Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 21 June 2024

Dear parents,

One of the many lovely aspects of my job is seeing visitors’ faces when they hear about some of the more ‘rarefied’ things that NCS boys get up to. I recently watched one visitor’s jaw slowly hit the floor when they heard the RSP curriculum rattled off to them. They made a comment which had the word ‘Oxford’ in it, which I think was intended as a compliment. I have a similar experience when I hear about the Year 7 and 8 special subject topics each year. For those who are new to the special subject, our top two years are given some curriculum time each fortnight, for a whole year, to pursue a research topic of (within reason) their choosing. While there is great latitude given in terms of the topic, there are two non-negotiables: it cannot directly replicate something already on the curriculum (though it can be inspired by that curriculum), and it has to be analytical. If at all possible, it has to be focused on the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’. I.e. it shouldn’t be descriptive, but it should argue a case. While this might sound daunting to begin with, you’d be surprised at the boys’ varied interests and how keen they are to explore those interests in a more ‘academic’ way, with the benign guidance and support of my colleagues.

The Year 7 boys work on a mini ‘thesis’ which is presented in written form towards the end of Trinity. We also encourage them to think carefully about referencing, footnotes, endnotes, bibliography – it’s never too early to learn about such unglamorous but vital things! In Year 8 the boys work up their research into a TED-style talk, which they deliver to their peers as part of their post-exam afternoon activities programme. So not only do they get to practise their research skills, they also get to work on their public speaking and presentation skills in a supportive and benign environment. TED talks are much maligned by those who think they encourage show-offs to over-simplify complex issues or ideas into a short arm-waving window. On the contrary, I think the format is excellent for encouraging people to communicate those issues or ideas to a layperson, striving for clarity. There are plenty of opportunities for nuance and footnotes elsewhere, as above.

One of our first ever TED talks at NCS, given by someone who is now at university somewhere in the fens but was thirteen at the time, began with the line, ‘I am going to be arguing for a new theory of consciousness’. I wasn’t really aware of the old theories of consciousness, but you see what I mean about some of the more jaw-dropping moment of my job. I will happily concede that not all the topics are like this, and some are wholesomely reflective of twelve- and thirteen-year-old boys talking about things that interest them: technology, games, sport, that kind of thing. But there remain others like ‘How could we translate the Voynich manuscript?’, ‘Why is it beneficial to be bilingual?’, or ‘Why might we have to start geoengineering?’ – and you feel that little bit more confident that this education lark actually works.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

Enormous thanks to the NCSPA and all colleagues, parents, pupils and friends who helped to make Wykeham Day such a success last Saturday. From the old boys’ concert to the BBQ, with the fete and special evensong in between, it was a really enjoyable event which celebrated all things NCS. We were especially pleased to welcome back a lot of old NCS families who came to see the new building, reminisce with old friends, and lament that things aren’t quite ever the same after they’ve left.

The chorister concert on Monday was another special event, with all of the boys taking on solos, duets, or small group pieces. The level of talent was staggering and it was another special event during which we got to say thank you and goodbye to our Year 8 leaving choristers.

Speaking of talent, there was a huge amount on display on Tuesday and Wednesday evening for the world premiere of Izzy Rose’s Pinocchio – specially written and composed for our Years 3, 4 and 5 this year. It was also the first time that our new auditorium hosted such a grand dramatic and musical production, with sixty boys taking part. Enormous thanks to Izzy Rose for taking the lead so brilliantly, to all my other colleagues who supported the boys so well – especially the Year 3-4 team of Victoria Hayter, Sarah Hainsworth, Zoe Parsons and Emma Barnes – and to Tom Neal for accompanying with his usual skill.

Pre-Prep Sports Day

Congratulations to our Judo Club members, who have worked tirelessly and with lots of enthusiasm, and been promoted to their next levels!

On Thursday we enjoyed our induction and ‘move-up’ morning, welcoming our new boys to all things NCS, and giving our existing pupils the chance to spend some time with their new form tutor teams. This is a valuable experience to give everyone the chance to get used to their new surroundings and arrangements in advance of September.

Also, on Thursday, we said a heartfelt ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’ to our wonderful singing teacher, Helen Parker. Helen has been the best kind of teacher: positive, professional, ever-smiling, and passionate about the boys’ education. She has been an especially helpful and much-loved figure working with our Chamber Choir. In Helen’s stead, we look forward to welcoming Lizzie Watson as our new singing teacher. Lizzie currently teaches at Fettes in Edinburgh. She has also taught at St George’s, Edinburgh, King Edward VI, Southampton, Stroud Prep, Pilgrims’, Winchester, and with the National Children’s Choir of Great Britain. I’m sure Lizzie will be made very welcome when she joins us in September.

Tomorrow morning (22 June) at 10.00 the Oxford Children’s Chamber Orchestra will be performing a short concert showcasing all their wonderful efforts this term. Beethoven’s Fifth is on the programme!

On Saturday 29 June at 17.30 our Chamber Choir and Choral Society will be joining forces with Merton College’s girl choristers and pupils from St Christopher’s C of E Primary School to provide the voices for Mahler’s Symphony no. 3, transcribed for organ and performed by David Briggs. The event is sponsored by the Gustav Mahler Society UK, takes place in Merton’s beautiful chapel, and tickets are available via https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/mahler-arr-briggs-symphony-no3-tickets-883260354497.

Our chapel service on Wednesday 3 July will begin at the same time as usual (9.00), but will now be our ‘Year’s End’ service. It will last around 45 minutes and will follow the same structure as our Spring Service (and, indeed, the carol services on which that service’s structure was based). There will be appropriate readings from Years 3 to 8, some communal hymn singing, and some performances from choirs throughout the school. All parents are very warmly encouraged to attend, especially those Year 8 parents for whom this will be their sons’ last NCS chapel service. Handkerchiefs at the ready.

From Mr Bishop: The U11 As played host to Bruern Abbey this week, reaching a competitive total of 110 runs. The boys then bowled and fielded with such skill and determination, it was a sight to behold. Monday’s match against d’Overbroeck’s saw a predominantly Year 8 side use their experience while batting first to compile a daunting 103 runs from 15 overs, leading to an impressive 41-run NCS victory. Then Wednesday saw the 1st XI travel to Bruern Abbey for the final fixture of the season. With the net run rate at the forefront of many English cricket fans this week, NCS elected to bat first. At the end of our 20 overs, we had put 135 runs on the board. Using a mere 9 bowlers we really saw all manner of strategies invoked against the Bruern batters. Our bowling team-wide was economical, delivering 6 maidens across the innings. It will be George W’s wonderful catch, a full stretch dive that will be remembered from this final fixture!

Wednesday's cricket team

Saturday, 22 June 2024

11.00 OCCO Concert: Beethoven's Symphony no.5 (sports hall)

Monday, 24 June 2024

Activities Week begins

12.00 Year 4 trip to the Pitt Rivers

Year 5-8 trips depart

Wednesday, 26 June 2024

No chapel service

Year 4 trip departs

Thursday, 27 June 2024

Pre-Prep activities week outing

Friday, 28 June 2024

Years 4-8 trips return

Saturday, 29 June 2024

16.00 Chamber Choir and Choral Society rehearsal, Merton College Chapel

17.30 Choral concert: Mahler's Symphony no.3, Merton College Chapel

Monday, 1 July 2024

17.30 Drama Club, LAMDA showcase and The Magic of Oz

Tuesday, 2 July 2024

11.00 Prep Sports Day, Field

Last day of after-school Enrichment Activities (pre-prep and prep)

Wednesday, 3 July 2024

9.00 Chapel. Year's End.

9.50 Year 8 soloists and reader rehearsals, University Church (9.50-11.45 and 13.00-16.00)

19.00 Year 8 Leavers' Concert, University Church, followed by reception at NCS

Thursday, 4 July 2024

14.00 Pre-Prep Summer Show and annual certificates

17.30 Parents vs Leavers Cricket, field

Friday, 5 July 2024

8.30 Sports Assembly

10.30 Prizegiving for Years 3-8

12.00 End of Term

12.30 Staff Buffet in New College