Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 15 December 2023

Dear Parents,

It seems an age ago that hundreds of us gathered in the sunshine and sweltering heat for the official opening of our new building in September. This event, at the very start of Michaelmas, was just one way in which NCS made history that week. The second was that the school roll reached its highest in our 644-year history. The third was that we founded, and became the home of, the Oxford Children’s Chamber Orchestra (OCCO) – opening up instrumental opportunities to all children in the area, playing alongside NCS boys, with bursaries available up to 100%. Fast forward fourteen or so weeks and I know that there are many people out there who have earned themselves a bit of a break!

It would be impossible to survey the events of this term in just one newsletter, but I’m pleased to say that the boys of NCS have happily been exploring their wonderful new facilities, and taking part in so many different of school life, both inside and outside the classroom. Our vision here is to be inclusive, so over the course of the year every single boy will be involved in choirs and other forms of music-making, drama, and sport. This was writ large in our two carol services this week; music from the second of which is still ringing in my ears. This is the joy, of course, of a single-form entry school. From a personal perspective, it was wonderful to see historically ‘quiet’ boys taking the stage so confidently in plays like Henry IV, Part 1. I did wonder to myself whether such pupils would be overlooked elsewhere, or whether they would think that such things ‘weren’t for them’. But if it becomes part of an inclusive culture, everyone gets to have a go. When I was at school, people were easily pigeon-holed. I’m keen to lead the resistance, at a school like NCS, to such a philosophy.

Christmas lunch; Pre-Prep Nativity; the new Steinway; Sports awards assembly; Visit from Santa; investigating ultrasound in Year 6

Amidst all of this energetic activity, the boys have remained their usual excellent company. It is, in many ways, obviously a privilege to work in a school like NCS. One of those privileges is that I get to work alongside talented and committed colleagues, and with sparky, characterful and interesting children. Yes, we all have our moments, and that is natural in any community, and especially one in which people spend a lot of time together. But it is great to be able to look back over a term of lots of achievement, skills development, and good fun. There are various things that knit such a community together, including a united purpose, consideration for one another, good humour, loyalty, and so on. And these values transcend many of the more negative things one can find in schools these days: sharp-elbowed self-interestedness, and similar things against which I occasionally lob rhetorical volleys. Thank you all for your excellent company as we have worked to avoid such things, to navigate a long and tiring term, and to keep the boys achieving so happily. I look forward to us doing it all again in January. Before then, though, I wish you all a very happy Christmas break.

All best wishes,

Matt Jenkinson

At the end of this term we say thank you and goodbye to Pip Usher. Pip joined us as the Year 4 form teacher in March 2021 – a rather unusual time to start a post in teaching, and we are very grateful for her joining us and helping us out as we came out of the Covid lockdowns. During her time at NCS she has shown herself to be a passionate and committed teacher and she has thrown herself into a variety of different roles, whether in the classroom or on the sports field, or taking a lead directing the Year 3 and 4 play – The Jungle Book was an especial recent highlight. We wish Pip all the very best with her new adventures and thank her for all she has contributed to NCS life over the past few years. To ensure the greatest continuity for the boys, for the remainder of the academic year the Year 4 form tutoring responsibilities, and bulk of the classroom teaching (English, Maths, Greats, and Thinking & Reasoning), will be taken on by Zoe Parsons. The boys know Zoe extremely well, as she looked after them, and taught them, during Victoria Hayter’s jury service leave last academic year. Zoe studied at Oxford and the Open University before studying for her PGCE at Oxford Brookes, and she has taught at NCS since 2015. She has a wealth of experience teaching children of this age group, and her recent Master’s thesis on English teaching was highly commended by the British Educational Research Association. The science teaching will be taken on by Jan Alden who has sixteen years’ experience of teaching the subject in key stages 2 to 4, in the UK and in Canada.

Those of you who attended one of our carol services this week might still have 'Lullaby Carol' going round and round in your heads. With music by Tom Neal and words by yours truly, the carol is a homage to John Rutter and we had a go at recording it in assembly yesterday: https://youtu.be/7EOTvugRpmM

Congratulations to Herbie in 8S who has been awarded a music scholarship to d’Overbroeck’s!

We had a very busy musical weekend last weekend. On Saturday morning we had our very first Oxford Children’s Chamber Orchestra (OCCO) concert, which was a great success. It was wonderful to hear members of the orchestra, as well as some chamber groups, with representatives from NCS and further afield. Then, on Sunday evening, we enjoyed the chamber choir and choral society singing alongside the Instruments of Time and Truth in New College Chapel. There were, in total, one hundred performers, and the event was sold out. My thanks to Tom Neal, Izzy Rose, and all our music staff who made these events possible and so special. Continuing the musical theme, we send our best wishes to the choristers whose Christmas break doesn't start just yet. They are performing at St John's Smith Square in London this evening, and then in the University Church next Tuesday!

Handbell workshop; OCCO concert; Christmas fair; Carol service

On Thursday 14 December Year 6 enjoyed a fascinating talk on immunity from Dr Katrina Pollock. Dr Pollock was involved in the development of a vaccine for COVID-19 and so it was wonderful to hear about her work, and try some hands-on tasks using ultrasound. Many thanks to Dr Pollock for coming in to talk to the boys.

My thanks to the NCSPA committee and all those who sent in donations and helped out to make the Christmas Fair such a success on Thursday afternoon. This is one of the highlights of the year for the boys, and I appreciate that a lot of time, resources and effort go into making it so special. It was great to see so many boys wearing their Christmas jumpers as well, raising money for Save the Children.

Following excellent results from the recent Judo Club Grading exams boys from Years 3-8 were delighted to be presented with their new belts, representing the hard work and discipline they demonstrated throughout Michaelmas. In addition to the grading successes, the top three boys from Years 3-5 and Years 6-8 received medals for third and second places and a trophy for first place. Gold – Theodore L-L and Gunwoo; Silver – Max L-L and James A; Bronze - Rowan M and George T.

You should have received an electronic copy of your son’s report via Schoolbase. Please let office@newcollegeschool.org if you have experienced any logistical issues with this.

Upcoming Events

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

14.00 U11 & U13 Pre-season Hockey, St Edward's

Friday, 12 January 2024

14.00 U11 Pre-season Hockey, St Edward's

Sunday, 14 January 2024

Start of University Term

Monday, 15 January 2024

Internal Chorister Auditions

17.30 Music Scholars' Masterclass (Auditorium)

Tuesday, 16 January 2024

External Chorister Auditions

Wednesday, 17 January 2024

8.15 Charity Committee Meeting (CLC)

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: Dr Julian Murphy, Headmaster, The Oratory

14.15 U11 A-D Hockey v MCS, Headington

14.15 U13 A &B Hockey v Abingdon, St Edward's

18.00 Year 3 and 8S parents' evening

Friday, 19 January 2024

15.30 U13 A Hockey Oxon County Cup, Hawks Astro