Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 3 May 2024

Dear Parents,

This week we have been thinking about the Fourth Estate – the press – because today (3 May) is World Press Freedom Day. It is one of the rites of passage in many schools that pupils are inspired to set up/edit/write for a school newspaper. I imagine there are a fair few former school paper editors among this readership! One of our Year 6 enrichment activities sees the boys writing their own articles looking at events nearby and in the wider world. We have our Eco-nomist (geddit?) paper written by members of the eco-committee. So from a young age, the boys get to think about how to digest and effectively communicate their ideas in an effective way to a wider audience. They should also be thinking about how they can frame their ideas in an objective way, but one which doesn’t also fall into the all-too-common trap of both-sides-ism whereby an unproven hysterical conspiracy theory is given the same weight and airtime as a rational and scientifically proven fact.

We don’t need to look far to see examples of the press misused for party political ends, for claims of impartiality to be clearly undermined, and for extreme partisan agendas to be promoted by mouthpieces that have all the trappings of a legitimate balanced broadcaster – but which keep their fingers crossed firmly behind their backs. It wasn’t so long ago that we could watch such mouthpieces and chuckle about the lunacy of the fringe. That was until the fringe dressed up in mainstream clothes and gave the Overton Window an almighty shove (to mix metaphors). This has only been exacerbated by the denigration of ‘mainstream media’ (often contemptuously reduced to ‘MSM’), and the proliferation of unregulated extremism online, which erroneously purports to be ‘common sense’ or – ugh – the ‘voice of the silent majority’.

Year 2 Library time; Mini beast hunting in New College garden; Pre-Prep play time; Vocab quiz in Year 8 Classics; Visitors from Keio Yochisha Elementary School; Batting practice; Dancing jigs in Music

As a history teacher, I spend a lot of time teaching critical thinking through sourcework. This is partly so the boys become better historians; it’s also largely so they can pick up contemporary sources – including newspapers or news websites – and not take what they are told at face value. As a headmaster, I want my pupils to be able to enter society without being gulled by the slick operator who purports to be a legitimate voice of truthful news, but who is actually peddling conspiracy theories and wilful distortions, usually for nefarious ends. A free press is clearly important, and a bulwark against authoritarianism and its cheerleaders. At the same time, it is vital for us all – including the boys here – to be able to judiciously work our way through a press that is free, but which does not use that freedom to deceive, divide and destroy.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

Our next open morning is on Friday 17 May 2024, 10.00-12.00. All families are welcome to join us to view the school in action, chat to pupils, staff, and current parents and find out more about an NCS education. Places can be booked via https://www.newcollegeschool.org/open-day-booking. Do please pass on this information to any families you think might be interested in joining our special community, and we would be most grateful if you would consider displaying the poster that has been sent home via your sons’ rucksacks. Keep an eye out for our adverts on social media too, and don’t be shy when it comes to pressing the ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons. Almost 80% of respondents in our recent community survey reported that they first heard about NCS through word of mouth, so do please keep spreading the word. Many thanks!

Our chorister open day will be in New College chapel on Saturday 8 June, 16.00-c.18.30. There will be tea in the cloisters, a chance to meet Robert Quinney, games, plenty of music, and a special family-friendly evensong at 17.45. To register, please email choir@new.ox.ac.uk.

We very much enjoyed welcoming four teachers from the Keio Yochisha Elementary School in Japan this Wednesday, who were particularly interested in our musical provision at NCS. The teachers observed some lessons and rehearsals and spent time talking with myself and other colleagues, as well as enjoying a tour of our new building. Thanks to Louise Brown for organising this partnership event, and to all of my colleagues who were so welcoming and accommodating.

Thank you to all those parents who attended the NCSPA meeting on Monday. We very much appreciate the time and energy that parents put into having such a supportive parents’ association, helping with the organisation of events and fundraising for ‘extras’ around school. We are looking forward to this term’s events!

On Saturday 11 May (19.00-20.00) we will be hosting a special historical event: a talk by Sarah Dixwell Brown titled ‘A King Killer in the Family: Writing the Life of John Dixwell’. Sarah taught English at Stanford, Santa Clara University, Mount Holyoke College and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. This talk explores her research into the life and career of John Dixwell, one of her ancestors, who signed the death warrant of Charles I in 1649 and then ran away to New England after the Restoration of the monarchy. I will be introducing the talk, with my historian hat on. The event will be in Lecture Room 6 in New College. If you would like to come please sign up (for free) at: https://forms.office.com/e/pkF9bc0N6t.

Oxford Children’s Book Group in collaboration with the Abingdon Library is offering a free cartooning workshop with Clive Goddard on Saturday 1 June at Abingdon Library, 14.30-16.00. Clive Goddard is one of the illustrators of the ‘Horribly Famous’ series. Advance booking is required via 01235 520374 or Abingdon.library@oxfordshire.gov.uk.

From Craig Bishop: The clouds briefly broke long enough for us to get on the tennis courts and cricket pitches this week. The U13 B cricket team made their way to Cokethorpe to a friendly softball game against their mixed A team. A great game was played out and Dylan Swanepoel was extremely proud and happy to report on an opening win for the team. At home on the tennis courts Stephen Young’s team played host to Cranford House and results didn’t quite go our way. I am confident that with a few more sessions on the courts, the boys under the captaincy of Max AB will begin to enjoy some positive results.

Away from home the U11 boys played three short but very exciting games of cricket against Sibford. In the first game the C team narrowly lost by just three runs but a stand out performance from Freddie P with the ball was very impressive. Following this it was the turn of the B team and they started off with a bang. Maani A was in great form with the bat in only his first game; he looks a natural and I’m confident he’ll quickly progress this term. With the ball I was very pleased to see Jack BE bowling well; he has developed a full and good paced delivery that will, I’m sure, take lots of wickets this term. At the final ball the NCS team won by the narrowest of margins: one run! Finally, the A team took to the pitch and they were in sparkling form with the bat. Aloysius started proceedings with great shots through square leg, while Charlie S’s straight and powerful drives over the umpire’s head were a joy to watch. Tom D continued the show, bagging a couple of late boundaries himself too. A convincing win was just reward for such a good first outing.

Upcoming Events

Monday, 6 May 2024

School and bank holiday

Tuesday, 7 May 2024

14.15 U8 Diamond Cricket vs CCCS

14.15 U9 Diamond Cricket vs CCCS

Wednesday, 8 May 2024

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: Mr Johannes von Stumm, Sculptor

14.15 U13 A & B Cricket vs Bruern Abbey, home

14.15 U13 Tennis vs Bruern Abbey, home

Thursday, 9 May 2024

Beating the Bounds Yr 5 8.50-11.10 (approx)

14.15 U9 A & B Cricket vs Abingdon Prep, home

Monday, 13 May 2024

Language ambassadors at St Michael's

17.30 Junior Recital (Years 3-5), Auditorium

Tuesday, 14 May 2024

Year 7 rivers field study trip

14.15 U8 A && B Cricket vs Beachborough, away

Wednesday, 15 May 2024

8.15 Eco-Committee Meeting, CLC

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: Ms Elizabeth Stone, Headmaster of Winchester College

14.15 U13 & U11 B Cricket vs Summer Fields, home

14.15 U13 & U11 B Cricket vs Summer Fields, away

Friday, 17 May 2024

Open Morning

Saturday, 18 May 2024

9.00 Composers' workshop and concert