Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 1 March 2024

Dear parents,

In preparing for next Monday’s assembly, I found myself reading up on our next person of the week, John Flamsteed. Flamsteed was appointed Astronomer Royal on 4 March 1675. I choose the person of the week based on various criteria, but one is what we can learn about their life and career that will enhance our own lives and careers. Usually they are people with qualities we should emulate. Sometimes, very occasionally, I encounter someone who has behaved in such a way that we should learn to do the opposite. I fear that might be the case with Flamsteed. He was, in many ways, an admirable character. He was forced to leave school in his mid-teens due to ill health, and he ended up being something of a remarkable autodidact, studying astronomy on his own through books and experimentation between 1662 and 1669. This enforced period of personal learning and, perhaps, isolation may have had an impact on his later life. He ended up studying at Cambridge, but found the experience (of suddenly being around other people? Or just being Cambridge?) rather tiresome. He worked at the Greenwich Observatory from 1675 as Charles II wanted more accurate tables of heavenly bodies, with the positions of stars, for the use of sailors in their navigation. Perhaps Flamsteed resented the fact that largely he had to supply his own instruments, including his own fourteen-foot telescope, taking on private pupils to boost his income. I say this because, well, through his adult life he seems to have been rather irascible. He didn’t get on particularly well with more famous figures like Isaac Newton and Edmund Halley. Newton and Halley wanted Flamsteed’s observations published quickly; Flamsteed objected. When he didn’t get his way, and his incomplete observations were published in 1712 anyway, Flamsteed managed to gain possession of, and burn, three hundred of the four hundred extant copies.

Pre-Prep Storytime; Castles in Year 1 History; Hooke's Law in Year 5 Science; Year 5 visit to the Synagogue; Romeo and Juliet in Year 8 English

I happen to have a modern edition of Flamsteed’s correspondence – all three thousand pages of it – and it happens to sit behind me on the shelves in the head’s study at NCS. So I thought I’d dip in and see if I could find any more evidence of Flamsteed falling out with others. It took me just a matter of seconds to find a letter wherein Flamsteed was mid-cantankerous spat with one of his scientific contemporaries: ‘the Dr has a mighty opinion of his own authority or else he would never have attempted to overthrow a well grounded truth on suppositions’; ‘it seems very strange to me that he cannot let me forget an injury he once did me’; ‘I have other business on my hands to mind his spite’. You get the picture.

Flamsteed was clearly a brilliant man in certain ways, but he found it difficult to work with, and get on with, others. I suspect we have all encountered people like this. The fact is that very few of the boys are going to go through their lives without working and coexisting with others. So it’s all very well them being brilliant at something, they need to be able to share that brilliance, to collaborate and communicate effectively with those around them. Aside from the fact that it is rather wearing to go through life as Flamsteed seems to have done, being irascible and waspish with others, it is also destructive. So I hope the boys took the good bits about Flamsteed’s life and career – and I do find the story of burning the publications curiously hilariously brilliant – while learning how they might be able to do things differently as they go through their schooling and enter their professional lives.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

We are looking forward to our Year 8 parents’ evening on Wednesday 6 March at 18.00. My usual notices regarding parents’ evenings: some colleagues like to make an early start so do please arrive a little earlier than 18.00 if you are at a loose end. Please aim to arrive by 18.30 so you have enough time to get around every colleague by 20.00. Parking is available in the playground from 17.00 once the area is clear of boys departing after their enrichment activities. If there are any issues that you feel would need longer than a c.5-minute meeting, please contact the relevant teacher in advance to arrange a separate chat.

World Book Day is on 7 March. 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!

Puppetry Workshop

Sketching spring in Art

Our SHTEAM Festival begins on Monday 11 March and runs all week. For those who are new to NCS – or to the concept of SHTEAM (STEM with the Arts and Humanities put back in) – this is an annual festival at the school during which we celebrate interdisciplinarity by taking a single theme and looking at it from as many different curricular dimensions as possible. This year’s theme is ‘The World of Water’ and, as you will see from the SHTEAM Brochure, there are dozens of events happening across the year groups: special lessons, workshops and talks covering all manner of watery areas. Many thanks to all those who are contributing to the festival, and especially those NCS parents who are taking the time to come in to talk to the boys.

Year 6 had a great time at Swan Lake at the New Theatre last night. As ever, members of the public – including an old boy who happened to be attending the same performance – kindly commented on how well the boys presented themselves. Thanks to Tom Neal and Izzy Rose for accompanying the boys and giving them the opportunity to attend such a great event.

From Craig Bishop: This week we’ve had all the boys in the prep school in action, representing NCS on the hockey pitches. On Tuesday afternoon the U8s and U9s travelled to MCS and the Dragon respectively. The U8s enjoyed three great games of hockey with a win and draw and a loss, so honours even there. Steve Potts was extremely proud of their efforts and has high hopes for their next encounter. In the U9s fixture the A team played four small games against two Dragon A team squads. They managed just one defeat, two draws and a win, so again, honours even. Jacob S-H, Martin S and James D all deserve special mentions thanks to their excellent performances. Dylan Swanepoel’s B team eventually went down 2-0 in their encounter but again managed to draw two of the small games. The mighty U9 C team under the expert eye of Izzy Rose, or as she’s now known “Roseinio”, put in a wonderful performance; in their four small games they amassed five goals to The Dragon’s zero. Alexander F was player of the match thanks to his tireless running and great shooting.

On Wednesday afternoon, an extremely busy day saw the U10 team take part in the annual St Edward’s hockey festival and after a tiring afternoon they emerged in fourth place overall out of nearly a dozen schools taking part. Huge congratulations to the U10 team. The remaining U11 teams made the short trip to a wet and windy Chandlings and played four great games of hockey. The A team unfortunately were a little unlucky and the cold certainly played its part at the end of the afternoon. In the B team game, the match was drawn and it was certainly a tight, hard fought game with Charlie S slotting home to secure the point. The C & D teams both won convincingly. The boys voted for Gianni V as player of the match for the C team ably assisted by Samuel J, Michael L and Oscar CB. In the D team game, the vote went to Alexander S who bagged a goal and Misha A who got the other two.

The U13s, away against Thorngrove, enjoyed four cracking games. The A team played out a very attack-minded game in which both teams seemed to forget what the word “defend” meant and relied on all out attack. A high scoring, physical game was played out and both teams took turns to score until time ran out and our hosts ended up winning 5-4. The B team game ran out 2-0 winners. They played some beautiful hockey and it was a pleasure to see them passing and working for each other. Max A-B was clearly player of the match and used his speed and power to score a great goal. In the C team game, Thorngrove came out the winners but on the final pitch the NCS D team lit up the afternoon with a dazzling display scoring eight goals and keeping a clean sheet as a bonus. Thomas H on his long-awaited return to fitness showed what we’ve been missing as he bagged four goals and Toby C scored two. Finally, the U11 A team took part in the annual IAPS regional qualifier. In a tough group they managed to finish in third place to secure a favourable plate quarter final. Having made it through that game winning 1-0 against Ashfold they met St John’s Beaumont. A 2-0 loss was not a disaster and a plate semi final was a good result for the day’s efforts.

Upcoming Events

Monday, 4 March 2024

17.30 Junior Recital, Auditorium (parking from 17.00)

9.30 Year 3 Great Civilisations Trip: Ancient Egypt at Ashmolean Museum

13.00 U13 A Stowe Hockey Festival, Stowe School, return 17.00

14.00 U13 B-D Hockey v CCCS, St Edward's

Tuesday, 5 March 2024

9.45-11.50 Year 6 Science trip to Oxford University Museum of Natural History

14.15 U9 A & B Hockey v Winchester House, Away

Wednesday, 6 March 2024

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: Revd Dr Hannah Lewis, Chaplain amongst the Deaf Community, Diocese of Oxford

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

14.00 U13 A-D Hockey v Winchester House, Away

18.00 Year 8 parents' evening

Thursday, 7 March 2024

NCS Festival of Literature

World Book Day

14.00 U8 & 9 Hockey v Chandlings, Away

Friday, 8 March 2024

14.15 U11 Hockey House Matches, St Edward's

Saturday, 9 March 2024

End of University Term

Monday, 11 March 2024

Provisional date for ABRSM exams

SHTEAM Festival on 'The World of Water' begins: see separate schedule for full event list

Pre-Prep QED Week

Tuesday, 12 March 2024

14.15 U8/9 A-D Hockey v Ashfold, Away

Wednesday, 13 March 2024

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: The Warden

14.00 U13 A-D Hockey v Summer Fields & Abingdon A & B, St Edward's

14.15 U11 A-D Hockey v MCS, Away

18.00 Holloway Lecture, Dominic Sandbrook (Auditorium; sign-up only)

Thursday, 14 March 2024

9.00 Year 8 HPV catch-up if necessary

14.00 Pre-Prep Spring Concert