Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 17 November 2023

Dear Parents,

There aren’t many words in the English language I dislike, but there is one that makes me burn inside with rage. I hate the word ‘banter’. It might have been ok pre its early-21st century usage, but it has been brayingly corrupted to become ‘bantaaaaar’ or ‘bantaaaaar, mate’, or more often, ‘bantaaaar maaaate’. It may have started off as a relatively harmless description of verbal joshing and jousting between friends. But these days it’s more often than not used as a claim to immunity after saying something hurtful, and quite often bigoted. Some people use it to give them licence to say what they like, hurt who they like, then shrug and effectively say ‘I’m taking no responsibility for that’. Of course, it is perfectly possible to have in-jokes and a certain degree of affectionate back-and-forth between friends who know one another’s foibles and fundamentally love and respect one another. But so-called ‘banter’ too often goes beyond that. Quite often it isn’t between friends and, even if it is, it’s not always with the consent and tacit or explicit approval of the person at whom it is directed.

Roman semaphore in Classics; Reading to pre-prep; Investigating light source distance and shadow size in Year 3; Year 7 & 8 careers talk

A few years ago I taught a Year 8 PSHCE (now better known as Wellbeing) lesson on this very topic, and there was palpable relief from the pupils when it became clear that it was ok to say – to the person claiming ‘banter’ immunity – ‘You know what, you think you’re being funny, and you think I’m enjoying your alleged joke, but actually I’m not enjoying it, I’m finding it hurtful, and I’d like you to stop’. At the end of the year, as a leaving gift, one of the boys in the class bought me the QI Book of Banter. Which was, I suppose, banter or meta-banter, but I wasn’t offended. The reason I’m writing about the word this week is because the national anti-bullying alliance have chosen it as their theme for anti-bullying week. ‘Too often’, they say, ‘We are silent when we see bullying take place, silent about the hurt bullying causes, and silent when we hear bullying dismissed as “just banter”. It doesn’t have to be this way’. Under the banner of ‘Let’s make a noise about bullying’, they are calling upon us all, those who might be bystanders, to actively call out bullying, especially that disguised as ‘banter’, when we see it. 7.5 million children across the country are being introduced to the theme, so let’s hope it starts to make a difference.

Each year I point out that every week should be anti-bullying week. No institution should claim that bullying absolutely never exists within it. In nice institutions like ours the instances might be relatively rare and isolated, but we all need to be attune to situations where the kind of natural friction that can occur when different people spend time with one another becomes something more targeted and sustained. And that includes seriously querying the apparent get-out clause that some people think they can use by airily dismissing their nastiness as ‘just banter’.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

On Monday it was a pleasure for our language ambassadors – Carlo, Jai, Arjun, Emil, Max, and Isaac – to visit St Michael’s in Marston so they could share language and cultural lessons. Feedback from teachers and pupils alike was very positive. They were extremely impressed with the organisation and work the boys had put in, not only in preparing such a range of resources, but on their delivery too. Everyone involved benefited from the experience and really enjoyed being part of the wider school partnership community.

Language Ambassadors at St Michael's; Modelling elements in Year 7; Compositions in Year 6

Congratulations to all those Year 6-8 boys who took part in our senior recital on Wednesday. This was an historic event: the first recital in our brand-new auditorium! We are looking forward to our junior recital on Monday at 17.30. Parking, first-come first-served, is available in the playground from 17.00 once the boys are clear of the area after their enrichment activities. As ever, do please drive very carefully as there may still be boys walking to and fro.

We very much enjoyed welcoming author-editor Mallory Kass, from Scholastic, to speak to the Year 7 and 8 boys as part of our careers programme on Wednesday. Mallory writes under the pen name Kass Morgan, and is perhaps best known for her book The 100, a science fiction book series for young adults. The boys had lots of excellent questions about writing, editing and publishing.

Senior recital; Evolution workshop

Year 8 and 8S were delighted to welcome Susana Carvalho and René Bobe in their science lesson today. They enjoyed a fascinating hands-on workshop on human evolution including looking at a variety of skull casts, and learning about how the use of tools has changed over time. Many thanks to Susana and Rene for so kindly giving up their time to come in.

Congratulations to Yoav in Year 6 who took part in the Abingdon Music Festival and whose vocal performance in Handel’s ‘Come and Trip It’ was chosen for the final concert!

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

Former NCS parent and BBC World Affairs Editor, John Simpson CBE, is hosting a debate on ‘Russia and the West: Where do we go from here?’ on Thursday 23 November at St Edward's School. There is a reception at 18.30 followed by the debate at 19.30. The tickets are £15 in aid of Asylum Welcome. Please click https://beyondteddies.stedwardsoxford.org/Event/russia-and-the-west-where-do-we-go-from-here to make your booking.

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.

Upcoming Events

Monday, 20 November 2023

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

Tuesday, 21 November 2023

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)

Tuesday, 28 November 2023

8.50-10.10 Carol service readers' rehearsal (chapel)

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)