Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 8 December 2023

Dear Parents,

Not that the boys read my newsletter, but spoiler alert: next Monday’s person of the week will be David Huddlestone. ‘Who?’, I can hear you asking. One or two film aficionados might be going ‘Ah, David Huddlestone!’. But most of you are going, ‘… Who?!’. Well, that reaction is fair enough, because I’ve gone through most of my life knowing who he is (or was), without actually knowing who he is (or was). In 1985, when Santa Claus: The Movie was released, Huddlestone played the eponymous Santa. While the film is perhaps better remembered for the brilliant scenery-chewing performance of John Lithgow and the storyline centred on Dudley Moore’s elfin Patch, David Huddlestone was, to my generation, Santa Claus. I was three when the film came out. The scene when Huddlestone arrived in Lapland, and was introduced to the multi-coloured bustling toy factory with Henry Mancini’s score in the background, was an iconic part of my generation’s childhood Christmases. Fast forward thirteen years to 1998 and the Coen brothers released The Big Lebowski – a brilliant film that I’ve watched and rewatched multiple times in adulthood. David Huddlestone, it turns out, played – well – The Big Lebowski. So two films that have been fairly prominent in my life had this one actor in common, and for years I simply didn’t notice. The thing is that I’m not sure Huddlestone would have minded.

Huddlestone was, apparently, very humble. Despite the fact that he appeared in dozens of TV programmes and some iconic films (he was Santa Claus!), he was not particularly recognisable. If (unlikely, I know) Leonardo di Caprio or Ben Stiller had appeared as Santa Claus and then The Big Lebowski, I probably would have clocked that it was the same actor. Huddlestone, not so much. When Huddlestone died in 2016, his obituaries included a story he enjoyed telling that underlined his humility. One day a young man recognised Huddleston in a supermarket and went over to say how much he admired him. A beaming Huddleston, flushed with pride, moved over to the next aisle where he overheard the fan speaking to his girlfriend. ‘Who was that man you were talking with?’ she asked. ‘David Huddleston, the character actor,’ he said. ‘You know the most insignificant people,’ she responded.

Drama Club panto; investigating burning in Year 8; testing the new Steinway

We have been thinking a lot about humility at NCS this week as our wellbeing theme, addressed by Stephen Young in Tuesday’s assembly, has been getting the right balance between confidence and humility. Of all the balances that we try to strike at NCS, and that we want to instil in the boys, this is one of the most difficult. We want the boys to grow up being confident enough to have their voices heard, to try new things, to keep going even if they face challenges. At the same time, we don’t want them to develop the kind of character that the British independent sector has not always been great at avoiding: over-confident and unlistening boorishness. It is important that the boys realise that they are growing up in, and entering, a society in which they will be talented individuals among other talented individuals, and in which their voices should be heard alongside the voices of many others. By addressing this directly from a young age, and by nudging the boys in the right direction when overconfidence squashes humility, or too much humility erodes sensible confidence, we can go one step further towards nurturing healthy and effective future citizens.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

Congratulations to the boys in Drama Club who put on a wonderful Christmas pantomime. Jack and the Beanstalk met A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a script especially written by Sarah Brown. They were the first troupe to use the new stage, with its funky lighting, in the new auditorium!

We very much enjoyed pre-prep’s winter recital in the auditorium on Thursday. It is always great to see such excellent musical foundations being laid in the pre-prep, ready for all the wonderful opportunities they get to develop once they enter Year 3 to 8 in the prep school. It is so good to now have an auditorium that reflects this quality, and gives families and friends somewhere comfortable to sit with excellent sight-lines!

One of the final additions to the auditorium was made this Wednesday: a Steinway piano for the boys and my colleagues to use in assemblies, recitals and plays!

Also on Wednesday, pre-prep and Years 3 and 4 enjoyed themselves at a pantomime, Red Riding Hood, brought to them by Chaplins Entertainment. Many thanks to Victoria Hayter for organising the event.

Pre-Prep at the panto; The winter concert; Year 7 at the Ashmolean

This week, Year 3 were lucky enough to have two parents share their experiences with the class. Lucie Cluver came to read the boys the story of Channukah and organise a fabulous craft activity. Gerard Russell, Middle Eastern expert and author came to share his knowledge in relation to Year 3's studies of Ancient Sumer. He gave us perspective on how long ago Ancient Sumer was and how many of the practices developed by the Sumerians influence how we live today. We are very grateful to those parents for spending their time enriching the boys’ learning.

On Thursday Year 7 had a Geography field trip to the Pitt Rivers Museum to learn more about African kingdoms, empires and trade. They enjoyed learning about new objects and tribal customs as well as researching and giving a presentation to the rest of the class.

We are looking forward to the very first concert put on by the Oxford Children’s Chamber Orchestra (OCCO) on Saturday 9 December at 11.00. This will take place in the sports hall and will be the first time that this new ensemble, consisting of pupils from NCS and further afield, has played in public. OCCO has been a tremendous success since it began at the start of Michaelmas, and I would like to thank Tom Neal and Isobel Rose for heading the project, and all of our visiting music teachers who also give their support.

Many congratulations to all those boys who recently took their ABRSM exams. I’m thrilled to announce that, between them, the boys earned themselves four passes, eleven merits, and eight distinctions. Thanks to all of our music colleagues and families who supported the boys in the run-up to their exams.

The NCS Eco Committee is excited to announce this year’s eco-photography competition. The theme, chosen by the committee, is ‘Winter’. If your son is interested in taking part, all he has to do is take his very best, most creative winter photograph. Please email his photograph to nicholas.hanson@newcollegeschool.org, by the end of the first week back next term (12 January).

Please find attached to the newsletter Parentmail this year’s Christmas library quiz, put together by Elizabeth Hess, and the new issue of The Eco-nomist, compiled by Nick Hanson and the boys on our eco-committee.

We wish all the very best to the Chamber Choir and Choral Society as they prepare for their concert alongside the Instruments of Time and Truth in New College Chapel on Sunday 10 December at 19.00.

The choristers continue their Christmas season, with three carol services down and another three to go. Plus, of course, don’t miss them at St John’s Smith Square in London on 15 December and in their performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in the University Church on 19 December. https://www.newcollegechoir.com

Tuesday 12 December will be the last day of instrumental lessons and after-school enrichment activities this term.

A reminder that Steve Potts, NCS sports coach, will be running two football afternoons at NCS through his company, Next Generation Soccer Schools, on 18 and 19 December. There are still a few spots available. Sessions will run from 13.00 until 16.00 on the school games field and/or gym depending on weather, at £20 per afternoon. Sessions are open to NCS pupils in Years 3-8. Places are limited, please book via https://campscui.active.com/orgs/NextGenerationSoccerSchool?season=3417634

From Craig Bishop: The final round of games this term saw the U8 and U9 teams play four very entertaining games against Christ Church. In the U9 games the boys played some really impressive football and for long periods of the game were dominant. We saw both the A and B teams passing the ball, moving off the ball into space, and working hard for one another. Without the ball we did not see quite the same endeavour and the CCCS boys were quicker to the loose ball and took advantage of this late on in the games. A hard lesson was learnt about fighting right until the very end and never giving up.

In the U8 games we also witnessed some spectacular football and Steve Potts has the following to say: “The Year 3 A and B team enjoyed a successful afternoon of football against teams mainly made up of CCCS’s Year 4s. Both teams were challenged to pass the ball forward into spaces when they could, and this allowed them to create some great attacks and goalscoring opportunities. It was great to see so many of the skills that we have worked on this term come into play; all boys were able to showcase what they have learnt this term and how much progress they have made in football.”

These final games cap off a very successful season for the NCS teams and we, the games staff, are extremely proud of the boys’ efforts and achievements. We are now looking forward to an even better hockey season.

Upcoming Events

Saturday, 9 December 2023

11.00 OCCO concert, Hall

Sunday, 10 December 2023

13.00 Rehearsal (Chamber Choir, Choral Society, IT&T, soloists), Chapel

19.00 Chamber Choir and Choral Society concert, Chapel

Monday, 11 December 2023

14.00 U12 & U13 Hockey Pre-Season, St Edward's

Tuesday, 12 December 2023

Final VMT music lessons of term

Final after-school Enrichment Activities of term (pre-prep and prep)

9.00 Handbell rehearsal (music scholars), CLC

14.00 Pre-Prep Dress Rehearsal

Wednesday, 13 December 2023

End-of-term reports issued

9.00 Carol Service A in chapel

Christmas Lunch

Thursday, 14 December 2023

Christmas Jumper Day (£2 donation to Save the Children)

14.00 Pre-Prep Nativity Play

14.00 NCSPA Christmas Fair, Sports Hall

Friday, 15 December 2023

8.30 End of term assembly

10.30 Carol Service B in Chapel

12.00 End of Term 12.00 noon

Monday, 8 January 2024


Tuesday, 9 January 2024


Wednesday, 10 January 2024

Start of Term

VMT 1:1 Music Lessons Start (pre-prep and prep)

After-School Enrichment Activities Start (pre-prep and prep)

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: the Headmaster

Sunday, 14 January 2024

Start of University Term