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Frequently Asked Questions

the school

When was Harrow founded?

Harrow was founded in 1572, under a royal charter from Queen Elizabeth I, by local landowning farmer, John Lyon. 

How many boys attend Harrow?


Where is the School located?

In Harrow on the Hill, Middlesex, north-west London - 12 minutes by train from Marylebone, 20 minutes from Baker Street on a fast Metropolitan London Underground train and a 30-minute drive from Heathrow airport. 

How big is the School's estate?

324 acres, comprising 12 Boarding Houses, accommodation for all teaching staff, 16 winter-sports pitches, 12 tennis courts, nine cricket pitches, six conservation areas, two all-weather synthetic pitches, formal gardens, a nine-hole golf course, a working farm, an observatory, several performance spaces, a fishing lake, woodland and a registered park.  

How many people work at Harrow?

Around 700, of whom 150 are teaching staff.

What is a typical working day at Harrow like?

Following breakfast at 8am and then Speech Room (assembly) or Chapel, there are eight lessons a day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as time for activities; and five lessons a day on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with the whole afternoon given over to sport, music, art, drama or other activities. Lectures and rehearsals typically take place before supper or after prep (a period in the evening set aside for the completion of homework).

What do the School mottos mean?

Stet fortuna domus means 'May the fortune of the House stand'. Donorum dei dispensatio fidelis means 'the faithful stewardship of the gifts of God'.

Who is Harrow's Head Master?

Alastair Land is Harrow's Head Master. Read more about him here.

What is the School's Purpose?

Harrow's purpose is to prepare boys with diverse backgrounds and abilities for a life of learning, leadership, service and personal fulfilment. Read more about our Purpose, Strategy and Values here.

What is Shaftesbury Enterprise?

Named in honour of the 19th-century reformer, philanthropist and Old Harrovian, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (The Head Master's 1813³), Shaftesbury Enterprise encompasses all of Harrow’s philanthropic, charitable, outreach and partnership work, with the boys' service making up an important part. 

What are the advantages of a single-sex education?

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.


What is the average class size?

Average division sizes vary between the year groups, from 16 in the Shell to 8 in the Upper Sixth. The average class size is 14. 

What subjects are taught in the Shell year?

The Shell is a foundation year in which every boy studies a broad range of subjects. In some compulsory subjects, such as Mathematics and Sciences, he will begin his (I)GCSE on the first day of lessons. Other subjects offer an introductory course and, after two terms, boys may opt to continue these at (I)GCSE in the following year. The subjects studied are Art, Biology, Chemistry, Design & Technology, English, History, Geography, Computing, Latin/Classical Civilisation, Mathematics, Music, Physics, Theology & Philosophy, and a choice of two languages from Chinese (Mandarin), Classical Greek, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian or Spanish.

In addition, all Shell boys take a Health Education course, which is delivered by an external Health Education Tutor and has a pastoral emphasis, providing an informal opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues that are important to teenagers. 

How are academic sets decided?

Boys in the Shell year are divided into two parallel streams, based on the languages they study, for timetabling purposes. Each stream consists of four forms, in which boys study the majority of their subjects. In some, such as Maths and ancient and modern languages, boys are set by ability. In others, such as the sciences and some humanities, boys are placed in mixed-ability forms, with peers from different Houses and prep schools. This helps them to develop relationships across their year group and starts to prepare them for the diverse environments of university and employment. From the Remove onwards, sets are decided by Heads of Subject, within the constraints of the timetable. Whatever set they are in, all Harrovians end up with a similar number of good (I)GCSEs (normally ten).

Which public examinations do Harrovians take?

At the end of the Fifth Form, Harrovians take GCSEs and their international equivalent (IGCSEs). At the end of the Upper Sixth, they take A levels, with the exception of Modern Foreign Languages, Art and History of Art, in which boys sit Pre-U examinations.

What subjects can boys take for GCSE?

In the Remove and Fifth Form, like the Shell year, boys continue to study core subjects of English, Mathematics and at least two of the three sciences. They must also continue with at least one Modern Language (French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Russian and/or Spanish) and also choose four additional subjects from Ancient History, Art, Astronomy, Classical Greek, Computer Science, Drama, Design & Technology, Geography, History, Latin, Music, Physical Education and Theology & Philosophy.

What subjects does the School offer in the Sixth Form?

Ancient History; Art; Biology; Chemistry; Classical Greek; Design & Technology; Design Engineering; Drama & Theatre; Economics; Business; English Literature; Geography; History; History of Art; Latin; Mathematics/Further Mathematics; Modern Languages; Music; Music Technology; Photography; Physics; Politics; Theology & Philosophy; and Sports Science.

Why does Harrow teach Pre-U in some subjects in the Sixth Form, instead of A Level?

Following the significant reform of A level syllabuses, we are particularly dissatisfied with the revised offering in most Modern Foreign Languages. Pre-U is a more rewarding and thoughtfully devised course, and can be combined with A Levels in other subjects when applying to university. In Art and History of Art, we believe that the Pre-U specifications offer a greater range, and a better combination of creativity and rigour. 

At what stage in his School career does a boy make subject choices?

Boys make their (I)GCSE choices in March of their Shell year, and their A level choices in January of the Fifth Form.

How well did Harrovians perform in the most recent public examinations?

Click here for our latest results statement.

How does Harrow stretch its scholars?

Alongside the traditional curriculum taught in the Form Room, Harrow offers the Super-Curriculum (see following question). The Director of the Super Curriculum oversees the quality and quantity of this provision. Our on-timetable Learning Skills programme focuses on skills that will enhance boys’ access to the curriculum, through sessions on independent learning, growth mindset, meta-cognition and reading. The Master-in-Charge of Scholars regularly meets with our academic scholars, ensuring that they are being fully stretched in the form room and making the most of the opportunities beyond it.

What is the Super-Curriculum?

The Super-Curriculum is the umbrella term for activities that foster academic endeavour beyond the measurable outcomes of examination results. It includes, but is not limited to, wider reading, research, essay competitions, Olympiads and other academic endeavours, like the Engineering Education Scheme. It also involves debating, boys giving lectures, academic trips both in the UK and abroad, and finally, our flagship Elective programme, which offers boys in the Remove, Fifth Form and Sixth Form opportunities to experience non-examined courses alongside their standard subjects. 

Can boys study additional languages off the timetable?

Yes, we offer Arabic, Cantonese, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Modern Greek, Polish, Russian and Spanish as off-timetable options.

How does Harrow support boys with special educational needs and/or disabilities?

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. For more information, visit our SEND page or contact the Head of Learning Skills

extra curricular

Are boys with special interests or elite skills able to pursue them at Harrow?

Harrow offers over 80 interest groups and boys are able to initiate their own clubs and societies, if there is enough of an uptake. We will happily make reasonable adjustments to support the career of an elite sportsman or performer, providing that there is no disruption to his education or to that of others.

Can my son play an instrument?

Over half of our pupils learn an instrument. Tuition is offered in all orchestral instruments, as well the piano, organ, guitar, bagpipes and singing.

Which sports does Harrow offer and which are compulsory?

We offer around 30 sports: archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, bridge, chess, clay-pigeon shooting, climbing, cricket, croquet, cross country, Eton fives, fencing, full-bore shooting, golf, Harrow football, hockey, judo, karate, kayaking, polo, rackets, rugby, skiing, small-bore shooting, soccer, squash, swimming and water polo. Our main team games are rugby in the autumn term, soccer in the spring term and cricket in the summer term. Participation in games is expected but no single sport is compulsory.

What sort of trips does the School offer?

Given Harrow’s proximity to London, divisions (classes) make frequent forays into the capital to support their classroom learning. Study visits, cultural trips and sports tours further afield, both within the UK and internationally, are also regular occurrences during School holidays.

Do Harrovians engage with their local community and undertake charitable work?

Yes. Through Shaftesbury Enterprise, boys engage purposefully and genuinely with the local community, in the spirit of the 19th-century reformer, philanthropist and Old Harrovian, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (The Head Master's 1813³). Every boy is able to participate in charitable work, whether teaching and coaching primary-age pupils, raising sponsorship money by running in the annual Long Ducker, providing companionship for elderly people through Community Service, working in charity shops or organising their own fundraising events.

Why is Shaftesbury Enterprise important?

Shaftesbury Enterprise's impact in the local community is immediate, tangible and significant; indeed, some institutions rely on the efforts of Harrovians. Through the initiative, boys tackle major challenges and take on important responsibilities that significantly improve others' lives. In turn, they learn to be altruistic, philanthropic and service-orientated. It is not uncommon for boys to feel that their commitment to Shaftesbury Enterprise is one of the most valuable that they make at school. 


What is full boarding?

Our full-boarding model means that every Harrovian lives in one of Harrow's 12 Boarding Houses during term time, going home at exeats, half terms and holidays. An exeat is two nights long, half term is usually one week and the School typically closes for three weeks at Easter, a month at Christmas and two months over the summer. In the longest term (the Autumn), boys will typically go home every three weeks. 

What is the advantage of full boarding?

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. Teams, casts and other groups are never depleted by some boys being away from the Hill, meaning a better experience for everyone. 

What are the boys' rooms like?

We do not have dormitories at Harrow: a boy shares his room with a boy of the same age for his first three to six terms and thereafter has a room to himself. It is very much his own home for the term, where he keeps his belongings, puts up his pictures and does his work.

What do the boys eat?

Boys eat breakfast, lunch and supper in the Shepherd Churchill Dining Hall, sitting down as a House for lunch and with friends from other Houses at other mealtimes. We offer a wide choice of fresh food, with two main meat courses, a vegetarian option, soup, a salad bar and pudding all prepared on-site by our own in-house Catering Team. Favourite dishes include Katsu chicken curry, Asian salmon with julienne of vegetables, homemade meatballs with linguine, coconut chicken curry, chicken tikka masala with poppadoms and mango chutney, roast beef/pork/chicken/lamb with all the trimmings, homemade beer-battered haddock, teriyaki lamb, lemon-zested turkey escalope, BBQ spare rib chop, chicken Kiev, and southern fried chicken (the boys’ absolute favourite!). In addition, boys can buy snacks from the Hill Shop and Hill Cafe (a social space for use as break times), and make use of Butteries in the Houses.

What happens at weekends?  

Boys have lessons on Saturday morning and either Chapel, Mass or Thought for the Day on Sunday. At other times of the weekend, they enjoy a whole raft of activities, including sports, trips off the Hill, concerts, films and socials with girls' schools. In the Sixth Form, boys are allowed to go home for occasional exeats, if they have no School commitments, and a Sixth Form bar is open on Saturday evening.

What access do parents have to their sons during term time?

Parents regularly visit their sons, and attend events on the Hill and at other schools. Most boys have mobile phones and call home regularly, and each has a Harrow email address, Skype access and his own computer. 

How does the School communicate with parents?

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. 

How do boys get to and from School?

In general, parents organise transport for their sons, although Matron can organise taxis and car shares, and boys are able to use public transport with their parents’ permission.

Is there any accommodation nearby for parents?

Visitors seeking accommodation may wish to consider The Old Etonian or Grim's Dyke Hotel.  

pastoral care

Who takes care of the boys at Harrow?

Each House has a resident House Master, Assistant House Master and Matron, as well as a non-resident health educator who acts as a "listening ear". Each boy also has his own tutor. Our Child Protection Officer has oversight of safeguarding, working closely with external agencies. The Pastoral Support Committee coordinates all aspects of our pastoral support structure. 

How does Harrow help new boys to settle in?

Most new boys are invited to Harrow several times before they arrive as fully fledged Harrovians. House teams focus on them for much of their first few weeks and a detailed induction programme, which includes activities like the Sunday soccer league and the Shell drama festival, ensures they feel bonded to their House and the School as soon as possible. Parents play a pivotal role in helping their sons to settle and are encouraged to visit as much as they can. Senior boys also offer support: all new Shells have a “Shepherd” from the Remove (the year above the Shell), who will look out for them as they adapt to life at Harrow.  

Who can my son speak to if he has a problem?

Beyond the House team, boys can turn to any of our three Chaplains, to our School psychologist or to any member of staff in whom he wishes to confide. The Pastoral Support Committee monitors individual concerns, as appropriate. Click here to view our pastoral communication diagram.

What happens if my son is ill?

Each House has a resident Matron and sick room. The Matrons are supported by the School's Medical Centre, where trained nursing staff offer 24-hour care. The Medical Centre is under the direct supervision of the School Doctor, who is available on the Hill every day for consultation. If a boy needs a long time to convalesce or is particularly contagious, he will usually go home or to his guardian.

What is Harrow’s policy on bullying?  

Click here to view our policy.

What is Harrow's policy on boys' use of IT?

All new pupils study a core Computing curriculum and can select Computer Science as a GCSE option. All boys are taught about the appropriate use of IT (including social media), understand their ICT rights and responsibilities through clearly defined policies that are annually reviewed, and have their own mobile Surface Book, with access to the School's digital resources and filtered high-speed internet access. All academic departments have up-to-date technology, including smartboards, touch screens, document cameras, data projectors and IT suites, to support teaching and learning.

What are the School rules?

Click here to view Existing Customs, which includes our policies on drugs and alcohol.

personal development

What does Harrow offer in the way of personal, social and health education?

A team of experienced health educators from outside the School runs our personal, social and health education programme, tackling topics such as drugs, alcohol, families, divorce and adolescence. Click here to view our pastoral curriculum. 

Do Harrovians ever mix with girls?

We run regular activities and socials with girls schools including Wycombe Abbey School, Francis Holland School, North London Collegiate School, Downe House, Heathfield School and St Mary's School Ascot.

What is Harrow's religious provision?

Harrow has a Christian foundation and ethos. Boys attend Chapel on Sundays and in the week according to the published patterns of worship. Roman Catholic boys attend Mass and Catechism in a parallel routine, as well as one further weekday service. A boy from another faith tradition may become part of the Sunday Thought for the Day group, as an alternative to Chapel, after consultation with and the agreement of his House Master and the Senior Chaplain. In the Shell, Remove and Fifth Form, only adherents of the non-Christian world faiths (e.g. Islam, Judaism, Hinduism) will be eligible for Thought for the Day. In the Sixth Form, boys who consider themselves to be atheist or agnostic may also ask to join. Other than for the weekly School Chapel service, which all must attend, a boy may attend Eucharist in the Crypt Chapel as an alternative to attendance in the main Chapel. Almost 100 boys are confirmed each year and around 35 attend Flambards, the School's Christian group. Two Anglican Chaplains and one Roman Catholic Chaplain support boys of all religions; those who are not Christian may join societies dedicated to their faith and their particular customs are accommodated.

after harrow

What universities do Harrovians typically go on to?

Click here for our latest destinations statement.

What career guidance does Harrow offer?

In the Shell, boys learn how to use career exploration software, before undertaking career profiling and aptitude tests in their GCSE year. Boys choose their A levels with the results of these tests in mind, informed, in addition, by an interview with the School’s full-time careers advisor. After GCSEs, boys engage in a period of work experience. In the Sixth Form, they have another one-to-one interview with the School’s careers advisor, to discuss planning for university applications and future career goals.

We hold a careers convention every January, with over 100 advisors from a variety of employment sectors. All boys are encouraged to visit the careers section of the Vaughan Library and the bespoke careers area on the School intranet, and to attend our regularly scheduled careers talks.


What are the main entry points?

Year 9 (age 13) and Sixth Form/Year 12 (age 16).

How many new boys join Harrow each year?

160 new Shells (our youngest year group) join each year, with approximately 20 boys joining the Lower Sixth Form.

What is the competition for places?

Each year, we have around 600 applications for 160 places in the Shell.

What kind of boy is Harrow looking for?

One who will make the most of the opportunities Harrow offers: boys who are generally bright, although not exclusively so, with an enthusiastic attitude to school life, the potential to show great leadership and the sort of personality that will make a notable contribution to our community. A suitable Sixth Form applicant is likely to be predicted at least seven or eight passes at GCSE (or equivalent) at grade 7/8/9 (A/A*).

What are Harrow’s feeder schools?

A handful of schools send us several boys each year, but we do not give preferential treatment to boys from them. When choosing a prep school, our advice to parents is to look for a school that offers a wide range of activities outside the classroom, as well as good academic and pastoral support. If your son is enthusiastic, bright and ready to make the most of Harrow's opportunities, then it does not matter which school he is currently attending. 

Does Harrow ever take girls?

Harrow is a single-sex school for boys. Masters' daughters can attend for the Sixth Form, although only a handful ever have.

What percentage of current boys are the sons of Old Harrovians?

Around 15%.

What percentage of boys live overseas?

Approximately 20%.

What level of English does a boy need to attend Harrow?

All boys must speak English sufficiently well to participate fully in the form room. We assess without cost those for whom English is an additional language and charge for any extra English lessons that they subsequently require. 

Should applicants studying overseas attend a UK prep school prior to Harrow, or can they remain abroad?

Around 50% of those who take up a Year 9 place do attend a UK prep school. This can help them to improve their English, to become more familiar with our curriculum and to prepare for many aspects of life at a British boarding school. 

Must applicants studying at schools overseas take the Common Entrance examinations?

Yes, although those not following the Common Entrance syllabus are only required to take a limited range of papers in the core subjects, for setting purposes. Applicants do not need to have studied French or Latin previously.

Do applicants with non-EU passports require a visa to study in the UK?

Yes, they must possess a Tier 4 Child Student visa. The Admissions Office offers guidance about this when an applicant is offered a place. 

Do boys ever join Harrow in the Remove, Fifth Form or Upper Sixth?

Places become available very occasionally but the majority of boys arrive in the Shell, with another 20 joining at the start of Sixth Form.

Does Harrow ever take boys for a short period of time?

We expect any boy joining us to remain until he is 18. 

What provision does Harrow make for disabled boys?

An applicant with a disability who otherwise fulfils the School's admissions criteria should discuss with the School reasonable adjustments that would enable him to attend.

What is the School fee? 

The School's fee for the academic year 2019/20 is £13,925 per term (£41,775 per annum) and includes board, tuition, textbooks, a stationery allowance and laundry. 

When should a Year 9 applicant be registered?

Ideally, by the end of Year 5.

Is there any advantage to being registered from birth?

There is no particular advantage to a very early application. 

What is the final deadline for receipt of registrations?

1 May of Year 7

Can my son apply to more than one school?

Yes, although he is only permitted to take the Common Entrance (CE) examination for one school.

When does the admissions process begin for Year 9 applicants?

At the end of Year 5, when we request a reference from a boy’s current school. We will request his reference immediately if we receive his registration form after this time.

Can I visit the School?

To ensure a meaningful visit, we recommend that applicants and their families attend an open morning when the applicant is in Year 5. These take place between 10am and 1pm on 12 Saturdays a year and include a tour of the School and a Boarding House, a talk by the Head Master and an opportunity to meet House Masters and boys.

Should applicants indicate any House preferences on their Registration Form?

Many parents leave their son’s House allocation to the Registrar. Those families who do indicate a House preference often have a pre-existing relationship with the House via Old Harrovian connections. Click here to explore the Houses and to learn more about their history and House Master. Alternatively, speak to your son's current Head or to a House Master at one of our open mornings.

Do Year 9 applicants meet a House Master one-to-one?

The strongest applicants who have sat the ISEB Pre-Test by December of Year 6 are invited to a one-to-one meeting with at least one House Master during the course of that year. All other applicants are interviewed by a House Master when they sit The Harrow Test at the beginning of Year 7.

When are Year 9 applicants assessed?

We like registered  applicants to sit the ISEB Pre-Test at their school between 1 October and the end of the autumn term of Year 6. A small number of applicants who do not perform well in the ISEB Pre-Test will be de-selected, while the majority will be invited to come to Harrow to sit The Harrow Test in the autumn term of Year 7. An applicant who registers between 1 May of Year 6 and 1 May of Year 7 is considered a Late Applicant and will only be invited to sit the ISEB Pre-Test if he has a very strong reference.

What is the ISEB Pre-Test?

The ISEB Pre-Test is a standardised, age-adaptive measure of ability and attainment. Therefore, an applicant is not disadvantaged by sitting the test early in Year 6 or by being young for his year group. The ISEB Pre-Test takes the form of an online assessment consisting of multiple-choice questions in Verbal Reasoning, Non-Verbal Reasoning, English and Mathematics. The tests take approximately two and a half hours to complete and sections can be taken together or at separate times.

What is The Harrow Test?

The Harrow Test comprises two interviews (one with a House Master and another with a senior Beak), a computerised English and Mathematics assessment and a short, handwritten essay.

How can Year 9 applicants prepare for Harrow’s admissions assessments?

It is not possible to prepare per se, although applicants may wish to practise verbal and non-verbal reasoning questions.

When do Year 9 applicants receive the results?

By the end of the first week in December of Year 7.

Are Harrow’s Year 9 offers conditional?

Yes, they are conditional on the applicant sitting Common Entrance (CE) examinations or our Academic Scholarship examinations. Applicants at a school that does not prepare its pupils for CE will be asked to sit papers in Mathematics, English, Science, French (if studied) and Latin (if studied). Applicants who do not receive specific preparation for CE are not disadvantaged.

What is Harrow’s Common Entrance pass mark?

There is no Common Entrance pass mark per se. However, we would hope that applicants would achieve an average of 65% across all subjects, as a minimum.

What is the assessment process for Sixth Form applicants?

Applicants from UK schools take two academic tests at their current school or at Harrow during the autumn of Year 11. We request references from their current Heads in early November. We request references for applicants from schools overseas on receipt of their applications. Strong applicants then sit two tests at their current school in subjects that they propose to take at A level. We invite shortlisted applicants to an assessment day at Harrow, during which they have a third test, interviews with senior Masters and a seminar with a Head of Subject. Applicants from schools in Hong Kong sit tests and are interviewed in Hong Kong.

What happens if an applicant misses the application deadlines?

We do make some provision for late applications, although, as these boys are competing for fewer places, we can only assess those with strong references. Unfortunately, we cannot assess late applicants from overseas schools.

Does Harrow offer scholarships?

Yes, we offer up to 40-45 Academic, Music, Art, Sport and Drama scholarships each year, usually to a value of 5% of the School fees. We do not offer an all-rounder scholarship. 

What is a bursary?

A means-tested award of up to 100% of the School fees for boys in financial need and who have, in most cases, also been awarded a scholarship. Most bursaries have specific criteria that candidates must meet in order to be considered.

How do I apply for a scholarship or bursary?

Visit the Scholarship and Bursaries page for more information.

How should a successful applicant prepare to start at Harrow?

Boys preparing to join Harrow are invited to a New Boys Tea in the July of their year of entry, around which time they receive all the important information, including that about uniform and equipment. You can find more information on preparing your son for boarding school in an article written for The Daily Telegraph by our Head of Learning Skills, Dr Susanna Pinkus.