Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 9 February 2024

Dear parents,

I don’t know whether my school in the ’90s was especially progressive, but there was one thing it encouraged quite a bit earlier than many other places: self-reflection. At the end of our school reports, we all had to write a paragraph reflecting on our grades and teachers’ comments. ‘When I first started I was very quiet but I have learned to express my opinions more’, I wrote in one of my first secondary school reports. (Expressing my opinions is something I have fewer issues with these days.) The following year, ‘My exam marks have shown that I have quite a lot of ability in many different subjects but sometimes I do tend to let other people do the participating’. Humble … and still a bit quiet. Another year apparently, ‘I feel I could improve in participating slightly more in lessons and that is what I aim to do in the future. I have improved in my attitude towards homework and I think that most of my marks in both homework and classwork have been reasonably good but I could take a little more care’. I think I was just making that up for something to say. Same goes for: ‘What I haven’t done particularly well is the modules in PSE. I didn’t enjoy them so I didn’t put all my effort into them’. How can you do well, or not do well, in a module in PSE? Finally, ‘I would also like to improve in my sporting activities as I do not put much thought and effort into games’. Don’t get me started on that one, but my peers and I would probably have put more thought and effort into games had the subject been taught at my school by more people with a pedagogical or pastoral bone in their bodies. That’s for another day; perhaps they’d prefer it if I hadn’t learnt to express my opinions more.

Without picking at that particular scab too much, the boys at NCS have been doing a lot of self-reflection over recent weeks, and the results of this should have made their way to parents and colleagues this week. It is all very well teachers writing reports and formative marking; unless the boys take them on board, and take more and more independent ‘ownership’ of their learning, then such feedback can be futile. It is worthwhile taking time to look over their work, their progress, and to see what’s gone well, and what could be developed in the future. This gets easier as the boys get older, but we can instil some core principles from a young age. So Year 3 might be carrying out some ‘tick-box’ self-reflections, while Year 8 are writing in more continuous prose to look back over their learning, as we reach the mid-point of the academic year.

Charity Week; Birdwatching on Field; Pre-Prep Orchestra; Year 3 Canopic jars

What was missing from the self-reflections at my school, when I look back, was a focus on how we could get better. We didn’t break subjects down into composite core skills. At NCS I’m pleased to say that we have done a lot of work on this over the years, so the boys don’t just think they’ve ‘got to get better at history’, but they can think about some of the discrete ways that they can work on that improvement. I frequently point out that a decent amount of curriculum content is crucial for providing the raw material for skills development; equally, working on learning skills within subjects and across them, helps the boys to marshal that content, and to transfer their learning when they encounter new topics in the future. Who knows, maybe I’d have been better at those pesky PSE modules if they’d been broken down, and reflected upon, in such a way?

Have a great half term break,

Matt Jenkinson

As this half term comes to a close, I’m delighted to be able to congratulate the following Year 8 boys on their 13+ senior school awards: Alexander (music scholarship, Abingdon); Thomas (music scholarship, MCS); Jacob (music exhibition, MCS); Max (all-rounder scholarship, Gordonstoun); Henry (sports exhibition, Cheltenham); Herbie (music scholarship, D’Overbroeck’s); James (music exhibition, Radley). Some of our Year 8s will be sitting for academic scholarships at MCS, Abingdon and Winchester in the coming weeks, and we wish them the very best of luck!

From Brett Morrison and the charity committee: Thank you for all the support shown for Charity Week and the Oxford Hospitals Charity. In particular, thank you for your help in supervising, baking and no doubt cleaning kitchens throughout this week. You will be pleased to hear that the boys were very supportive of the cake stall. (I'm sure they've been just as eager to sign up and take on extra jobs in the ‘bob a job week’ at home...). We had a very enjoyable week of fundraising activities in school, with a closely fought Year 8 versus teachers basketball game yesterday – the latter won narrowly! Well done to all pupils for their support and, for those who baked, the stellar standard of cakes. The results of the pre-prep cake competition have been announced in Rosemary Cox’s newsletter. For the prep school, we are pleased to announce that the NCS catering team have chosen the following winners. Years 3-4: Alexander R & Finn W (with special mention for Raad whose cake was the quickest to sell out!). Years 5-6: Alex A & Thomas M. Years 7-8: Eugene & Thomas Ha.

Happy New Year to all those NCS families celebrating Chinese or Lunar New Year tomorrow!

World Book Day is on 7 March, and will be upon us before we know it after half term. As ever, we will be joining schools around the country in encouraging boys to come in dressed as a literary character (though not one who looks, say, surprisingly like a prep school boy in home clothes). Please do not go to any great effort or expense for this; imaginative and recycled costumes are often the best ones!

From Craig Bishop: Over the past week or so the NCS hockey teams have enjoyed some fantastic matches and some very pleasing results. Last week we saw the U13 teams take centre stage with the A to C teams entertaining Hatherop Castle on Wednesday afternoon. In all three matches the NCS teams quickly established themselves as the dominant force and took control of the games. With all three teams winning comfortably it was a very positive afternoon and great preparation for the A team’s trip to Cheltenham on Friday in the IAPS regional tournament. In our first game of the tournament we were drawn against Cranford House and a 0-0 draw was played out. The NCS boys did feel a little aggrieved as a fantastic Noah S goal was ruled out. After a little break we faced tournament favourites, Repton. This game saw the NCS team grow in confidence and show our opposition just how good we could be. Despite losing this game we were buoyed by such a positive performance and when we played our final group game against All Hallows School, they were raring to get going. NCS managed to score five goals in just fourteen minutes and turned confidence into skill and determination; it was the best performance of the year so far. With such a fantastic display in the group stages we qualified for the main ‘Cup’ event. An amazing game against Cheltenham Prep was played out and we came within a whisker of taking the lead towards the end of the first half after a brilliant Noah S through-ball put Xander S into the shooting circle, only to see his shot just miss the right hand upright. A flurry of Cheltenham chances meant Henry W was very busy in goal and eventually they scored to secure the win and passage to the semi-finals. NCS were going home, but with heads held high after such a great day’s hockey.

This week we once again had the U13 teams in action and we had our second round of matches against Summer Fields. The second team game was a keenly contested affair with Monty L named player of the match and promoted to the first team following his efforts and improvements. The final score was 2-0 to SF but this score line did not reflect just how well the NCS team played and lady luck just was not smiling upon us this week. The third and fourth teams again showed improvement but didn’t quite find that ruthless edge when in the shooting circle. In the A team game, after the exploits of the IAPS event the boys were in a confident mood and they certainly did not disappoint. A fantastic performance saw NCS run out 5-0 winners with Xander S adding two goals to his half term tally of thirteen and Alexander R also getting in on the act with a brace himself.

The U11 teams were in action against MCS and Chandlings. In the A team games, we played both schools and, despite matching both schools for skill, the final results didn’t quite go our way. Also away from home were the U11 B and D teams who were playing locally against MCS. On the B team pitch we played some subline hockey with Hugh L and Charlie S being named joint players of the match. Hugh was strong and powerful in midfield and passed the ball accurately to Charlie as a striker. On any other occasion Charlie would have scored a ‘hat full’ of goals but the MCS keeper seemed to have the game of his life and kept us at bay. This was certainly a tale of what could have been and we hope to build on such a positive experience next time out against Ashfold. Finally, this week we have to give the ending to the amazing U11 D team who earned themselves a thrilling 1-1 draw. A brilliant first half strike from Alexander S saw NCS take the lead at half time. Throughout the match and especially the second half, our hosts were dogged in their efforts to breach our goal. Eventually one did sneak in and the score was then 1-1. It remained like this until the final whistle thanks to the heroics of Misha A in goal, earning himself the final player of the match award this week.

Upcoming Events

Tuesday, 20 February 2024

14.15 U8 Football v Ashfold, Away

14.15 U9 A-C Football v Ashfold, Home

16.00 U13 Chess V Dragon, Home

Wednesday, 21 February 2024

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: The Chaplain

14.15 U11 A-D Hockey v Ashfold, St Edwards, 14.15 & 15.00 kick-off

14.15 U13 A-C Hockey v Ashfold, Away

Thursday, 22 February 2024

8.15 ABRSM Grade 3 Music Theory exam (Media room)

Friday, 23 February 2024

12.50 ABRSM Grade 3 Music Theory exam (IT room)

14.15 U11 Hockey House Matches, St Edward's

Monday, 26 February 2024

14.15 U13 Hockey House Matches, St Edward's

Tuesday, 27 February 2024

14.00 U9 A-C Hockey v Dragon, Away

14.15 U8 A-C Hockey v MCS, Away

Wednesday, 28 February 2024

8.15 School Council meeting, CLC

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: Marieke Sybrandi, Ordinand, Wycliffe Hall

12.00 U10 A St Edward's Festival Hockey, St Edward's

14.00 U11 A-C Hockey v Chandlings, Away

14.00 U13 A-D Hockey v Thorngrove, Bradfield College

18.00 Year 5 parents' evening

Thursday, 29 February 2024

19.00 Year 6 ballet trip: Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake (New Theatre, Oxford)

8.00 U11 A IAPS Hockey, Tilsley Park, return 16.00

13.50 Year 5 Jericho Synagogue Trip

Friday, 1 March 2024

9.00-11.00 HPV Vaccinations - Year 8

14.00 U11 A-D Hockey v CCCS, St Edward's

Saturday, 2 March 2024

9.00 SLT/Governors’ Strategy Day (Red Room)