Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 26 April 2024

Dear Parents,

This week’s person of the week was Lucy Toulmin Smith (1838-1911). I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of Lucy Toulmin Smith until rather recently. Described as a ‘keen scholar and woman of letters’, she was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to English parents. Her family returned to England when Lucy was four years old, at which point she was educated at home. Fast forward fifty or so years, and she became the first official librarian of Harris Manchester College (then called Manchester College, before the carpets came along). She also researched and published widely in English and French literature from the medieval and early modern periods, and she contributed to the very first Oxford English Dictionary and Dictionary of National Biography. She did this entirely independently, not relying on anyone else for her income. She retired from Harris Manchester in 1911, dying just one month later.

I suppose I must have come across Lucy Toulmin Smith because of her connection to Harris Manchester and its library. She was a remarkable woman who worked just across the road from us here at NCS. If I stand in the right part of the playground and look across Savile Road, I can see the library in which she devoted her considerable energies. She serves as a useful reminder that our location is really rather special, sitting in the middle of a university where remarkable things are happening every day, and where remarkable things have happened for centuries. The Royal Society was unofficially ‘founded’, for example, by a group of individuals at or associated with Wadham College, discussing their scientific thoughts as they wandered around Wadham garden – the garden which you can see out of the NCS lab window, and which is now our muster point during fire drills. (It must be one of the nicest muster points in the country!). If you look the other way out of the lab, you see the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights. Our new building sits cheek-by-jowl, and presumably (in parts) on top of, the defensive earthworks that were installed during the English civil war in the 1640s. So our Year 8 boys get to learn about the English civil war while sitting on the land that was crucial during that war’s siege of Oxford. If we dig down a little further through that land, we find evidence of a Roman settlement on what is now the school site – below the classroom in which NCS used to first encounter Roman history, before we demolished said classroom. Indeed, some of you may remember that we found a couple of Romans buried under what used to be the playground.

Pre-Prep Science lessons with Year 8S; Break time play; Dissecting flowers in Science; Piano practice

Being in the middle of such an historic city does bring its more irksome moments, but at the same time it is wonderful to learn and teach in a school that has such a rich and inspiring local context. I haven’t even started on the College and its chapel and cloisters, where you can find genuine eighteenth-century graffiti from an NCS pupil, just feet from where Harry Potter was filmed, which itself is just a few feet from the strong room where some of Isaac Newton’s notebooks are securely kept. I could go on and on. I sometimes wonder what it must be like to be in a school that doesn’t have such rich history and such inspiring things happening on its doorstep. But then I shudder and think myself lucky that I get to lead New College School and share in the inspiration that surrounds it; I just look out of my study window and think back to the rather bizarre fortnight when I had two skeletons lying just outside it.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

Our next open morning is on Friday 17 May 2024, 10.00-12.00. All families are welcome to join us to view the school in action, chat to pupils, staff, and current parents and find out more about an NCS education. Places can be booked via https://www.newcollegeschool.org/open-day-booking. Do please pass on this information to any families you think might be interested in joining our special community, and we would be most grateful if you would consider displaying the poster that has been sent home via your sons’ rucksacks. Keep an eye out for our adverts on social media too, and don’t be shy when it comes to pressing the ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons. Almost 80% of respondents in our recent community survey reported that they first heard about NCS through word of mouth, so do please keep spreading the word. Many thanks!

Congratulations to Thomas (8S) who has been offered a place at the Royal Academy of Music Junior Department as a first study composer!

Well done to Isaac (8S) whose Raspberry Pi robot team took part in the 2024 Pi Wars Competition at the Cambridge Computer Laboratory last weekend, and came second overall in the youth section. Isaac provided the design via TinkerCad and helped build, test, video and code the robot. You can read more at https://ministeps.org/ministeps-missionmaster-pi-war-blog/

On Saturday 27 April the History of Science Museum is marking the 150th birthday of Guglielmo Marconi, inventor, entrepreneur and radio pioneer. The Oxford and District Amateur Radio Society (ODARS) will be at the museum, hosting plenty of fun activities for families. You can find more information at https://www.hsm.ox.ac.uk/event/marconi-day-2024

We are looking forward to the next NCSPA meeting next Monday at 19.00 in the CLC. I am very grateful to all those parents who take the time to contribute so much extra to the NCS community, helping us with our special events and fundraising to pay for some wonderful ‘extras’ for the boys.

On Saturday 11 May (19.00-20.00) we will be hosting a special historical event: a talk by Sarah Dixwell Brown titled ‘A King Killer in the Family: Writing the Life of John Dixwell’. Sarah taught English at Stanford, Santa Clara University, Mount Holyoke College and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. This talk explores her research into the life and career of John Dixwell, one of her ancestors, who signed the death warrant of Charles I in 1649 and then ran away to New England after the Restoration of the monarchy. I will be introducing the talk, with my historian hat on. The event will be in Lecture Room 6 in New College. If you would like to come please sign up (for free) at: https://forms.office.com/e/pkF9bc0N6t.

Upcoming Events

Monday, 29 April 2024

19.00 NCSPA Meeting, CLC

Wednesday, 1 May 2024

8.15 School Council Meeting, CLC

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: Mr Robert Quinney, NCS Governor and New College Organist

14.00 U13 A Tennis vs Cranford House, home

14.15 U11 A & B Cricket vs vs Sibford, away

14.15 U13 A & B Cricket vs Cokethorpe, away

18.00 VMT parents’ evening (online)

Monday, 6 May 2024

School and bank holiday

Tuesday, 7 May 2024

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: Mr Johannes von Stumm, Sculptor

14.15 U8 Diamond Cricket vs CCCS

14.15 U9 Diamond Cricket vs CCCS

Wednesday, 8 May 2024

14.15 U13 A & B Cricket vs Bruern Abbey, home

14.15 U13 Tennis vs Bruern Abbey, home

Thursday, 9 May 2024

Beating the Bounds, Yr 5, 8.50-11.10 (approx)

14.15 U9 A & B Cricket vs Abingdon Prep, home