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If you have Sky1, there is a documentary series on Harrow starting next week - I think it's called A Very Modern Boarding School or something like that. The series follows a year in one of the boarding houses. THink it's a bit of a plug for the school but OP you may be interested.
CCF is compulsory in remove year (2nd year). They can choose to continue or not after 6 months. No pressure to stay with it if they don't want to.
My incredibly nice, not v posh, quite well off cousin is at harrow now and loves it. He is very musical, quite sporty but at cricket, tennis and fives rather than rugby, and academically fine, bottom of the top of the pack. Although harrow is full boarding his family chose it as they live in London and its v easy to get there to watch matches etc. - his mum is there at least once every 2 weeks and the communication is great. He has not mentioned the ccf so don't know how prevalent it is. But he is one of nature's nice people and is doing really well there so it is certainly not a sink or swim kind of environment. They are also bringing out the best in him academically and he is doing better than at his prep. All in all v good impression.
HG, I think pastoral care can be a difficult task when a child feels the effect of being in a minority. Radley seems to be one of those schools where you can fairly easily gauge whether your son(s) would enjoy their time there. Certainly a boy who firstly loves rugby and other standard sports and secondly would like to develop in art /music / theatre and has felt 'part of the gang' in a traditional English prep would probably enjoy it and would be brought on very well academically. That generalisation may change with the new warden.
I was at Marlborough and had a great time, they cater for sporty and academic students, there's so much on offer, but you just have to make the most of what's there. There were lots of people who were a lot more posh than me, but that still gave me the most amazing 5 years, I was allowed to choose the school and Marlborough won hands down
"the Radley product type"
I think this is the problem with the pastoral care side those including current and very recent ex pupils who very recently have criticised the pastoral care there were not fitting the "Radley profile type" box. We know lots there and like all boys full boarding schools if it works for you then it's a fab school.
Win Coll is not really the right place if you're making sport one of you're main criteria when choosing a school. Cranleigh was popular with friends whose DS's were sporty, I understand not many "toffs", academic results improving yr on yr and again weekly boarding. Marlborough is more academic and sporty probably has more "toffs" than others although I wouldn't let this put you off. Frankly all the "toffs" we know or have met through schools have been pretty normal. All the ghastly parents have been "one/two generations of wealth" or as one parents at my DS's old prep once said "New money urgh!".
Radley has extremely strong traditional sports coaching and a lot of the boys who we knew who went there were the sporty ones from a large prep. Excellent well supported academic teaching aimed towards boys. Music perfect for boy who likes singing / music theatre. DT also appeared very good. Think pastoral is fine now but you would need to visit to see what you think of the Radley product type. New head starting in a year.
Certainly worth considering for a sporty boy. Warden list actually pretty competitive so need to be stronger academically. CE pass mark has gone up.
Meant to add Radley has a ridiculously early registration but you can get in off the wardens list.
Depending how old your DS is Radley might be worth looking at sport especially rugby is very big and academic standards get better yr on yr definitely not Tim nice but dim. The only thing is I have heard from parents and ex pupils that pastoral care is not great it is very much sink or swim. Tonbridge is the other one fab head (came from SPS) very sporty and more academic than Harrow definitely weekly boarding and good train links mean it's very doable if you live in London/Kent.
Thank you for the comments.
Very interesting about the sport, a heavy focus on sport is what my ds has asked me to make the main consideration in choosing schools.
He liked Winchester, but neither he nor us fell in love with the place.
Full boarding is not the main draw, but also does not put us off.
Due to the type of parents who said the toffs comments to me - very wealthy but one/two generation of wealth, I am presuming they mean landed gentry historic family money.
And certainly their results do not appear to be nice but dim, hopefully they'll be nice AND bright
The extras outside the classroom is what we look for in a boarding school (that's what I believe I am paying for, I could send to the local grammar for just the academics), and it does seem that Harrow is actively encouraging participation in everything.
I believe that they are not as generous with bursaries unattached to scholarships as Eton SPS and Win Coll so therefore the social mix will be slightly less diverse.
I know someone who recently got a scholarship and a very generous bursary. I assume it is the same as other schools - if they want your son to go there they will make funds available to enable him.
I believe that they put a very strong emphasis on sport, more so than other schools like Eton and Winchester. I think that the CCF is also hugely important, you don't have to join, but virtually the whole school does, and I think that quite a few of them go on to join the army.
This is perhaps where the 'posh but dim' image comes from, but I don't think that it is at all justified. However, it may make it a bit of a trial for boys who are not very sporty and outdoorsy.
You should, of course, go and visit the school, but there is a documentary called 'The School on the Hill' available on YouTube which might be worth a quick look. It's about 10 years old, but I wouldn't imagine things will have changed that much.
"its just full of toffs" and "its for posh but dim",
Two of the brightest boys at my DS's prep chose to go there and all the others (and there were lots of them over the years) who went there were all bright if not super bright. If you look at the FT league tables Harrow in 2012 came 53rd, 72% got an A at A level I'll leave you to decide for yourself if its school for Tim nice but very dim.
"its just full of toffs"
The fees according to their website are £33 000+ PA I'm out of the loop now my DS is at senior school but it used to not have a very generous bursary policy so most of the parents are going to be pretty wealthy in the grand scheme of things, in fact all we know who sent their DS's there were very wealthy. But if your using the term "toff" to mean the parents are all aristocratic landed gentry I don't think Harrow has any higher % of these than any other big name independent school. However I have heard on quite a few occasions that there are lot os parents who are ghastly screaming snobs and certainly the worst offenders at my DS's old prep all sent their DS"s there! On the other hand some of the nicest and most down to earth parents also sent their DS's there. The best thing is to go and look at it for yourself and decide if you and your DS like it.
It is I understand fiercely oversubscribed we were told many moons ago more so than Eton and as handcream said only full boarding if you are not familiar with the actual implications of this then you need to think carefully. I personally am a great advocate of it but many don't like the restrictions this imposes and you do in my now very extensive experience need to be living with a sensible distance of the school if its really going to work.
My DS didnt go but had a place. We wanted weekly boarding in the end. Its one of the most well known private schools in the UK. It is quite 'male' and full boarding which isnt for everyone. But it looked a fab school and will open doors for your DS should you be able to get in.
Has anyone got recent knowledge on Harrow?
When I was at school, friends' brothers were there and were always very positive about the place and genuinely seemed to really enjoy their time whilst there and retrospectively.
I am considering it for my ds, and have had a couple of comments from other parents along the lines of "its just full of toffs" and "its for posh but dim", "if you've got no brains and money you go there, if you have any ability you don't".
This wasn't my experinece of the kids I knew there 20+ years ago, but what's the place like now.
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