Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 10 November 2023

Dear Parents,

Remembrance Week is the most poignant week of our school year. In chapel on Wednesday we had our Remembrance Service, during which I read out the names of the NCS fallen. The boys stood respectfully during the silence, and heard the Last Post reverberate around the chapel. Our guest speaker, Major (Retd) Helen Merrington-Rust spoke about the Chelsea Pensioners, Chelsea Hospital, and the significance of Remembrance for that very special community. The ceremony must mean different things to different year groups, as they grow up and become more and more aware of the realities of war. The oldest among the boys will also be increasingly aware that these horrors are still around us, and that we do not need to look very far to find those who are affected.

In 1939 the Head of English at NCS, E.C. Fry, penned what he called ‘The NCS Front’. In this account of the Second World War back home, on Savile Road, he beautifully evoked the school’s position within a long history — a history which inevitably involved war — and noted the continuity and change in our little corner of Oxford when seismic changes were afoot a few hundred miles away. It is, by turns, reassuring about the school’s position in relative privileged safety, while still being cognizant of the dangers not very far away. Conflict wasn’t on the doorstep but, despite Fry’s protestations about life carrying on as normal, in many ways it was still very close:

The very earth so patriotically shoveled into sandbags in September, to shield the windows of the air-raid shelter in Mansfield College, was originally piled there to strengthen the Royalist lines round the city during the Civil War. It may once have stood the shock of a cavalry charge by Cromwell’s Ironsides. Now the same soil might have to serve as a protection against a very different kind of raid, but in her time Oxford has endured many sieges, and she is ready to endure many more. New College was founded in the middle of a war with France that lasted for a hundred years: no wonder that it is not disturbed when the Government says that it is prepared for the present conflict to last for three. This School has lived on through six centuries of intermittent fighting. Old Boys of ours have served in battles from Agincourt to Ypres. The Wykehamist Foundations have seen too much of History to get excited about headlines an inch high.

Perhaps this atmosphere of ordered tradition helps to explain why NCS has taken all this unpleasantness on the Continent so very calmly. Other schools may have been hastily transplanted to the Outer Hebrides or Land’s End: NCS is still firmly anchored to its normal moorings in Savile Road. The Choir of St Paul’s has been transplanted 200 miles to the West of Cornwall: syrens or no syrens, the Choir of New College is still at its post singing daily Evensong without fail. Other Seats of Learning may have been commandeered by the Ministry for Co-ordinating the Correlation of Co-operation or the Women’s Auxiliary Earthquake Service, but at this establishment it is still “Business as usual.” Here in Oxford every other educational institution seems to be playing a confused game of General Post, in which College A moves into College B, and College B moves into College C, and College C moves into College A, and everybody congratulates themselves on the efficiency of democratic organization. Everywhere far-sighted officials are busily converting Schools and Colleges into Hospitals and Offices, and Hospitals and Offices into Schools and Colleges. Meanwhile, uncommandeered, unevacuated, uncamouflaged, unbarraged, unsandbagged, unhonoured and unsung, New College School pursues the even tenor of its way.

Of course we have had our troubles. If Germany had not invaded Poland, there would have been no black-out, and then Chapel would still be at 6.15, and then the Choir could still get plenty of football, and then we might win a few matches. Such is the grim chain of Cause and Effect in History. Perhaps if Adolf Hitler were still a harmless house-painter, Mr Hall would still be with us, and so we should all feel very much happier. But on the whole we have, like the rival High Commands on the West Front, nothing whatever to report. It is a case of All Quiet On This Front Too. If we were to issue our own War Communique it would read something like this:-

“Our numbers are still at full strength. Our general routine is exactly the same as usual. We have had one or two air-raid drills, the Day Boys come to School with their gasmasks, and the Boarders have to black the house out every evening, but these are the only signs you would notice that there is any important difference between last term and this one. We shall be carrying on straight with work, games, and Choir duties, and with all other regular activities.”

That is all. Nothing dramatic, nothing sensational, nothing heroic. We in this minute sector of a very safe area of the Home Front cannot do very much towards winning the War. But all we can do is go on functioning smoothly and steadily as a School, which, after all, is what we are designed to be. War or no war, somebody has got to go on teaching, and somebody has got to go on learning. In his first message to the public early in September, the Prime Minister said, “Whatever happens, the work of the nation must go on.” It may not be a pleasing thought in Form IIIb, but that stern command applies not only to factories, mines, farms and dockyards, it even applies to Mental Arithmetic and Latin Grammar.

I wish you a peaceful weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

Enormous congratulations to all of our Year 7 and 8 boys who took part in their performances of Henry IV, Part 1 this week. There was fantastic acting, line delivery and music – all in the beautifully candle-lit setting of New College chapel. It is a pretty unrivalled space for the boys to perform Shakespeare ‘in the round’, and they certainly rose to the occasion. I would especially like to thank: Chris Gausden for taking the lead with the direction and production; Tom Neal for leading the music; Elizabeth Hess and Emma Krebs for masterminding the wonderful costumes; Dave Bustin and Paul Mulford for helping with scenery (the new throne built by Dave is phenomenal); Jemma Kilkenny for her design work; Peter Cui for recording the play; and Brett Morrison all those colleagues who helped to usher and supervise the boys along the way. It was, as ever, a joyful whole-community event, and we’re already missing the iambic pentameter.

We are looking forward to our senior recitals (15 November, 17.30) and our junior recitals (20 November, 17.30) – the very first in our beautiful new auditorium! Please note that parking is available, first come first served, in the playground – but that parking is not available until 17.00 because we want to get the boys departed safely from their enrichment activities if they are not staying for the recitals. When arriving c.17.00 please be very careful of any boys who may still be crossing the playground; the same goes, of course, when you are departing. Latecomers are requested to enter the auditorium via the new external side stairs (there’s a door at the very top of the stairs) to avoid having to walk by the stage while boys are performing.

Henry IV, Pt 1; Reception at the remembrance service; the Maths Challenge team; Building Sumerian houses in Year 3 Greats

From Stephen Young: On Thursday some of our Year 6s took part in the St Edward’s Mathematics Challenge. This was a team event with Samuel and Henry C in one pair and Tom D and Yoav in the second. The competition is an annual event run by Douglas Buchanan and the challenge consists of three different timed tasks testing pupils’ mental arithmetic, problem solving skills and teamwork. I was very proud not only of their mathematical skills, but also their outstanding behaviour and teamwork.

From Elizabeth Hess: On Thursday afternoon a small group of boys from Years 3 to 6 attended the Oxfordshire Book Awards. They were among representatives from at least 28 schools from around the county. The boys buzzed with ideas of what to ask the authors, listened impeccably to a variety of speeches, and were keen to demonstrate their extensive literary knowledge with the golden ticket questions. The afternoon was expertly compered by local author and OBA patron, Jo Cotterill, who introduced the authors and their winning books to the audience. Through the three categories of picture books, primary and secondary novels we explored how laughter helps in coping with challenging situations, that artwork can carry a story, and the importance of accurate and extensive research. Despite the wide variety of stories, there was a general inclusive theme that books can inspire and help build a better world. The afternoon ended with the boys meeting the authors and consuming cake, before returning to NCS. We were proud of how well they represented the school and look forward to everyone reading the shortlist to decide the winning books for the Oxfordshire Book Awards 2024!

From Isobel Rose: Thank you to all those who have signed up to Enrichment Activities for Hilary 2024. Please note that priority booking for current year groups ends at 8.00 on Monday 13 November. Parents can then add their sons to the waiting lists of all groups on a first come first served basis. All booking for Enrichment will then close on Monday 4 December to allow registers to be finalised before the end of term.

Heating metals; Year 2 and Year 4 at the Ashmolean; the Oxfordshire Book Awards; Year 6 ceramics; Singing in French in Reception

From Craig Bishop: We have had a very exciting week on the football pitches, not least because the U9s were back in action. All three teams were playing at home against Summer Fields and the games were keenly anticipated. In the B team game, I am really pleased to report that Raad S got himself on the score sheet with a cracking goal in a 1-1 draw; we almost got the winner in a dominant display thanks in no small part to Harvey M and his tireless running. The C team game was equally impressive as was Izzy Rose’s refereeing debut. This ended in a narrow 1-0 loss for the NCS boys but we have nothing but praise for the ways in which the boys have been improving. In the A team game, the boys played some of their best football of the season so far, especially in the first half when we peppered the SF goal and, were it not for some fantastic saves, we could have been three or four goals to the good at half time. The SF team scored the first goal of the game but the NCS boys did not panic; instead they showed character, team spirit and determination. The last five minutes of the game was all NCS and the boys were rewarded with a brilliant Chris B N goal thanks to some great passing play on the left flank from our player of the match Martin S. A special mention must also go to Sam P as he was playing as a lone striker, and his consistent runs into the defence created the space for Chris to score. At the final whistle a 1-1 draw was a great and fair result. On the same afternoon, the U8 boys were away at Summer Fields and Stephen Potts has the following to say about their epic encounter: “The excitement of the team’s first away game travelling on a coach was followed by three fantastic games of football, with everyone having the opportunity to showcase their skills and develop their understanding of how to play in a match situation. Each of the three games saw plenty of goals and every boy left the field smiling, having enjoyed the chance to play a competitive game.”

Also on Tuesday the U11 A team took part in the annual IAPS regional tournament at Danes Hill School. After a strong opening game and 2-0 win the boys were in a confident mood. Considering our size, our target was a place in the quarter finals of the plate competition. After the group stages we did indeed find ourselves in third position and qualified for the plate. The subsequent quarter final did not, alas, go our way and this turned out to be our last game of the day. Both Dylan Swanepoel and Brett Morrison were very proud of the boys and, with both Yoav and Maani getting on the score sheets, we had good cause to celebrate.

Wednesday afternoon was all about the U11 teams as the U13s were busy preparing and readying themselves for their brilliant Shakespeare performance. All four U11 teams were in action away at MCS and the games were brilliant. Stephen Potts was in charge of the D team and they did not disappoint him. They took part in an eight-goal thriller at MCS, with both teams playing on the front foot and looking to attack at every opportunity. There was some fantastic football played and the score would have been even higher if it weren’t for some great goalkeeping from both sides. With Dylan Swanepoel’s A team the boys were a little tired following a tough day on Tuesday but they stepped up and played some great football in an epic 2-2 draw. Once again Maani was on target and his total now stands at an impressive and possibly insurmountable twelve goals for the season. George T was singled out as player of the match; he took it upon himself to take control and dominate the game. Stephen Young was also very pleased with his U11 B team and he has the following to say about their game: “The boys played some inspired football with great passing and link-up play. Their communication and positional play are improving game by game and, as a result, goal-scoring opportunities are becoming more frequent. Special mention should be made of Peter K who made some critical saves in the dying moments to cement our 6-4 victory.” The final word goes to the magnificent U11 C team who, under the guidance of Brett Morrison, enjoyed another great and entertaining game of football. They beat MCS 5-1, making the season’s tally four wins from their last five matches. Alex A scored a hat trick and Curtis scored two. This was a brilliant team performance but Harrison was our player of the match, with his overlapping runs and crosses into the box showed a maturity beyond his years.

Upcoming Events

Monday 13 November

Languages Ambassadors to St Michael's (Year 8/8S)

National Anti-Bullying Week begins

14.15 U12 & U13 Football House Matches, Home

18:00 Pre-Prep Chorister Information Evening (Virtual)

Tuesday 14 Novemeber

14:00 Year 7 & 8 Careers talk finish 14:45

Wednesday, 15 November 2023

8.15 School Council Meeting, Creative Learning Centre

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: Mr Mark Curtis, Development Director, New College

14.15 U11 A-D Football vs Cranford House, Home

17.30 Senior Recital (Years 6-8), Hall (parking from 17.00)

Friday, 17 November 2023

09:00 Flu Vaccinations (Rec-Yr8)

14.15 U10 & U11 Football House Matches, Home

Monday, 20 November 2023

17.30 Junior Recital (Years 3-5), Hall (parking from 17.00)

Tuesday, 21 November 2023

0.35 Puberty workshops (Year 6 & 7) and SRE workshop Year 8

Wednesday, 22 November 2023

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: The Chaplain

8.15 Eco Committee meeting, Creative Learning Centre

14.15 U13 A-C Football vs Cranford House, Away WFC

14.30 U11 A & B Football vs Sibford, Home

16.00 Inter-schools Debate (Year 8/8S)

17.30 Governors' Meeting, McGregor Matthews Room

Thursday, 23 November 2023

10.00 NCS hosting PSB Trustees' and Heads' Meeting

Friday, 24 November 2023

9.30-11.00 Onatti French Play performance (Years 7-8)