from Dr Blagdon of the Oncology Department; building cars in Pre-Prep play time

What are the solutions? Ironically enough, those who have already slipped into perfectionism can be difficult to haul back out because – yes – it would be an admission that they weren’t perfect. According to Professor Andrew Hill, not seeing minor mistakes as massive problems helps, as does offering rewards for characteristics other than high marks. Changing our mindset from ‘should’ to ‘it would be nice, but it’s not the end of the world’ helps to refocus us on excellence rather than perfectionism. As importantly, we need to derive value in ourselves by what we add to others, so on Tuesday Mrs Williams’s pastoral assembly focused on carrying out acts of kindness for others. There is, naturally, a charitable aspect to such behaviour, as well as a slightly selfish one (the release of endorphins and oxytocin). But it also adds to our web of positive actions that should help the boys remain happy and resilient as they navigate a society that increasingly asks more and more of them.

Have an excellent – but imperfect – weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

Person of the Week: Megan Rapinoe

Artwork of the Week: Peter Blake, cover art for Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Word of the Week: extemporise

Sport. I am pleased to say the boys have settled really well into the routines of the new term and the logistics of the hockey season. The training has been intensive with all boys working hard on their skills, fitness and tactical awareness. After the first full week of school we have had representatives from all year groups playing in competitive matches. First up was the U11 A team and I had the pleasure of taking them to the pre-season festival at Winchester House. This was a good opportunity to blow off the cobwebs and experiment with formations and tactics. After 5 very competitive games we enjoyed a win, two draws and just two defeats. There was some excellent play on show from all of the boys but special mention must go to our skilful captain Timon who guided his team very well all morning, and Max in goal for the first time for the first team; he made some excellent saves showing great athleticism and bravery.

The U9 A&B teams played a local fixture on Tuesday evening against MCS and in two very tight games we managed a 1-1 draw in the A team game and unfortunately lost the second game 2-0. In the B team game Mr Rose tells me the game was dominated by NCS in the first half and it was only late in the second period that our hosts scored. It was quite clear to see that the only difference was a little fitness; being able to keep going right to the very end was crucial.

In the A team game the boys played a very impressive passing game but struggled to penetrate the shooting circle to create scoring opportunities. We’ll work on generating more power with our hitting over the next few weeks in our lessons to remedy this. However, despite going 1-0 down in the second half, the NCS team never gave up and battled to the very end. Their reward was a goal scored by Henry in the last seconds to secure the well-earned draw. Player of the Match voted by the opposition was Alexander who showed great skill and determination throughout.

Finally this week the U13 A&B teams played Summer Fields in two very entertaining fixtures at St Edward’s. In the B team game the boys dominated proceedings and looked to be in control of the game, with Julien and Hugh showing the way with good skill and impressive leadership. Our troubles started when the team changed position and players were swapped. We did not show the same versatility as our opposition and they took advantage of this scoring two quick goals. After half time Mr Bradley reinforced our tactics and the boys played a much better second half to score two good goals and with this we looked the more likely team to take the win. Sport is never that predictable though and, despite NCS dominance, our guests scored that crucial third goal to take a somewhat shocked win.

In the A team game things were a little different with the NCS team spending most of the first half camped in the opposition half. Fraser was at his very best and controlled the game beautifully from the centre of the pitch. He scored a quite brilliant opening goal with a reverse hit strike from the top of the circle to ensure a solid 2-0 lead at half time. In the second half the NCS team started to pass the ball around with authority and purpose and scored a further four goals to eventually win the game 6-1. Great work, boys! CB

Many thanks to Paul Hoskins, Director of Music at the Purcell School, for his insightful contributions to our Music scholars’ masterclass on Tuesday night. Thomas, Julien, Xander, Idris and Edward were on fine form and were wonderfully receptive to the advice and encouragement they were given. You can hear the fruits of their labours in the Holywell Music Room this evening at 19.30.

Many thanks, too, to Dr Sarah Blagden from the Department of Oncology at the University of Oxford, who came into NCS on Thursday to speak about how cancer develops and the revolutionary new research that is being done in her department into cancer treatments.

Good luck to all those boys sitting pre-tests this weekend!

You are all warmly welcomed to the New College Epiphany carol service which takes place on Sunday 19 January at 17.45.

Mr Neal requests that all musical instruments which belong to NCS be brought into school next Wednesday (22 January). This is just a routine census of school instruments to ensure our stock list is correct, and to take note of any instruments which require maintenance. Instruments should be delivered to the sports hall on arrival at school, and they will be ready for collection by the end of the day.

The Oxford Bach Ensemble annual concert will take place on 25 January at 19.30 at St Margaret’s Church. The concert will be in memory of former NCS pupil William Petter, by playing and singing the music that he loved. The proceeds from the concert will be divided between Sarcoma UK and Help Musicians, both causes close to William’s heart and that of his family.

Ms Amherst and Ms Paterson are playing in a concert on 8 February at 20.00 in the Holywell Music Room. The music is by Tom Vignieri, Richard Gwilt, Britten and Barber. The soloist is former NCS pupil Humphrey Thompson and poems will be read by Patch Harvey.

On 21 and 22 February, Miss Rose will be producing a new opera, The Gentlewoman, about the life and works of the 'concerto delle donne,' the three extraordinary virtuoso singers at the court of the d'Este at Ferrara in the late sixteenth century. Performances will take place at St. Mary Magdalen's Church at 20.00.

Parents’ evenings. Please find below a few dates for your diary. Unless otherwise stated, parents’ evenings begin at 18.00, though a few colleagues are usually available a little earlier if you would like to make a head start. Please arrive as early as practicable, and no later than 19.00, so we can finish the evenings by 20.00. If you have any issues that you think would require longer discussion than possible in a five-ish minute meeting, especially with form tutors, please do book a separate appointment.

22 January – Year 3 and 8S

29 January – Year 4

26 February – Year 8

4 March – Year 5

11 March (17.30) – Pre-Prep

29 April – Music Teachers

Forthcoming Events

Saturday, 18 January 2020

9.00 MCS Pretest, current Year 6 boys (Year 9 entry)

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Start of University Term

17.45 Epiphany Carol Service, New College Chapel

Monday, 20 January 2020

Marlborough Music Scholarship

8.50 District Nurse Puberty and SRE (Year 7 P1 & 2) (Year 6 P3 & 4)

19.30 NCS Parents’ Association Meeting, Headmaster's Study

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Marlborough Music Scholarship

9.00 External Assessments for Prep School Entry for September 2020

15.45 U11 A&B Hockey vs MCS, Away

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

All day census of music instruments, Sports Hall

10.00 School Service, New College Chapel

Speaker: The Revd Gavin Knight, Vicar of St Michael and All Angels, Summertown. Coffee afterwards in the Undercroft for parents and visitors

12.30 Eco Committee Meeting, Yr 5 classroom

14.30 U13 A&B Hockey vs Abingdon, St Edward's Astro

18.00 Year 8S and Year 3 Parents' Evening, Sports Hall

Friday, 24 January 2020

16.00 U13 A Hockey County Cup, Hawks Ground

Monday, 27 January 2020

Harrow Music Scholarship (until 29 Jan)

MCS Music Scholarship

16.00 U12 A Hockey County Cup, Hawks Ground

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

14.00 U11 B&C Hockey vs Sibford, Iffley Road

MCS Pre-test interviews for current Year 6 (Year 9 entry)

Debate Workshop/ Mini Competition with 6th Form Mentors

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

10.00 School Service, New College Chapel

Speaker: Mr Daniel Harkin, Salvesen Fellow, New College. Coffee afterwards in the Undercroft for parents and visitors

12.30 School Council-Charity Meeting

14.00 U13 C-E Hockey vs St Hugh's, Away

14.00 U13 A&B Hockey vs Lord Williams’s and St Hugh's, St Edward’s Astro

18.00 Year 4 Parents' Evening, Sports Hall

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Abingdon Sports Scholarship

16.00 U9 Chess vs The Dragon, (Home)

Friday, 31 January 2020

14.00 U9 A-C Hockey vs Manor Prep, Iffley

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