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Harrow vs Winchester

(45 Posts)
FulhamFather Mon 16-Jun-14 16:10:36

Looking for comments from parents on what types of boy that will suit either Harrow or Winchester?


summerends Mon 16-Jun-14 17:01:04

Lots (probably too many) previous threads concerning Winchester so reading themshould give you an idea and help you ask more specific questions.
Harrow, would that series on sky give you an insight as well as the previous threads here?

FulhamFather Mon 16-Jun-14 17:28:09

I've read all the threads.

Looking for tangible differences and views from current parents.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Mon 16-Jun-14 17:43:37

Op If you've read all the threads you'll know that people rather want something to get their teeth into it might be helpful to offer a few more details....

What kind of boy do you have?

What kind of school is he currently at? What does his HM say?

What are you looking for in his next school?

Which other schools are you considering?

FulhamFather Mon 16-Jun-14 18:11:56

Top 2 choices are Winchester and Harrow. Have a conditional offer from Winchester. Expect him to get offer from Harrow also after the exam next term (he was pre-selected and has firm house interest). So these two are the choices.

At a day prep. He likes sport, music, arts. He's bright but not a super star academically (but he does have the conditional offer from WinColl)

My question is around what type of boy does Winchester suit rather than Harrow and vice versa. What types of boy do well at one or the other.

summerends Mon 16-Jun-14 19:50:49

May I turn the questions around FulhamFather, what do you think is the type of boy from what you have read / heard from ours and others' experience. Has your DS expresses any preference from his interactions with the schools. What do you think of the housemasters in the different schools? I don't mind repeating myself and I'm sure the others don't but we don't want to resay what you already know.

Hogwash Mon 16-Jun-14 20:01:54

I'm going to be really annoying and ask an OT question. For the record, I am not anti-public school - DH and I were privately educated and we considered it for our DC.

But - really, would it make that much difference to a child whether they went to Harrow or Winchester? Surely what happens in the family is more important, and more than anything, the first few years of a child's life. Do you think you are really going to get a different child coming off the conveyer belt at the end whether you send to Winchester or Harrow?

I understand it's a hard choice - but surely if he's going to do well, he will do well at either of those two.

Dustylaw Mon 16-Jun-14 20:12:21

Here is something specific. If he likes rugby and wants to continue playing it then definitely go for Harrow.

summerends Mon 16-Jun-14 20:57:47

Dusty grin hopefully FulhamF has already gathered this from reading the threads.

FulhamF just to be a bit more helpful, here is one of the threads which makes some useful comments. I think the comments from Zero and co about boys who thrive at Eton probably apply to Harrow although the spectrum of academic ability is wider at Harrow.

Hogwash that is probably part of the question that FulhamF is trying to ask. My perception is that there is a marked difference in personalities attracted to and a different type of education between Winchester and Harrow but obviously many boys would enjoy aspects of the experiences in both. On average a boy would end up with a broader academic culture from Winchester and more time devoted to studying. How that relates to success later, who knows!

happygardening Mon 16-Jun-14 21:44:35

I personally wouldn't touch Harrow with a barge pole. I watched the above mentioned program and it confirmed my views frankly. Lots of meaningless ritual, ridiculous uniform, and sporty. Winchester is surprisingly not stuffed with meaningless ritual, no ridiculous uniform and sport is optional. I've met quite a X section of boys from a Win Coll all come across as understated, articulate but slightly unworldly and many are very obviously non conformists being allowed to walk their own path. I've yet to meet a brash one, whereas I've met a quite a few Harrovians they come across as more confident in a slightly brash way (obviously only my experience). All the social climber parents at my DS's prep who couldn't get their DS's into Eton their next choice was Harrow and it does have a bit of a reputation for snobby parents. In contrast as one person said to me the only snobbery at Winchester is intellectual. Someone has just told me that Harrow pride themselves on teaching to the syllabus, Winchester pride themselves on not doing this but offering a broad intellectual academic curriculum of their own making. The boarding facilities at Win Coll are not as good, I don't care, but I'm sure plenty of people do. Winchester only offers the much harder Pre U's Harrow A levels.
Winchester won't let boys go home a couple of days early at the end of term etc or go home on Saturday for a special family occasion doesn't bother me but some might find it irritating. Can't comment on Harrow.
Finally OP many who are bright but not super stars at prep often blossom at their senior school, where ever they go, but if he really isn't a rocket scientist how will your DS feel if he finds himself nearer the bottom of the pile than the top?

PiratePanda Mon 16-Jun-14 21:52:39

Do you want an Oxbridge Senior Tutor's opinion, forged over ten years' of admissions? (Not me, DH.) Academically, Winchester, hands down.

agnesgrey Mon 16-Jun-14 22:14:05


If your son ends up with an offer from each - ask him where he wants to go. If he has a strong preference - that's where he should be . I think boys get a feeling for where they would fit best.

Personally I prefer Winchester (and so did DS) . In fact DS went round Harrow and was a bit 'yep yep yep - fine" Unfair as Harrow is obviousl y a great school for the right boy.

So tangible differences as far as my limited knowledge of Harrow goes

1. Wincoll more house system in that you eat in house (no central refectory )

2. Wincoll (from what I remember ) less of a campus - so , you don't get that view of the rugby pitches etc as you pitch up .

3. People will sat Winchester is not a sporty school , and it isn't IMHO in the way that Radley eg is , but be in no doubt the boys must do sport - they just have more choice - ie the school wont force you to do a certain sport (aside from Winkies - 1st year)

4. Agree with Dustylaw - if you want rugby - Wincoll isn't for him

5. Also agree with Hogwash in one respect - they are both great . Slightly 1st world problem grin I would go with your son's gut feeling as to which he preferred. My approach with DS was whichever school he felt comfortable with was probably the one he would get on best in.
So to that extent I do slightly disagree with HW in that I think if the boy feels an affinity with the school , they are likely to get on better . But I agree with her general point in that Harrow or Winchester aren't 'better" they are different and I hope your son has an opinion . If he doesn't then I see your problem.
(And maybe Harrow would be better for him grin That was a joke from a mother of a by at Wincoll - please don't take it seriously )


Hogwash Tue 17-Jun-14 09:52:29

agnesgrey - ' in that I think if the boy feels an affinity with the school , they are likely to get on better' I guess what I am thinking if that if a boy has an affinity with a school it is likely to be because it reflects the family's personal values (ie the understated point re Winchester) - so if you stuffed that boy into Harrow, he would probably still come out understated. Anyway, sorry, I am over thinking ...

FulhamFather Tue 17-Jun-14 11:03:20

Thanks for your comments. In response:

1. I am concerned that sport is optional at Wincoll
2. Education is just that education - it isn't just about the academic side. A school isn't just a means of getting into Oxford
3. Of course his views will be taken into account!
4. It isn't a question of which school is better but rather which school suits which type of boy.
5. A comment that WinColl boys are "slightly unworldly" concerns me as does "intellectual snobbery".

So I go back to my main question:
- what sorts of boys does Winchester suit?
- what sorts of boys does Harrow suit?

ZeroSomeGameThingy Tue 17-Jun-14 11:35:26

I'm inclined to think that, having read everything and not having found an answer, you may be asking the wrong question.

Try: What sort of school would suit this boy?

I also think that any group of boys (indeed any single boy) who is sufficiently clever, motivated, wily, charming, energetic etc to get into the type of school under discussion will be able, to some extent, to make the school into what they want it to be. (They're not going to change the school, and it must be taken for granted that the school wanted those boys...) So there will be a subtle shift of ethos and enthusiasms from year to year. People may look at this year's sixth form or first years and say "this is what the school is like" but that's never going to be true for more than a few months...

It isn't scientific and it may not depend on any specific detail. Which place makes your DS feel happy, "at home," as if he could thrive there? Choose that one and take a leap of faith.

happygardening Tue 17-Jun-14 12:27:12

OP you've read all the threads, most Winchester parents try to give a balanced and honest view, we unlike those with DS's who've been or are at other big name boys boarding school don't write effusively praising it's every aspect, we don't believe it's the most perfect school in the world but we believe in it warts and all. A few of us with DS's at Winchester have again given our views, your DS was offered a place by Winchester, the interview process is probably the most thorough of any school and according to the annual report the school has never been more over subscribed so the HM who interviewed him who knows what he and the school are looking for must have thought he would be happy there.
So when you say "what sort of boy suits Winchester" I am a loss to know what to say frankly.
Just to add sport is optional which of course is ideal for those who are about as sporty as iron boards, but this does not mean it doesn't exist of course. My DS pursues his slightly niche non team sport three times a week, they have had two years where they have been virtually unbeaten. At most other schools he would have had to participate in a much loathed team sport three times a week and his chosen sport would be a minor sport offered once a week. Winchester is also know for producing excellent sailors and X country runners. I was recently talking to someone very involved in this years rowing scene apparently this year one of the Winchester crews is the one all want to beat, surprising bearing in mind the stretch of river they train on but down I suspect to the return of Mr Fox having coached the very successful Abbingdon crew last year.

PiratePanda Tue 17-Jun-14 13:38:56

If your DS loves sport and would play it enthusiastically regardless, why do you care if sport at Winchester is optional? Surely that makes it the best of both worlds for everyone?

I say that as someone who captained her school basketball team and did competitive athletics, swimming and cross country every year when frankly I was pretty rubbish at most of them.

summerends Tue 17-Jun-14 13:54:53

OP I have a DS who is an allrounder for music, sport and drama. He has everything he could possibly need for all those to develop but he does n't want to be a profession sportsman and his academic studies come first (him and the school, not particularly us). He was not competitive from an early age but is very much so now. His academic level and interests have absolutely flourished at W including unforeseen directions. He has benefited from conversations during meals and other times with interesting adults. He is social but sensitive and is n't made to feel he has to be a type.
Winchester has suited him. Can't really add to that.

agnesgrey Tue 17-Jun-14 21:55:09


Be in no doubt sport is not optional at Wincoll. If that came over from my post I apologise . What I meant was that the boys have a wide range to choose from and they will not be forced to do a particular sport (Winkies 1st year aside ) . BUT - they must do sport. The facilities are fantastic . HG I am not disagreeing with you when you say sport is optional but I think the point is the particular sport is optional. There is no option to opt out of sport altogether.

As far as I can I would say that the type of boy who would suit Winchester is a boy with self confidence , quiet self confidence just as good as overt. The school I believe will instil and reinforce this .

A boy who knows what he is interested in and actively pursues those interests , whether it be rowing , music , debating , art. A boy who just pitches up to lessons and doesn't feel involved probably wouldn't be in the right place. I agree with PPs that W doesn't seem to produce a "type". They do however encourage boys to explore their own interests and provide the resources and support for this.

Re the "unworldly" type label. I must admit I have a problem with this as I do when people slap the label "quirky" on W boys. My son is IMO about as normal as you can get. However he does have an academic bent and a passion for certain subjects. I think what people mean is that W encourages individualism (within the parameters of living in a close community obviously).

Hogwash - I agree with your point about families etc - a school is only a part of a boy's experience.

FF - I hope what I have said is helpful.
I may just be the most rubbish parent but I am not sure I analysed the school to a huge extent. It has a good reputation , as does Harrow of course and many other schools both independent and state. It was the only school my son walked into and said "I want to come here". To a large extent anything I say is simply justifying in hindsight that gut reaction.

I do wish you well though. Not a bad choice to have !


summerends Tue 17-Jun-14 22:27:09

FulhamFather what types of sports does your DS like?
My note of caution would be if he was a keen footballer for example then the coaching for that is a bit patchy at Winchester. There are some music groups for intermediate musicians but I'm guessing less than at Harrow. Plus the junior and senior choirs at Winchester are mainly filled with ex choristers so an ordinary singer would n't get a look in. Separately they are minor things but might sway you.
If your DS likes thinking independently and deeply then he would get more out of Winchester.
I think if your DS needs his confidence nurturing then Winchester will do better by him. If he is already very confident then he would fit in well at Harrow.

happygardening Tue 17-Jun-14 22:37:23

Agnes I think you'll find there are boys who don't do any sport at all, my DS certainly knows a few, they are meant to do cultural activities instead. I don't have a problem with this but some might.

agnesgrey Tue 17-Jun-14 22:41:39

HG - in which case I stand corrected !

How Wiccamical of me wink

happygardening Tue 17-Jun-14 22:56:56

How very.
Some HM's are more insistent that the boys in their houses do some sort of sport than others I think you'll find. Some houses are more sporty.

happygardening Tue 17-Jun-14 22:58:48

I too have heard that football coaching is patchy although football is surprisingly popular and I believe played "in yard" a lot.

PiratePanda Wed 18-Jun-14 05:42:21

I thought Winchester sounded perfect for my boy! (He's only 3 though so plenty of time grin )

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