A Creative Curriculum
At New College School we do not make a distinction between academic rigour and creativity. The curriculum is balanced to ensure that boys can enjoy music, art and DT alongside more traditional academic subjects. Within those subjects, boys are encouraged to think creatively, to play with ideas, and to come up with inventive solutions to tricky problems.
We strike a balance between being a small community school and having first-class teaching and learning facilities. Our award-winning sports hall – also housing a DT workshop, ICT suite and art room – was opened by Lord Patten, the Chancellor of the University of Oxford. We have a state-of-the-art junior and senior Science laboratory, comfortable library and media room, hall for music and drama, music rooms, beautiful sports fields, and we share access to the spectacular fourteenth century New College Chapel, as well as using the College gardens, cloisters, library and archives to support boys' learning.
All classrooms at NCS are bright, airy and full of lively displays of work and engaging visual material. All are equipped with data projectors or interactive whiteboards and they all have access to sets of iPads. In the younger part of the School, pupils are taught much of the time in one classroom, which is also their form room. As they grow older, the boys move around the School to specialist teaching rooms, but always keeping one classroom as their form base.
Outside the classroom, pupils engage in literary projects such as the World Book Day Story Competition or National Short Story Week Competition, and in the numerous school plays that are staged throughout the year, including Shakespeare in New College Chapel. Previous highlights have included: Julius Caesar, The Tempest, Richard III, Henry V, Macbeth, T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, Terence Rattigan’s Harlequinade, and Plautus's Mostellaria (The Ghost). By the time pupils leave New College School at the end of Year 8, they will have encountered poets from Chaucer to Dylan Thomas, playwrights from Shakespeare to Arthur Miller, and the history of English literature from Beowulf to the present day. We encourage a life-long love of books and all they can do to teach, console and entertain.
NCS boys have an impressive record in national creative writing competitions. In recent years, NCS boys have won eight national writing competitions and come runners-up in six.
A high-quality Science education provides the foundations for understanding the world around us. Science is the study of Life Processes and Living Things (Biology), Materials and their Properties (Chemistry) and Physical Processes (Physics). In Science lessons, we aim to develop knowledge and conceptual understanding through the study of these three individual disciplines, while encouraging pupils wherever possible to recognise connections between different areas in order to cultivate a synoptic appreciation of Science.
We aim to stimulate curiosity, interest in and enjoyment of Science. This includes developing boys’ experimental and investigative abilities through carrying out both instructive and more open-ended practical work. Pupils are encouraged from an early stage in Pre-Prep to appreciate the importance in Science of a fair test and we help pupils to acquire skills in working scientifically, including: planning; working safely; collecting and presenting data; and evaluating and communicating evidence.
Boys visit the Science laboratory from an early age, as well as working in their classrooms. From Year 3 upwards all Science is taught by a specialist teacher in the recently-refurbished laboratory. The laboratory is spacious and well-equipped, with a chemical store, preparation area, and demonstration area as well as workbenches with gas, electricity and water supply. Amongst much else, pupils enjoy using Bunsen burners, microscopes and data-loggers: they thus develop an ability safely to use more advanced equipment than most children of their age.
Outside the classroom, NCS boys engage in numerous activities to further ignite their scientific interest. These have included a session with exotic animals during Science Week, a scientific Photography Competition and educational trips, both locally and further afield, such as to the University Physical Chemistry Lecture Theatre for a display with liquid nitrogen, the Science Museum in London and the Cotswold Wildlife Park.
As NCS boys learn in a school founded in 1379 in the heart of Oxford, they quickly develop an affinity for history and all its curiosities. Between Years 3 and 5 they develop a firm understanding of historical periodisation and they are introduced to a number of the key skills necessary for the study of history. In In Years 3-4 this is through looking at the history of a series of 'great civilisations', while in Year 5 an exploration of 'International Relations' in the twentieth century introduces pupils to World Wars I and II.
Using cross-curricular links to Classics, the boys discover the Celts and the Roman invasion. Then, through Years 6 to 8 the story continues as the boys pass the key milestones of British history: the Norman Invasion, Henry II and Thomas Becket, the Magna Carta, the Reformation, the English Civil War, the Glorious Revolution, and much more in between. Towards the end of the course we take a more international perspective, with the boys looking in detail at colonial North America, the causes of the American Revolution, developments in trade with India, exploration in the Pacific, and the abolition of slavery. In Year 8 pupils sit either the PSB exam or Scholarship papers specific to their secondary schools.
History in the Year 8 Scholarship class takes a broader conceptual approach as pupils, in tutorial-style classes, ponder the ‘big’ questions relating to the past. For example, what causes revolutions? Why do civil wars happen? What can art tell us about history? Why do we bother studying history in the first place?
All NCS pupils are encouraged to consider the international political and cultural cross-currents that have contributed to Britain's current place in the world. As the boys depart at the end of Year 8 and begin their study of (usually modern) history at GCSE and A-Level, they have in place a firm understanding of their heritage and the skills necessary to be a proficient historian: an appreciation of chronological development; the capacity to research independently and to interrogate primary and secondary sources; empathy with people in different periods and cultures; and the ability to communicate their ideas in an ordered and effective manner. Most importantly, they develop an enjoyment of history – its events, landmarks and characters.
French is taught to all pupils from Reception up to Year 8 by a specialist teacher. In the Pre-Prep, boys have thirty minutes of French every week. Lessons are conducted entirely in French and the emphasis is on communication. Boys learn through puppets and other props, games, songs and stories. From Years 3 to 8, boys are encouraged to develop their oral confidence in class. They have opportunities to practise the four main skills of listening, reading, speaking and writing. Grammar is taught gradually, and with greater emphasis in Years 6 to 8. The scholarship class in Year 8 is taught more complex grammar in order to aid with senior school scholarship papers.
French is taught in a well-resourced subject room, with an interactive whiteboard. There is a good range of readers, magazines, games, CDs and DVDs to suit all levels. Course books and programmes used include ‘Zim Zam Zoom’ in Year 3, ‘Skoldo 1 and 2’ in Years 4 and 5, and ‘Encore Tricolore 1’ in Years 5 and 6. In Years 7 and 8, the boys are taught using tailored in-house materials.
We have a Year 5 and 6 French play every year at the end of Hilary, followed by a French café for the families of all the boys. There is also an annual trip to Normandy during activities week at the end of Trinity for Years 5 and 6. During their stay at a small centre near Mont St Michel boys enjoy many different cultural, linguistic and physical activities.
Year 5 study the Cambridge Latin Course (CLC 1) which gives the pupils an introduction to the language and civilisation of the Romans through stories based on a Roman family living in Pompeii in AD 79. We aim to complete half of Book 1 in Year 5 and the remainder in Year 6. In addition we study the CLC background topics and some Greek myths in order to gain a deeper understanding of the ancient world. Year 6 continue to study CLC 1 as the course develops and introduces more linguistic features. Background topics continue to be important in developing critical and analytical skills and to enable pupils to make fruitful comparisons with the modern world. Year 7 have three periods a week and continue with CLC 2 in which the stories move from Pompeii to Roman Britain and Alexandria in Egypt.
CLC 2 introduces more linguistic structures which challenge the pupils to read the stories in greater depth with great care and discrimination. We read as much of CLC 2 as we can during the year before turning our attention to the PSB syllabus in Year 8. Year 8 have three periods a week in which they pursue the PSB syllabus and learn the grammatical material still to be covered. We use practice papers to familiarise pupils with the summer assessment and continue to study some background material for the civilisation section of the exam (City of Rome and Greek Myths). Year 8S have three periods a week to prepare for Scholarship exams (translation and comprehension). Pupils follow a standard linguistic course in order to give them a firm basis for tackling their assessments.
Greek is offered to Years 7 and 8 as an after-lunch activity once a week and as an after-school club on Wednesdays (in Hilary and Trinity). While the main emphasis is on language, wider aspects of Greek civilisation are also explored in order to enable pupils to appreciate the legacy of the classical tradition.
Boys in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 have two music lessons a week. Teaching centres around singing skills and rhythmic work, so that by the end of Year 2 all boys sing and pitch with confidence and have a firm rhythmic foundation. Most songs involve some element of rhythmic activity or actions, helping consolidate work done on rhythm and pulse. Boys in Years 1 and 2 have an extra period of Pre-Prep orchestra each week. This gives boys who are learning instruments an opportunity to play as part of an ensemble, and those who have not yet started instrumental lessons play percussion. An end of year Pre-Prep concert gives boys the chance to perform to their parents and to one another, and all boys take part.
Boys in Years 3, 4, 5 and 6 receive two forty-minute lessons of music tuition per week. The curriculum is wide and varied and is based around the three key elements of music education, namely: listening, performing and composing. The use of a wide variety of resources supports the teaching and learning, and music ICT is used to aid learning where appropriate. Singing still underpins most musical activities, so that boys continue to grow in skill and confidence when using their voices.
Boys in Years 7 and 8 receive one forty-minute lesson per week; the three key elements of music teaching remain, but the units of study embrace more complex musical issues and forms, and the starting point for many of the exercises is of a more contemporary or mature nature. Music ICT is used to aid and to notate compositions.
The School has two state-of-the art music teaching rooms. The first is for acoustic music-making, and contains: a whiteboard with staves, a piano, three keyboards, networked iMacs, a TV/DVD player player, CDs and DVDs, hi-fi separates (including a record player), a minidisc recorder, a drum kit, bass drum, bass metallophone, acoustic guitar, five djembes and an assortment of classroom percussion. The second room is a Music and ICT Room. It contains twenty-one iMacs, a laser printer, eighteen keyboards, an interactive whiteboard, and speakers connected to the hi-fi in the first teaching room. There is an easy transition from one room to the other. Lessons can therefore happily make use of both rooms with a minimum of disruption.
Pupils are also encouraged to use the internet to support their work. As well as timetabled lessons, there is a pottery/ceramic club after school. Pupils often take part in local competitions and exhibitions and the School hosts an annual art exhibition. As young enthusiastic artists, it is vital to continue a life-long fascination and enjoyment of the visual arts that play an increasingly important role in the world. Art fosters creativity and self-expression, and forms an important part of our curriculum. The 2008 building contains a large art room, with excellent light, and facilities for painting, modelling, work in textiles, paper and a host of other materials. The School also has a dedicated pottery room.
Coding & Computing
At NCS pupils start learning to code early; from the moment a boy enters Reception, he will become confident and competent at using an iPad. We introduce them to the wealth of websites and applications which contribute to their ever-broadening and safe understanding of the world and develop their fine motor skills with the precision of a touch screen.
As boys progress through the Pre-Prep, they have the opportunity to learn by programming miniature robots and begin their first foray into coding. In Year 1, we introduce Scratch Junior which allows familiarity to develop by the time a boy reaches the Prep School, where Scratch is used regularly in Coding and Computing lessons. We also start our touch-typing programme in Year 3 and this is maintained through the Prep School to ensure our boys leave with this important life skill.
Alongside Scratch, we also teach Python and HTML programming languages. We have a class set of Raspberry Pi computers which allow NCS pupils to code complex programs in Python. All boys have access to iMacs which can be operated using either Apple or Windows operating systems.
We are very proud of our computing facilities at NCS and pride ourselves on being at the cutting edge of technology. Boys in Years 7 & 8 have the opportunity to work with a 3D printer in school. By first designing a product on CAD software, they can then prototype their design in three dimensions in a matter of hours.
We have a comprehensive resistant materials programme which begins in Year 3. The boys are taught skills in technical drawing, including CAD work, woodworking and plastics moulding using a variety of hand and power tools. The boys are asked to produce comprehensive working diagrams and detailed explanations of their drawings following a design brief and product overview. This is to prepare the boys for the practical sessions where they will manufacture their designs.
This Design Technology work is continued into Year 4 where the boys consolidate their skills set and develop further skills using textiles. At this stage, pupils are introduced to basic electronics as they manufacture a desktop lamp from live edge acrylic following their own circuit design and an introduction to soldering.
In Years 5 and 6 we introduce systems and control. The boys follow a two-year programme where they not only reinforce and develop their traditional skills in the workshop, but are also introduced to coding and programming microchips to enhance their products. Pupils build circuits on PCBs and then use the ICT suite to programme the circuits to meet the needs of their designs.
Following this, in Years 7 and 8 the boys follow a scheme of work where the focus is on electronics and sound reproduction. Pupils extensively research the MP3/4 player market and speaker design. They are then asked to design and build a desktop speaker system which holds an MP3 player and also serves as a desk tidy. This final project takes the majority of their time in Years 7 and 8 but is also supported by smaller projects to develop skills and introduce new techniques to aid their final design.
Overall, work in Design Technology is based upon resistant materials complemented with systems and control technologies. Further aspects of the curriculum, such as food technology and textiles are supported through the activities programme.
Religious Studies & Philosophy
Reception boys begin their study of RSP by looking at the idea of belonging in Christianity, before exploring stories from the Old and New Testaments, and learning about major festivals like Harvest and Christmas. This approach is continued in Years 1 and 2, when boys are also introduced to other major religions: Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism. They look at major festivals, places of worship, similarities and differences between the religions, and the importance of respecting others and their beliefs.
In Years 3 and 4, the boys explore the religious and philosophical underpinnings of a number of different historically great civilisations, with a special focus on the Golden Age of Islam. In Year 5 the boys look at major developments in world events, including their religious context, through a course on International Relations'. They look in particular at the role of toleration (and lack thereof), sometimes forgotten heroes from the world wars who had a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds, and they explore in particular Judaism in the context of the Holocaust. RSP becomes a discrete subject in Year 6, when the boys continue to look at a variety of sacred texts and symbols, religious leaders, places of worship, celebrations and traditions.
In Years 7 and 8, RSP focuses on four major themes. 'Worldviews' looks at science and secularism, challenging fundamentalism and extremism, and the major 'isms' that constitute different ways of looking at the world: liberalism, capitalism, socialism and environmentalism. 'Oppression & Freedom' looks at: human rights; the uses and abuses of power; prejudice and religious persecution; Civil Rights; imperialism and the ethics of empire; the fight against Apartheid; First Nations' culture and identity; and feminism and equality. 'Looking East' investigates the war in the Middle East, and then looks even further east to investigate Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Finally, RSP explores a number of 'Big Questions' - moral dilemmas that give the boys the opportunity to think in a careful and balanced way through such questions as: 'Is war ever just?'; 'Do miracles happen today?'; 'Do the rich have a moral duty to share with the poor?'; 'Can we solve the inequality in the world?' and so on. Throughout these topics, the boys use historical information and evidence alongside major religious texts to inform their thinking.
Those boys sitting academic scholarship exams in Year 8 are prepared for the distinctive papers set by each senior school, looking at Old and New Testament texts to inform class discussion of contemporary moral and philosophical problems. They also look at major twentieth- and twenty-first century religious figures, world religions, and the impact of religion on society and political morality.
All of the above is underpinned by promotion of: democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith.