Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 24 November 2023

Dear Parents,

Families new to NCS might not know that we are part of a wider network of ‘PSB’ or ‘Pre-Senior Baccalaureate’ schools. There are currently over forty schools in the network, which is itself a loose affiliation of like-minded institutions which meet together regularly to share best practice and discuss ways to embed learning skills within a content-rich curriculum. It does not provide a top-down, rigid curriculum, but rather a flexible framework within which its member schools work and develop. This Thursday we were very pleased to host the trustees of the PSB for their annual meeting, as they gathered in our Creative Learning Centre at the heart of NCS.

In 2014 Professor Sir Roy Anderson reported that ‘the modern workplace needs workers who have broad cognitive skills which include being able to solve complex interdisciplinary problems, thinking critically about work tasks, communicating effectively with people from a range of different cultures, being able to collaborate with others, and also being able to adapt to rapidly changing environments or conditions.’ He noted that there was a skills gap in the workplace, which could be traced back to what young people were learning (or weren’t learning) while in school. He summarised these ‘old world’ skills as: learning one or two specific technical roles; physical strength and flexibility; the ability to follow fixed, unchanging procedures; general attention to production and safety procedures; following orders; and operating, maintaining, and designing machinery. In contrast, Anderson argued that we should be focusing on developing ‘new world’ skills: mechanical reasoning, logic trouble-shooting and spatial visualisation; personal flexibility, communication, and cooperation; initiative, persistence, and independence; attention to detail, self-control, and dependability; making independent decisions; and operating computers or computerised machinery and using computers for a wide range of critical functions.

The Junior Recital: Year 7 & 8 at the French play

There was a temptation in some places, in the early days of skills-focused education, to throw out curriculum content. We resisted such a thing at NCS because we firmly believe that curriculum content is the raw material through which one learns more metacognitive skills. People also need to know facts if they want to progress effectively through school, university, and into careers that require people to know things. NCS represents the middle way of valuing the above ‘new world’ skills and embedding them into our curriculum planning and delivery, our rewards system, and our general day-to-day way of talking about education – while at the same time understanding that there are some factual things that children simply do need to learn while they are at school, and quite often they enjoy learning them too. Historically, then, it was too easy to take one position and to caricature and castigate the other. Traditionalists were smeared as backwards, old-fashioned, fusty and ‘Gradgrindian’. They, in turn, attacked progressives as intellectually lightweight, hippy, touchy-feely, and vacuous. This got us nowhere, as ever, apart from those of us who stood in the middle, rather bemused (and occasionally amused), and quietly and judiciously took the best bits of both sides to create a pedagogical via media which provides the best that we can for our children. It was a pleasure to be able to show this to the PSB trustees on their visit this week.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

Well done to all of our boys in Years 3-5 who took part in the junior recital on Monday – the first junior recital in our new auditorium. Over forty boys took part, proving once again (as if it needed to be) just how embedded and inclusive music is at NCS.

From Louise Brown: It was a real pleasure once again to be able to invite Year 8 pupils from Oxford Spires to debate against NCS boys at our annual Inter-Schools Debating Competition. All who took part, a record number of interested pupils on both sides this year, were articulate, polite, humorous and engaged, and they put forward some excellent arguments for and against the motion, ‘This house believes the rise of AI will cause more harm than good for humanity’. In the unseen debate, the pupils debated the motion, ‘Pineapple has no place on a pizza’. The breadth of creative argument was most impressive. Chris Gausden, who had prepared the boys so meticulously, and myself were so pleased to see the cross-school collaboration that took place when pupils were preparing their arguments. It was a very close call, but OSA just pipped NCS to claim the cup. Despite a tie on points, the particular pairing of two boys, Milton and Anas, was just exceptional and they well deserved the win. A lot of fun was had by all and the sparky conversation that ensued was a delight to witness.

Years 7 and 8 enjoyed their annual visit from the Onatti theatre group this morning, who performed a play for the boys entirely in French.

Opera Today has just reviewed New College Choir’s latest CD, New College Commissions and Premieres. The choir is described as ‘one of the finest collegiate ensembles in the UK’ and ‘on fine form’, singing pieces ‘well worth exploring where attentive listening will be amply rewarded’. Congratulations to all of our boys who sang on that CD and, also, for their fantastic contribution to the music at James Bowman’s memorial service on Saturday. We are entering the season of Advent and Christmas carol services, so we wish them the best of luck for the coming weeks.

Year 3 at the Ashmolean; Properties in Year 5 Science; Year 8 debating team; Maths in Year 2

We are looking forward to our Year 6 parents’ evening on Wednesday 29 November. The official start time is 18.00 though a few colleagues may be available from slightly earlier if you would like to make an early start. Parking is available, first come first served, from 17.00; please be very careful when driving into the playground in case there are still one or two boys leaving their enrichment activities or aftercare. We would very much appreciate it if parents could arrive in good time to make their way around by 20.00, to enable colleagues to get home at a sensible time. If there are any appointments which might require a longer slot than c.5 minutes, please could separate arrangements be made with individual teachers? Many thanks.

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

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. Sessions will run from 13.00 until 16.00 on the school games field and/or gym, 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

Tickets are now available for the Choral Society’s Christmas concert: ‘Music for Advent: Bach and Haydn’ on Sunday 10 December at 19.00 in New College Chapel: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/music-for-advent-bach-and-haydn-tickets-730269996217?aff=oddtdtcreator

The theme for our annual SHTEAM Festival next Hilary will be ‘The World of Water’. We will be exploring this theme from many different angles across all our subjects, running talks and workshops, as well as incorporating the theme in our day-to-day lessons. If there are any parents, taking into account their specialist knowledge, who would like to offer a talk or workshop to the boys on an aspect of ‘The World of Water’, do please contact emma.krebs@newcollegeschool.org.

From Craig Bishop: Over the past two weeks the NCS football teams have played some fantastic games of football. The U8 to U11 teams have been amazing as the U13s took a break from fixtures. The boys from the lower school certainly represented us well, with superb, attacking, high goal scoring games. First up were six teams from Church Cowley St James who came over to play our U8 and U9 teams. I had the pleasure of taking part in an U8 game that Izzy Rose was in charge of and the NCS C team quickly took control of the game and ended up 5-1 winners. Finn B-E, Tino and Sansom all got on the score sheet. In the other game that I witnessed the NCS U9 A team also managed a wonderful game of football. In the first game the NCS team were 5-0 winners with Martin S, Chris B-N and Jacob S-H all scoring cracking goals. Steve Potts notes that ‘With the emphasis being on enjoyment and allowing all players to express their skills we were treated to some amazing games, the highlight of the afternoon being a 6-5!” On Friday of the same week we saw the U11 teams again in action as Church Cowley brought their Year 5 & 6 teams. Four fixtures were played, all producing a very high standard of football. There were goals flying in on all pitches and players were enjoying the opportunity to express themselves and show what they could do on a football pitch. The scores were close and every player should be proud of their performance.

Finally, we have enjoyed some more U11 games as the A and B teams hosted Sibford with some very entertaining matches and even more pleasing results. Both the A and B teams managed to win by five goals or more. The highlight of the B team game was the absolute smasher of a goal from Samuel J who struck the ball from outside of the box to score in the top corner. In the A team game Maani continued his good form with another brace, taking his tally to fifteen for the season. In the other game of the day the boys of the C and D squads were split into a Year 5 and a Year 6 team for the playing of the First Annual John Rose Bowl Challenge Match. Mr Morrison took charge of this game and I was lucky enough to watch the game unfold from the side lines. The Year 5 boys took an early lead and at the break were 2-0 up. Early in the second half an Arran L free kick smashed into the post for the Year 6 team and had it been just a few centimetres closer they’d had halved the lead. It was not to be and Hugh L put the game to bed as his run from midfield was capped off with a thunderbolt of a strike to make the score 3-0 to Year 5. A late surge from Year 6 saw them left a little exposed at the back as they chased the game and the ruthless Year 5 boys added a fourth to win the encounter 4-0.

Upcoming Events

Wednesday, 29 November 2023

8.15 Charity Committee meeting, Creative Learning Centre

9.00 Chapel. Speaker: The Revd Kate Harford, Oxford Brookes University

12.00-1500 Critical Thinking Workshop with 4 Primary Schools - jointly with CTT & Children's Parliament in auditorium

14.15 U11 A-D Footballl vs CCCS, Home

14.15 U13 A-C Footballl vs CCCS, Away

18.00 Year 6 parents' evening

Friday, 1 December 2023

14.00 U10 & U11 Hockey Pre-Season, St Edward's

Saturday, 2 December 2023

University Term ends

10.00 Music Scholars' masterclass (OCCO)

Monday, 4 December 2023

All day Provisional date for ABRSM exams

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

18.00 Drama Christmas Panto

Tuesday, 5 December 2023

14.00 U8 A & B, U9 A & B Football vs CCCS, Home

Wednesday, 6 December 2023

9.00 Form period (no chapel)

14.00 Carol service practice

Thursday, 7 December 2023

14.30 Pre-Prep Winter Concert

10.00 Year 7 Geography trip to Pitt Rivers 10-12pm African Kingdoms

Friday, 8 December 2023

14.00 U10 & U11 Hockey Pre-Season, St Edward's

Saturday, 9 December 2023

11.15 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