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.

Building circuit switches in Science; iPad holders in DT; rabbits in the Lab; remote music theory exams

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,

Matt Jenkinson

Hockey House Matches

Charity cake sales

Pre-Prep Orchestra

As I mention above, part of our site now becomes a building site for a while. While we still need to put year-group bubbles in different zones for break and lunchtimes, and now there are fewer zones to facilitate this, we will be making some slight tweaks to our timings to stagger those breaks and lunchtimes a little more. The impact will be slight (and virtually nil for the younger years), but we will continue to monitor any amendments to the timetable to make sure that they are working as desired.

Our awards season is still ongoing, but I’m pleased to be able to congratulate the following Year 8s for the awards to their senior schools they have so far received: Hugh (Academic Exhibition, MCS), Ethan (All-Rounder Award, MCS), Adam (Music Scholarship and Governors’ Presentation Award, MCS), Leo (Music Exhibition, MCS), Joseph (Music Scholarship and Governors’ Presentation Award, MCS), Tommy (Music Exhibition, St Edward’s), and Paddy (Music Scholarship, Marlborough). And very best of luck, and enormous credit for their stoicism, to those boys who still have the awards process ahead of them!

Congratulations to Lucy Gallagher on her appointment as Head of KS3-4 English at D’Overbroeck’s, and to Andy Bradley on his appointment as Head of Sport and PE at Gateway School. Next year we will welcome to the NCS English department Chris Gausden, whose first encounter with NCS was in 2013 when, while studying for his BA in English and History at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, he took part in the University’s ‘Insight into Teaching’ scheme. During that programme he taught many lessons to our older boys and stood out as having outstanding potential as an infectiously enthusiastic and talented teacher. Since then, he has been accruing teaching experience in different sectors, at the primary to tertiary levels, while reading for his Master’s and DPhil at Jesus College, Oxford – in the University, as well as in schools in his native Buckinghamshire and Oxford. Next year we will also be welcoming back to NCS Kipp Mainstone, who will be assisting in our Games department during his gap year before studying to become an engineer in the Royal Marines. Kipp is a former NCS pupil who went on to Abingdon; he is a formidable sportsman with county-level representation in football, hockey and athletics. Years 3 and 4 parents will already know about Mrs Atkinson’s and Mrs Williams’s impending maternity leave, and I am sure that the rest of the NCS will now like to join us in congratulating them on the additions to their families. Mrs Hayter, already very well known to Year 3 of course, will be taking on their teaching full-time after Easter, while Mrs Usher – formerly Year 4 form tutor at Abingdon Prep and Horris Hill – will be covering Mrs Williams’s teaching. I am sure our new additions will be made very welcome.

Many thanks to all those who took part in our World Book Day quiz. The boys have been earning housepoints for their participation. The competition was close and Mrs Hess was impressed by the depth and range of reading on show. The joint winners were: Peter (Year 5) and family, and Harry (Year 7) and family. Well done!

Thank you so very much for encouraging your sons to enter the Earthshot Prize competition. The Earthshot Prize is an initiative launched last year by Prince William and David Attenborough to find solutions for Earth's problems, inspired by John F. Kennedy's Moonshot speeches given in 1961 and 1962 calling for human ingenuity and collaboration to land a man on the moon within a decade. The annual prizes seek positive solutions in five broad areas: protecting and restoring nature, climate, waste, air quality and oceans. As New College School pupils are always very imaginative, it seemed natural to ask them for their ideas in light of selecting WWF as this term's charity and so the NCS Earthshot Prizes were born. As expected, a number of innovative ideas streamed in ranging from easy-to-adopt daily practices to creative projects that involved scientific investigation and fundraising. Winner: Michael (Year 4), for conducting a clean-up of a local stream which doubled as an informative scientific inquiry on pollution and food webs. Highly Commended: Alexander (Year 6), for a 29-page presentation full of ideas on how to create change; Andres (Year 3), for selling artwork to give to charities helping women to escape poverty; Isaac (Year 3) and Jacob (Reception), for a stop motion animation explaining how changes to our diet will significantly impact the planet. To see what the boys have been up to, please follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQi3bus1LNo

Charity ‘Zoom’ tea towels: We have sold and distributed all 100 tea towels now! Another 150 will be ordered this Monday, so last call for any self-portraits not submitted in the first round. I encourage you to please double check that your son's self-portrait is included as there was a technical difficulty that meant a few portraits were not received. Please email caroline.showell-rogers@newcollegeschool.org if you have yet to find your son's face.

New College School has been actively involved in the Oxfordshire Book Awards for the past few years. This year we helped produce the long-list for primary novels and recommended which books should be short-listed. These are excellent books and we would like to encourage as many boys as possible to challenge themselves to read at least one over the Easter break. We will then discuss which we enjoyed and feel should be the winning book for OBA 2021. This year the voting has been extended to the end of June – so get reading! We have a small number of these books in school which are available for loans. For further information, please access the OBA website where you will also find videos from the patron, Oxfordshire author Jo Cotterill. She has some great tips for reviewing books and reading short-lists: https://www.oxfordshirebookawards.com/. Pre-Prep have had the four picture books read to them by Dr Jenkinson and imagine they have informed an opinion of which is their favourite. We will read them again at the beginning of term and the boys in Reception, Years 1 and 2 will vote for their favourite.

StreetTag update: Granny Showell-Rogers and Betinka end the term securing 1st and 2nd place! Sjc16, caught up by the return to school, did not manage to pull ahead of Shovel. Despite Cable's persistence, they did not overtake sjc16. Rogers fell out of the table entirely whilst Kelsey managed to hold 6th place just ahead of the Magda1 who was quickly gaining on them. Well done on the fantastic competition and, thanks to everyone's efforts, we have won £50 to put towards this term's charity, WWF. Has anyone solved the riddle of which staff member might be Betinka? Find out tomorrow in our final assembly next week when winners are announced. Points: Today: 2,195,145; Last week: 1,859,395. Team Members Total: 65.

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