Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 15th may 2020

Hello to you all, at the end of another week of remote learning.

One difficulty facing many of us is our inability to get a change of scene. We are often told that doing and seeing new things is good for our mental health, or we are offered the cliché that ‘a change is as good as a rest’. For many people at the moment there is not much rest, and there really isn’t very much change. This is for very good reasons, of course. But looking at the same walls day-in day-out can clearly get rather irksome. We won’t be able to travel very far, or very easily, for quite a while to come. This can present another challenge as usually we can look out at rainy weather while thinking ahead to a time and place with a bit more sunshine. That won’t really be an option for a bit.

But all is not lost. There are various ways that we can escape from the British drizzle and the more difficult aspects of our current lifestyles. The most obvious way, and the way I am sure my colleagues in the English department would like me to promote, is to get lost in a book. Ideally this would be a book where your imagination can take you to a different place, a different time, perhaps a different universe. This might even be a cookery book with dishes from your favourite place somewhere else in the world – in which you can read the ingredients, look at the pictures, and imagine you are sitting outside sampling exotic cuisines. Your body might be limited in its movements, but your mind can still run free. The American author Henry Miller argued – when talking about travel – that ‘one’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things’. Reading empathetically can easily lead to a new way of seeing things, even if we can’t see, hear or smell a new place in person.

Another form of escapism is to read about, or to watch, other people’s travels. You can see different cultures, art and architecture, even if you can’t necessarily taste the food. On the iPlayer at the moment, for example, you can see Simon Reeve travelling along the Tropic of Capricorn, crossing South Africa, South America and Australia. You can see some ‘Great Railway Journeys’ or some natural history around the world in David Attenborough’s ‘Seven Worlds, One Planet’. I am particularly enjoying watching dramas set in countries other than England, partly because I am tired of dramas in England, and partly so my mind can escape elsewhere for an hour or so. And if my mind can escape somewhere that the sun shines and the food looks so fantastic you can almost smell and taste it, then that’s even better.

So my challenge to the boys this week is to find a book, or a radio or television programme, that helps their minds to wander beyond our all-too-familiar walls. And, as always, please do send us in pictures of them doing this. We are putting together as many resources as we can to mark this period of history. It is not a particularly pleasant period of history, I concede, but then not many periods of history are. And the more we can do to get ourselves through it and safely to the other side, the better.

Have a good weekend, full of imagination and escapism.

Dr J

Manga High Maths; Marathon Challenge; French top trumps; kitchen skills
Portraits by Ben T and Luca P; Drawing with objects by Thomas B and Jake; A view from the window by Dan; tonal value scale by Patrick S

Congratulations to the following boys who have received merit certificates this week:

Victor For impressive independent work in Science

Dan For a superb response to the projects this term

Dan For his research on discoveries about the solar system

Dan For exemplary independent translation in Classics

George For an impressive self-portrait and family silhouette

Isaac For work on seed dispersal

Toby For excellent, independent work across all subject areas, working really hard to do his best

Eugene For persevering with his learning of times tables

Roshan For brilliant accuracy and presentation in Maths

Thomas For a fantastic collaboration with his sister to help each other with their home learning

Jake For outstanding practical work and excellent scientific explanations about static electricity

Laurence For completing an outstanding map of China

Theo For his work on seed dispersal

Theo For excellent algebra work

Theo For work on seed dispersal

Finn For his work on constellations

Monty For completing an amazing, detailed map of China

Ethan For work on seed dispersal

Laurence For diligent learning of times tables

Luca For a beautifully proportioned portrait

Arjun For independently researching the meaning of SPQR in Latin and English

Ashwin For making an outstanding model of the earth

Ashwin For outstanding Historical analysis work

Tanish For making an outstanding model of the earth

Jack For extremely thoughtful and detailed English comprehension answers

Alex For a sensitive discussion on the ethics of life-extending technologies in RSP

Patrick For an excellent tonal value challenge

Xander For amazing adventure writing

Michael For a super improvement in Maths

Leon For work on seed dispersal

Ben For a superb response to the projects this term

Ben For a diligent study of Roman schooling in Classics

George For superb independent work finding fractions of amounts

Henry For researching the meaning of SPQR in both Latin and English

Nahum For wonderful illustrative family portraits

Sebastian For his independent work investigating gravity

Well done to Finley who featured on BBC Radio Oxford talking about his fundraising for Crisis (over £2,000 at the time of writing!). Please visit https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08bs6dq and listen from 2hrs 41mins. Finley also appears in the local press at https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/18442759.10-year-old-husky-dog-run-donations/

Well done, too, to Harry for appearing on The Sixteen’s website singing alongside his parents: https://www.facebook.com/32607011699/posts/10157008674721700?vh=e&d=n&sfns=mo

Congratulations to Andrew Hardy-Lenik who has been appointed Head of ICT & Computing at Twickenham Prep School. We shall have more opportunity for thank-yous and goodbyes at the end of term even if, I fear, these may not be possible in person due to the Covid-19 situation. In the meantime, we wish him, Tim and Dylan all the best with this new role. I am delighted to report that Peter Cui has been appointed in his stead to begin in September 2020. Peter will already be known to a good many of us, due to his excellent work helping out with our activities programme. He read for his degree at Oxford Brookes and currently teaches Coding and Business at Oxford Spires. He is also a keen sportsman and expert basketball coach, so we are looking forward to his contributions outside the classroom too. I am also delighted to announce that Andy Bradley has been permanently appointed Director of Activities from September, and we look forward to the continuation of his excellent work beyond this year.

You will know that, due to the Covid-19 situation, our Year 5 parents’ evening has been postponed twice. As we will not be able to meet in person for the foreseeable future, please be in touch with relevant colleagues (https://www.newcollegeschool.org/who-we-are) if you have specific questions or concerns about specific subjects. The reality of remote learning is that parents will already have more of an insight into their sons’ day-to-day work and progress, while we have imminent orders and reports to offer feedback, but we understand that parents may appreciate the opportunity to be in touch directly as well. This is the support system we have in place in our remote learning protocol anyway – and, indeed, for when we are on site normally.

My colleagues and I are currently working on the boys’ Orders for this half term. We understand that this is an unusual half term in many ways, and much of it has been spent adjusting to the demands of remote learning. We still want to give credit for the boys’ efforts and achievements, and we will also take into account their performance at school towards the end of Hilary before the lockdown began.

As I mentioned at the start of the week, we are closely observing the government’s movements regarding potential reopening of schools to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 on 1 June. We are looking carefully at all of the government guidance and translating it to our particular setting; naturally we are aware that there are some concerns and that potential reopenings will not necessarily be straightforward. We will be in touch with more details once we have a clearer picture of the government’s intentions for 1 June.

Could I please remind parents sending their sons on to the school site that they should have with them hats and sunscreen? We are promised something of a heatwave, and if the meteorologists are accurate, we would like to be prepared. Many thanks.

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