Frequently Asked Questions
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?
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.
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 universities do Harrovians typically go on to?
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.