Welcome to the Harrow School official Q and A page. Here we ask the questions, and the school answers directly. It is its chance to have its say on specific areas you have told us you want to know about. If you think there are additional questions we should be asking you may contact us here.
Harrow is a full-boarding school for boys aged 13-18, founded in 1572 under a Royal Charter granted by Elizabeth I.
We are one of just a few full-boarding, all-boys schools in the United Kingdom. Through the full-boarding model, we are able to use the whole day productively: the timings of games and lessons change with the seasons and the available light; groups and societies meet after prep and at weekends; and extra subjects find room around the timetable. Although we never pretend that single-sex schooling is the only way to educate someone, it does help to prolong childhood in a very healthy way, enabling children to express themselves intellectually, emotionally and creatively without feeling self-conscious. Our rare full-boarding, all-boys environment is key to what makes Harrow, Harrow.
As a steward of many cherished traditions, today’s Harrow is shaped by the best of its past. Harrow was founded in 1572 under a royal charter from Queen Elizabeth I by local landowning farmer, John Lyon. It soon became one of the greatest schools in the country, attracting pupils from all over the world. This distinguished history enriches the daily life of our entire community. From the boys’ distinctive dress and the carving of their names onto boards in the Houses, to our own unusual form of football, archaic slang and the communal singing of Harrow Songs, these customs develop a strong corporate spirit and a sense of belonging to something bigger than oneself.
Visitors are often astonished to find such a green oasis so close to London. Harrow’s 300 acres comprise six conservation areas, a registered park, a nine-hole golf course and even a working farm. Coupled with its buildings of special architectural and historic interest, the School has the quality of a village. Positioned as we are on the Metropolitan Line, 20 minutes from Baker Street on a fast train, we enjoy the best of both worlds – a spacious boarding community within easy reach of the vibrancy of the capital.
Harrovians have diverse background and abilities. No two Harrovians are the same: some live in London, others much further afield in the UK or overseas; a number come from established Harrow families, others have no experience of public schooling; many excel in sport or the arts, others are very strong academically. Whatever they bring to the Hill, all come together on an equal footing, to be judged by their contribution alone. In this environment, individuals flourish, learn from each other and build relationships that last.
Harrow has produced many great men, whom we call the Giants of Old. Famous Old Harrovians include statesmen such as Peel, Palmerston, Churchill, Nehru and King Hussein of Jordan; writers including Byron, Sheridan, Trollope and Richard Curtis; Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the seventh Earl of Shaftesbury and influential social reformer; Lord Rayleigh, the physicist and Nobel prize-winner; Fox Talbot, the inventor of photography; the archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans and James Bruce the explorer; Admiral Rodney and Field Marshal Alexander; and 19 winners of the Victoria Cross. More recently, many pupils have gone on to distinguished careers in business, the law, medicine, the armed forces, the arts and the media. Recalling how great men have walked the same streets, sat in the same form rooms and lived in the same Houses is motivating and empowering for every boy at the School.
Our "School on the Hill" has a global presence. John Lyon’s Foundation consists of Harrow School, John Lyon School (an independent day school for boys) and John Lyon’s Charity. In our Foundation Family, there are also four Harrow International Schools, in Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Harrow’s own diverse pupil body means that a boy from London or Yorkshire or the Scottish Highlands may become a close friend of someone who lives in the USA, South Africa or South Korea. About 20% of our boys live overseas: half of those are expatriate British boys, with the others coming from around 35 different countries. Our old boy organisation, the Harrow Association, has a membership of approximately 9,000 Old Harrovians, who are dispersed around the world. The Association’s 22 clubs, thriving events diary, and extensive careers guidance and work placement programme are testament to an OH’s loyalty to his peers and the School – be they 18 or 80, Old Harrovians will often gather to socialise and sing Harrow Songs.
Most of our pupils are British.
14:1. Average division (class) sizes vary between the year groups, from 16 in the Shell to 8 in the Upper Sixth.
The very best schools understand that the possibilities for learning are endless: it cannot be reduced to isolated, formal interventions and will not be mandated, quantified or curtailed. What Harrovians experience through the arts and sport, and by leading and serving others, are just as important as their lessons. Combined, these elements shape their development as a whole person and have a life-long impact.
With afternoon games five times a week, a choice of nearly 30 different sports, and regular inter-school and inter-House matches, boys are kept healthy and active.
Participation in sport helps Harrovians to grow, learn and enjoy themselves, while nurturing their personal, physical and intellectual skills, and developing healthy minds and bodies. For growing boys, the value of being outside, expending energy and getting stuck into House and School teams is well recognised: through sport, they learn about teamwork and leadership, and how to conduct themselves with integrity. The health and social benefits also remain with them long after School.
Surrounded by acres of sports fields, astroturf pitches, a golf course, a swimming pool, a sports centre, and numerous tennis, rackets and fives courts, we offer a breadth of sporting opportunities to match every interest and ability. Many boys play several sports, and unique occasions like the annual Cricket match versus Eton at Lord’s provide memorable highlights in the calendar. Our extensive and hotly contested inter-House sports programme engages all 12 Houses in varied competitions.
The upper-end of our extensive team list (numbering over 20 in each of our major sports) regularly win county and national championships, and our elite sportsmen have an impressive record of achievement at the highest levels internationally; some go on to enjoy professional careers.
Under the guidance of some of the country’s leading coaches, alongside Harrow's own Beaks, boys focus as much on their own effort and improvement as on final scores. Partnerships with professional bodies such as the Saracens Foundation and Queens Park Rangers Football Club further strengthen our sporting programme, along with international tours: destinations have included Malaysia and Australia for Rugby, the USA for Soccer, South Africa for Cricket and Japan for Judo.
Some Harrovians who do not consider themselves athletes when they arrive at the School discover new sports and the talent to play them with great skill and flair. Many continue to enjoy the sporting abilities they discovered at Harrow long after leaving the Hill, taking the lessons they have learnt with them into adulthood.
The House Masters keep a watchful eye over the welfare, personal and academic, of every boy in their care. For parents, their son's House Master is their main point of contact, and their son's development is very much a partnership project between pupil, parent and School.
Quality catering is vital to the welfare and wellbeing of growing teenage boys. We offer fresh food as much as possible, prepared on-site by our own in-house team. Our menus are evaluated in terms of nutritional content, colour, texture, variety, trends, practicality, quality and price.
Included in the school fee.
Our Values of courage, honour, humility and fellowship are at the heart of our approach. We encourage boys to apply these Values to all aspects of life, but they are most heavily cemented in the Boarding House. Here, through an incremental system of duties, boys learn what it means to be an independent adult, to contribute on an equal basis, and to experience genuine responsibility by leading and mentoring others. Elsewhere, boys learn social skills through events internally and with girls schools, and expand their cultural sensibilities by participating in and enjoying art, and through trips and clubs that explore other places and peoples. A well-developed system of prizes and rewards, coupled with measured sanctions, recognise achievements and reinforce what we expect.
A parent’s main point of contact is their son’s House Master, who is available by phone and email, or to meet face-to-face. We have annual parents meetings for each year group and issue regular reports to parents electronically. Boys receive a comprehensive end-of-term report from each of their Masters, their Tutor and their House Master, as well as a briefer half termly report with effort and achievement grades.
Taught as a language option.
Chinese (Mandarin), Classical Greek, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Dutch, Modern Greek and Polish
In order to manage the academic and social demands of life at Harrow, boys must be fairly fluent in the English language. Screening for EAL occurs at Common Entrance and, when a boy reaches Harrow, in his English lessons and through dedicated EAL tests. In those cases where a boy needs extra support, teaching is provided by specialist EAL teachers working in the Learning Skills department.
Yes, used internally.
GCSEs, IGCSEs, A Level and Pre-U.
Yes. Boys at Harrow have 1.5 hours of prep (homework) each evening.
Our Master-in-Charge of Scholars encourages the brightest pupils to take charge of their learning, meeting with them regularly to discuss their interests, outcomes and goals so that they develop a truly independent approach. Our Super-Curriculum offers a vast range of interest groups, activities and competitions, strongly supported by individual departments.
Nearly all Harrovians move on to university on completion of their A levels, with the vast majority taking up offers from their first-choice institution. Many boys progress directly to university, while others choose to pursue a gap year project first.
Of those applying in the 2018 university cycle:
- Nearly a quarter of boys took up places ranked in the world’s top ten institutions (QS World University Rankings) including Oxford (12), Cambridge (7), Stanford and Chicago;
- Another five boys took up places at Ivy League universities.
- The most common university destinations were Edinburgh (16), Exeter (13), UCL (13), Oxford (12), Durham (10) and Newcastle (10).
The range of Harrovians' university destinations is becoming broader, both in terms of the number of UK institutions and courses, and the overseas applications arising from an increasingly global perspective. American universities, in particular, are featuring ever more prominently, with many boys attracted by the Liberal Arts model and the high quality and range of campus facilities on offer. European universities are also beginning to attract attention, along with more distant destinations such as Hong Kong, Australia and Canada. Approximately one fifth of Harrovians now undertake tertiary study abroad, with the remainder seeing great success securing places on the most competitive and prestigious courses in the UK. No matter the country or the institution, what is certainly true is that Harrovians routinely progress into higher education that ranks among the best the world has to offer.
Over the past three years, the top UK destinations for Harrovians have been Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Exeter, London School of Economics, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford and University College London.
Our Learning Skills team supports the work of teaching departments and provides specialist guidance to boys on the most effective ways to learn. All Shells (first-year boys) participate in the Learning Skills programme, which takes place in timetabled lessons throughout the year. Boys in other year groups are invited to regular workshops on topics such as ‘How To Devise A Revision Timetable’ and ‘Growing a Growth Mindset’. As they approach public examinations, they are given further advice on technique.
Boys are also given advice on how to hone their approach to learning and their academic work through their Tutor. The specific study skills required for individual subjects are taught within departments. Boys studying a language, for example, are taught techniques for learning vocabulary, while in the humanities they cover how to structure essays.
Although we do not have the facilities to offer highly specialised and intensive support, our qualified Learning Skills team supports boys with mild dyslexia and other learning difficulties through one-to-one lessons, help with study skills and certain individual arrangements. We also make access arrangements for internal and external examinations for boys with special educational needs or disabilities, in accordance with the guidelines published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ). Parents considering Harrow for a boy with special educational needs should discuss those needs with the Registrar before registering.
The A-level results of Harrow boys in the last two years have been the best in the School’s history. This year, after some early marking reviews, the A* rate currently stands at more than 31%, while the A*A rate is 65%.
28 boys achieved three or more A* or equivalent grades, and three quarters achieved grades of ABB or better.
Nineteen boys took up places at Oxford (12) and Cambridge (7). Other popular university destinations were Edinburgh (16), Exeter (13), UCL (13), Durham (10) and Newcastle (10).
Eighteen boys will take up places at universities in the United States, including Yale, Stanford and Chicago. Overall, nearly a quarter of last year’s applicants will take up places at universities ranked in the top ten in the world.
At GCSE, numerical grades were awarded in ten of the 28 subjects taken by Harrovians, making comparisons with previous years more difficult. Overall, however, the proportion of grades awarded at 9, 8, 7, A* and A was more than 84% - a two percentage point increase on last year.
Approximately one third of the year group achieved nine or more A* grades, and more than half gained seven or more, typically from ten subjects.
Although we do not have the facilities to offer highly specialised and intensive support, our qualified Learning Skills team supports boys with mild dyslexia and other learning difficulties through one-to-one lessons, help with study skills and certain individual arrangements.
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