Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 26th March 2021
There are only so many times you can exhale and say, ‘Well, what a term!’. With time being as elastic as it is at the moment, that INSET Monday when we organised for the government’s Plan A, just for it to be pulled and replaced by Plan B (and a new INSET on Tuesday), seems both a very long time – and not that long at all – ago. Lockdowns, limited social interactions, and restricted movement clearly play with our perceptions of time. Our wonderfully stoic and resourceful boys have been back on site as a whole community for only three weeks; but it seems like they never went away. When I think back to delivering my History lessons via Zoom, it seems like they flew by. (Maybe they felt a little slower for the boys; I’ll await their feedback.)
All of this means, of course, that it is even harder than usual to get perspective over the past term: that the number of weeks of remote learning will be diluted by the many, many, many more weeks the boys are on site over the course of their education. I am in awe of our wonderful parents and colleagues who have indeed been able to get that sense of perspective. That is not to belittle some of the opportunities not enjoyed, nor the experiences of those who do not have access to the facilities enjoyed by the NCS community. Nor is it to wave away the extraordinary patience families and colleagues have had to endure, with such cheerful loyalty, for much of this term, with little to do beyond the front door – for which, as ever, many thanks indeed. But it is to look with some optimism to a time when life can look and feel a little more like normal. We now don’t plan anything without an automatic consideration of how it will fit with the ‘bubble’ system; to think that there will be a time when we can structure things much more freely seems difficult, but still tantalisingly close.
Also tantalisingly close is the commencement of building works for our new pre-prep, Years 3 and 4 classrooms, dining room and auditorium, which have been made possible by a very generous donation from a New College alumnus. After years of planning and design (and more meetings about toilets than one could ever envision, or wish) we are entering the most exciting phase: when the first holes are dug and the building will begin to rise. As the Warden mentioned in our Zoom Chapel last week, unlike many new buildings in Oxford, our one is designed to last for hundreds – not tens – of years. (Though, presumably, those toilets will be replaced at some point.) Hence the years of planning, to make sure that it is just right: making innovative use of our island of land between Savile and Mansfield Roads, using space economically and interestingly, and creating a design, courtesy of David Kohn, that will endure stylistically. Because of its size, innovative (wavy) design, and durable materials it will take a little longer to ‘top out’ than many other buildings but, to return to our theme of perspective, that construction period will pale into insignificance as the final iteration endures for hundreds of years. Such an investment is also a wonderful physical enshrinement of NCS as a community that will endure: 640+ years down, at least another 640 years to go. And what a privilege it is to be at the helm during such an exciting time. Occasionally I wonder what it must feel like to run a school without a pandemic, or without a massive and complex building project in the background. I look forward to finding out!
Have a great (and restful!) Easter break, and I look forward to seeing you in Trinity,