Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 20 October 2023

Dear Parents,

Michaelmas isn’t known for its idle moments, but I recently took advantage of one such moment to catch up with the new Beckham documentary on Netflix. Don’t judge me, but I’m happy to admit that I really enjoyed it. Not because I particularly care about Manchester United or Brylcreem, but because it effectively evoked the social, cultural and sporting scene of the 1990s. These were formative years for many of us, and it was enjoyable to luxuriate in some nostalgia at a time when we have plenty of other things to worry about in the present real world. The first episode, titled ‘The Kick’, actually had lots of kicks – well, two kicks in particular. The first was the 60-plus-yard shot that the 21-year-old Beckham took from the half-way line to score one of football’s greatest goals, in August 1996. The second was the kick that caused Beckham’s temporary but dramatic fall from grace, when he lashed out at Diego Simeone during the 1998 World Cup, earning himself a red card in the process. Especially notable in the talking heads’ discussions about these events was the fact that, for the first kick at least, the news was not instant. Rumours circulated that a wonder-goal had been scored but most people had to wait until ‘Match of the Day’ that evening to see it. Today, of course, it would be on Twitter (I refuse to call it ‘X’) or the equivalent within seconds, viewed hundreds of thousands of times within minutes.

Extracting DNA in Science; Investigating periscopes in Year 3; the house cross country winners; French day activities; Balloon tennis in Pre-Prep

The way we consume such information, popular culture, news – everything – has clearly changed significantly since those days of the late 1990s. In a streaming culture where everything is instant, we don’t need patience to get our gratification. There have been some honourable exceptions to this – releasing ‘Succession’ one episode per week, for example, seemed positively antediluvian, but it reminded us of the suspense and enjoyment of ‘event’ television when somebody else slowly controlled the flow of content. There are, of course, many positives to the (theoretical) democratization of information, the transparency that can potentially come from taking away the flow of news, information and entertainment from the privileged few. At the same time, though, we can easily enter a world of cacophony, of disinformation, of sometimes too much information and communication and not enough patience, digestion and perspective.

While this can be difficult for an adult to cope with, we can only imagine how bewildering and confusing this must feel sometimes for children. In an ideal world, I’d go back to the days of the 1990s (would I?) when all of this seemed much more manageable. But, considering that time travel isn’t an option, we need clear strategies in place to help make information and news digestible and manageable. When we have our news round-up assemblies, I carefully curate the news stories that the boys can hear, understand and process in an appropriate way. As they get older, we give the boys and their parents advice on how to deal with the curse of the smartphone – getting the settings right to minimise the pings and to ensure that, while we can be connected to the rest of the world 24/7, most of us really don’t want to be, don’t need to be, and shouldn’t be. That is, we are fighting the WhatsAppification of modern culture (don’t get me started). We are, of course, dealing with media and phone companies that know exactly how to get us addicted to the ‘likes’ and whatnot, but it is a fight worth pursuing. So many things are tied up in this process: how we work through thickets of disinformation that are often designed to destabilise our democracies; how we navigate healthy relationships with devices which can be a powerful force for good, but also a potential source of tension, hatred, and division. It will be a long battle, but it’s one that none of us should give up on.

Have a great half term break. I look forward to seeing you back at the gate after what I hope is an enjoyable week of rest (if you can; I appreciate that many of you can’t) and catching up with your friends and family.

Matt Jenkinson

Please find attached to the newsletter Parentmail the brochures for Hilary’s Enrichment Activities.

From Brett Morrison and the Charity Committee: A huge thank you to pupils, parents and wider families for their generous support across charity week. It has been amazing to see the impressive array of sweet treats, engagement with various competitions, and joy this week has brought. To those of you who baked, shopped, supported, reminded pupils of hygiene requirements, cycled precariously with carefully decorated delights, and indeed were left with messy worktops: thank you, I'm mindful of just how much time these tasks can take in an already busy week. Earlier today we sold out of every item so generously donated and we are delighted to have raised almost £1000 for Core Arts. The pupils were passionate about supporting such a worthy charity. The Teachers vs Year 8 dodgeball match was won by the teachers, two games to one. Jai was the star of the pupil team and Izzy Rose the teachers’ MVP. The standard of cakes and the creativity shown was phenomenal this term. The catering team had difficult decisions to make and have awarded the following prizes in our little competition:

Charity Week fundraising

Pre-Prep: Thomas Ra (Rec) – Winner; Josh (Year 1) – 2nd Prize; Theo H (Rec) – 3rd Prize; Lucien (Year 2) – Highly Commended

Years 3 & 4: Henry D & Rowan M – Winners; Finn BE & Alexander R – Highly Commended

Years 5 & 6: Thomas M & Freddie P – Winners; Aloysius – Highly Commended

Years 7 & 8: Max LL & Xander, Eugene, Dominic & Noah – Winners; Miles – Highly Commended

Hopefully prep school parents will have safely received (electronically) their son’s half term Orders, along with a Parentmail attachment explaining how our grading system works. If you have not received these, please contact office@newcollegeschool.org.

Years 5 and 6 had a wonderful French Day today, with a series of French-inspired activities: making their own baguettes and 'purchasing' fillings from a 'French Market' stall in the playground; competing in 'Les Grands Jeux', a multi-sport challenge; and much more My thanks to Catherine Phillips for masterminding the day, and to all of my colleagues who assisted her so enthusiastically. A big thank you, too, to Caroline Hitchings who coordinated the wonderful pre-prep QED week, focusing on an international theme, with the boys dressed up in the colours of the flag of their choice. We loved seeing them come through the school gates in the morning, and the boys clearly had a brilliant time, judging by the buzz emanating from the pre-prep building!

When we return from half term, our focus in the upper school will be our forthcoming production of Henry IV, Part 1. There will be a rehearsal for Years 7 and 8 on Sunday 29 October at 13.30 (pick-up from NCS at 16.00; we will look after the choristers until they head over to chapel for their rehearsal and evensong). Chris Gausden has sent parents a separate Parentmail outlining details of the final rehearsals and performances.

NCS families may be interested in ‘The Saga Of Leif Erikson’, the premiere of which is happening soon. This is a new family-friendly musical about the Viking explorer Leif Erikson's voyage to discover America, written and produced by four former NCS boys: Chris Brain, Thomas Simpson, Tom Barry and Lyndon Chen. It will take place at Sunningwell Village Hall, OX13 6RD. Performances (£12): Friday 27 October 19.00; Saturday 28 October 14.30 and 19.00; Sunday 29 October 14.30. Online streamed performance (£10): Sunday 29 October 19.00.

From Nick Hanson: On Monday, Year 5 Sustainability Club were joined by Councillor Anna Railton from Oxford City Council. Cllr. Railton is the cabinet member responsible for the council’s approach to net zero and climate justice. She explained the different responsibilities of Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council, and showed examples of the council’s climate initiatives in recent years, including the Redbridge EV charging station and the decarbonization of Hinksey pool. The boys were surprised to learn that private dwellings are the biggest cause of carbon emissions in Oxford, and they enjoyed proposing their own creative solutions to tackle the environmental challenges facing the city in the coming years. Many thanks to Cllr. Railton for giving up her lunchtime to talk to us. Sustainability Club is a new initiative this term. We have looked at the UN’s Global Goals week, carried out a recycling survey of the school, and made nut-free bird feeders and bird houses. We are grateful to the Parents’ Association for their financial support in improving our planting inside and outside the school. Meanwhile, the Eco Committee have been active in thinking of future initiatives; we look forward in particular to promoting responsible energy usage during Switch Off Fortnight (13-24 November) and to the reopening of the eco shop after the half-term break. Contributions to the Eco-nomist, the NCS eco-magazine, are welcome from all boys; anyone who would like to contribute an eco-themed news article, poem, story, photograph or game should speak to Mr Hanson.

From Craig Bishop: The final week of half term has seen some of the best football of the term with the U11 and U13 boys in action. On Monday afternoon we had our second fixture against D’Overbroeck’s and the boys knew there would be some tough games ahead. Brett Morrison and Dylan Swanepoel took the C and D teams for a mini tournament with the C and D teams from our guests, playing in a round-robin event. A great afternoon was enjoyed by all of the boys and on this occasion one of the D’Overbroeck’s teams came out on top, but only just! The NCS teams pushed them all the way and, were it not for a controversial VAR decision, Eugene’s goal could have swung it our way! I had the pleasure of refereeing the second team’s game and the boys were nothing short of brilliant. The boys’ work rate, skill and dedication were all at the very top this week. The game was brilliant with the lead going back and forth throughout. With ten minutes to go in the second half the score was 2-3 to our guests. A barrage of NCS attacks saw the DB goal keeper pull off seven (!) fantastic saves to ensure the result stayed that way. I feel the NCS boys could not have done any more; they hit the target so many times and were it not for the heroics of the keeper, the result could and would have been very different. Special mention goes out to our goalscorers Monty L and James A, but a player of match award must go to Arjun S as he was magnificent in goal.

Stephen Potts’s first team also enjoyed a great performance and he has the following to say: “Monday's game against D'Overbroeck’s was a great example of the improvements we have made as a team. This time around we dominated possession, played the better football and were on the front foot for all but the last few minutes. Alex opened the scoring with a fantastic long-range effort, before doubling our lead by calmly rounding the opposition keeper to roll the ball home. At half time we discussed how we could be further ahead if we remained calm with our play in the final third. D'Overbroeck’s struck back with a long-range effort of their own, before Jay restored our two-goal lead. We then had countless opportunities to extend our lead, drawing multiple saves from their goalkeeper and hitting the frame of the goal three times. Unfortunately, and as football often goes, we were punished for not talking these chances as we were hit by two late goals to be held to a draw.”

On a wet and windy Wednesday afternoon the U11 boys were away against Cothill and Bruern Abbey. Brett Morrison has the following to say about the U11 C team squad after another cracking day: “It is official. The U11 C team are on a winning streak. Having won their last three matches in a row, on Wednesday the boys beat Cothill House 2-1 in a close fixture. Henry finished off a wide-sweeping team movement straight from the training pitch. Late in the match, Alex pounced on a quick turnover to break the deadlock. A fine defensive effort by Arran and Frankie saw NCS hold on to the lead in a close-fought encounter. Our second match in as many weeks against Bruern Abbey saw a fairly comprehensive performance: a Giovanni brace with both strikes from outside the box. The first goal, from a dead ball opportunity which was dispatched right into the top corner ('where the spiders live') will remain firmly in the memory of those who witnessed it. Finally, the match was capped off by a composed finish by Curtis. Nicholas was dynamic in midfield throughout the second match and controlled the tempo well.”

Catherine Phillips’ D team were again in fine form and, despite not quite winning this week, they played some superb football. They enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and were ferocious in the tackle. We are all still extremely proud of their efforts, in particular Monty S who was brilliant in goal and Misha who was player of the match! In Stephen Young’s B team fixture the game was a frantic and fast-paced affair. As the game progressed the team began to play some excellent football. Felix T managed to score a beautiful goal and Aloysius W was player of the match thanks to his tireless performance. Dylan Swanepoel’s A team were also in action on Wednesday afternoon and they managed to play two games, one against Cothill in which they lost 4-1 with Yoav G scoring our only goal. In the second game the boys were in sparkling form against Bruern Abbey. NCS dominated and began to pass the ball around the pitch with confidence and skill. A Maani hat-trick sealed the result and capped off a fantastic half term for this team. This has changed the look of the goalscoring charts quite significantly after the first seven weeks of term.

Upcoming Events

Sunday, 29 October 2023

13:30 Henry IV, Part 1 rehearsal, Years 7-8, sports hall (pick-up 16.00 from NCS)

Monday, 30 October 2023

Return from Half Term

14:00 Henry IV, Part 1 rehearsal, Years 7-8, chapel (end 15.45)

Wednesday, 1 November 2023

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: The Revd Gavin Knight, St Michael and All Angels, Summertown

14.00 U13 A-C Football vs Summer Fields, Away

14.00 U11 A-E Football vs Summer Fields, Home

15.45 Henry IV, Part 1 rehearsal, Years 7-8, chapel (end 16.45)

Thursday, 2 November 2023

14.15 U8 & U9 Football House Matches, Home

Sunday, 5 November 2023

9.00 Henry IV, Part 1 rehearsal, Year 8 only, chapel (pick-up 11.30 from Song Room in NC)

Monday, 6 November 2023

UK Parliament Week begins

14.00 Henry IV, Part 1 rehearsal, Year 7 only, chapel (end 15.00)

14.15 U12 & U13 Football House Matches, Home

Tuesday, 7 November 2023

14.00 U9 A-C Football vs Summer Fields, Away

14.00 U8 A & B Football vs Summer Fields, Home

Wednesday, 8 November 2023

9.00 Remembrance Day Service, Chapel. Speaker: Ms Helen Merrington-Rust MBE

14.15 U11 A-E Football vs MCS, Away

18.00 Henry IV, Part 1 performance, Years 7-8, chapel (please enter via the Song Room)

13.00-16.00 Educational Partnership - Primary School Critical Thinking workshop at New College re Children's Parliament

13.00-2.45pm Year 2 Trip to the Ashmolean Museum

Thursday, 9 November 2023

18.00 Henry IV, Part 1 performance, Years 7-8, chapel (please enter via the Song Room)

14.15 U8 & U9 Football House Matches, Home

Friday, 10 November 2023

14.15 U10 & U11 Football House Matches, Home