Harrow v Tonbridge

(31 Posts)
Charlie19 Thu 24-Mar-16 10:03:16

Can anyone give me guidance on choosing a House at Harrow?

Any opinions on the differences of the above schools?

Any information or guidance appreciated.

happygardening Thu 24-Mar-16 10:34:30

A long time ago (DS2 is now in yr 13) I looked at Tonbridge and really liked it, the head was at SPS and I felt was trying to create a similarish school; a 21st century education. But they were quite honest and said really it's not a full boarding school, weekly and day only so it was no good for us.
Lots from DS's old prep go to Harrow I never looked at it as the location might as well have been the moon its so inconvenient for us. I also had this gut feeling I personally wouldn't like it; I don't like outdated ridiculous uniform or meaningless ritual, a fairly recent TV programe about it proved this to me! But nearly all we know (we're talking quite a lot over the years) bar one who've sent their DS's there really like it.
Tonbridge used to be more academic and it probably still is, a couple of boys at DS's school didn't get into Tonbridge but got into Harrow.
Hope this helps.

Charlie19 Thu 24-Mar-16 12:03:55

Thank you. It does help.

We love Tonbridge had a feeling of being up to date. House choice was simple procedure admissions choose considering preferences. No decision made by Housemasters.

We like Harrow but definitely more traditional and House based. Not a bad thing and can embrace that. Making the correct house decision seems crucial here.

Correct one full boarding and one weekly boarding.
Lots of thinking before decision making.

Thank you

happygardening Thu 24-Mar-16 13:27:49

My DS is at Winchester which is very very "house based"". You begin the admissions process by choosing a house/HM, you then registered with your chosen house and the HM of that house interviews your DS and decides if he wants him in his house or if he doesn't want him if the school in general. Once there he is the most important person in your DS's school life. If you have any choice I not sure how it works at Harrow find one that you feel has a similar outlook on a life as you do, listen to what he says about the way he runs the house, watch him with the boys, my DS would say the boys don't necessarily have to like him but they must respect him, IMO your looking for someone with a general air of authority, the boys aren't looking for a friend rather someone who they feel will be there for them and will look after their best interests, and most importantly someone one really who cares about them. Also someone who makes it clear what he expects and what is acceptable and what is not. My DS once said he didn't like his HM (he was going through a negative patch) he lie ed all his faults but then said that he knew that he really cared about him and would do anything to help him that for me cancels our any minor failing he might have. Now he frequently says "I agree with Mr X about such and such", "Mr X sorted that out for me", or if Mr X says it's ok that means it's ok. You also don't have to feel he's you best friend but someone who you can talk to easily if everything is going wrong.
It's a hard job being an HM their poor wives must hate it because it's 24/7 33 weeks of the year, ultimately to be a good one be the boys must at the very least become as important as your own family. Do you feel that the ones you meet are that committed? Ask about weekends etc. Does the poor sod have much of a life? Ultimately if he's talking about his hobbies painting sea scapes and collecting and pressing dried flowers in his spare time and shows you his art work then ultimately he's probably isn't giving enough time to his house!

Charlie19 Thu 24-Mar-16 15:15:14

Thank you. We have been through the Winchester test and completely different experience. Easy in comparison and natural with not one problem. Just not sure if will be the correct place for us. I am worried about boys keeping up with the work.

Harrow not that easy. It seems to be more the House master choosing the boy NOT the family and boy choosing the House master. It could just be our experience.

Information has been helpful.

Whycantweallgetalong Thu 24-Mar-16 15:18:17

Its definitely the Housemaster choosing the boy at Harrow.

happygardening Thu 24-Mar-16 17:42:16

"I worry about boys keeping up with the work"
There's little or no spoon feeding at Winchester, DS2 is currently gaming revising (optimistic smiley) and it seems that for 1 subject in particular the Dons with their excellent knowledgable teaching have ignited his interest, he's passionate about it, talks with enthusiasm and a great deal of knowledge but a significant and essential parts of the syllabus that he can easily research himself have been in parts barely touched, he knows he has to learn it, but nothing much has been said and he's clearly being expected to sort it out and put the work in in his own time. I can easily see how the unmotivated or lazy could not do well. I think many of the Dons think that the boys know what they have to do, are very happy to help if theyre asked to (they definitely expect a boy to seek help rather than offering it) but if a boy doesn't bother it's not their problem.This may change with the new head coming in.
I also know some boys and parents feel there's a lot of pressure, in a school where A*s are the norm, but as is a bit of a laissez faire attitude to work, I suspect if your struggling to achieve both you must feel under considerable pressure.

happygardening Thu 24-Mar-16 17:45:18

Don't you sometimes get a choice of HM at Harrow? I seem to recall a mum proudly saying that after interviews with three HMs I think in yr 6 before the pre test in yr 7 two HMs wanted her DS. Maybe I got the wrong end of the stick and this was quite a long time ago so perhaps things have changed.

Michaelahpurple Thu 24-Mar-16 18:10:37

I have to admit I am rather struggling with the whole housemaster thing at Winchester. There seems to have been a major continuity error with most houses getting new masters in about 2008/9 so now, with the exception of two houses which are already full, for 2019 entrance one has the choice of masters who will leave 1-2 yrs after they boy arrives and those who are only in their first or second year, neither of which seems ideal to me. Perhaps I am overthinking it (and if I flail around for much longer they will all be full!). Happy gardening - am I overthinking ? (Apologies for hijack )

happygardening Thu 24-Mar-16 18:24:58

Yes many are about to leave, which I agree is very unfortunate. If I was you I'd pick one who's been in the job 1-2 years. He will have known at least 2 years before he started the job that he was taking over, would have been in the house quite a lot over those two years showing prospective parents round attending social functions to meet current parents meeting the boys and thus would be known to the current boys.
I believe the job is also only given to existing Dons no outsiders so he'll also be very familiar with the school.
When we choose an HM it was a toss up between an existing HM or one waiting to start the job, we choose the former but would have been happy with the latter if we hadn't liked the other. We met both twice for well over an hour and they talked about how they run the house or how they planned to run the house, we found this very helpful and it was a difficult decision. Someone complained to me once that an HM they met only talked about himself, and didn't ask their DS about his hobbies etc. But this is point of meeting him you are deciding if you like him and his ethos, not asking him to be impressed by your DS.
In a book called Heads Up Dr Townsend says even at this early stage the HMs are looking at the parents and deciding if they're the sort of parents that would suit the school!

Charlie19 Thu 24-Mar-16 18:28:32

We did not have any problems with finding a House which we liked at Winchester although I have to admit we did start looking ahead of time. We were written to with a date for the test and interview and it was a lovely experience. Our family enjoyed the whole experience and our DS enjoyed the time spent with the Housemaster. Even if he is not offered a place to try common entrance I am left with the feeling that I am pleased our son had the experience. It sounds as if you must look at houses early on in the process.
All this feedback is so useful.

Whycantweallgetalong Thu 24-Mar-16 18:39:19

HG you are right inpart, I remember that thread.

Basically you have a first interview. You could be invited to an interview by just one of your preferred HM's meaning the others aren't interested. If that HM likes you, you get added to their list, regardless of wether they were your first, second or third choice you're just glad to be on a list at this stage

If you're lucky enough, you may get invited to interview by two HM's or all three. If all like the candidate, NOW, you are in the enviable position to choose between the three. This was the case with the poster you spoke of.

You may be invited to interview by just one HM and if he doesn't like the candidate, doesn't get added to his list, although can still come for pre test but unlikely to get in.

You may be very unlucky and may not be invited at all for interview, which means you're still eligible for the pre test, but you're sort of wasting your time.

English is not my first language so I may not be explaining this very well. But this is kind of how it works, although it's all changed from this year now with ISEB also being introduced into the process.

Much prefer Eton's process and Winchester's from what I've read here.

happygardening Thu 24-Mar-16 20:04:34

God how complicated. The mum I mentioned was at DS's prep so a very very long time ago.
Eton I think also have fairly complex system, an HM chooses a boy and vice versa, I think boys meet three and you and the HM's put their 1st 2nd and 3rd choice, I suppose at least you've already got the place.
Win Colls method isn't perfect but perhaps more understandable although I guess some could say it's a bit tedious doing repeated visits to the school with your DS when you haven't even got a place.

Whycantweallgetalong Thu 24-Mar-16 22:10:54

I think Eton's process is fairer, as you don't choose an HM until AFTER you've sat pre test AND passed.
With Harrow's method, the first interview is not entirely clear, also you could get all excited about being on an HM's list and end up not passing pre test. Those not invited for the first interview are usually none the wiser that another process has first gone ahead before pre test day. Even some prep heads aren't aware. although it was written in the prospectus last year but it's rather downplayed and people miss it thinking the pre test is the first stage.
In past years prep heads had to scrabble for their boys to be invited for the first interview by ringing up a preferred HM and 'selling' the boy. But last year they changed the process and announced that the HM's will directly contact who they want to invite, so prep heads shouldn't bother ringing.

happygardening Thu 24-Mar-16 22:41:59

This leaves me wondering what is the best way of choosing or being chosen by an HM?

Charlie19 Thu 24-Mar-16 22:55:58

I am glad I am not the only person wondering. I will see what happens. In the end it is a big decision.

Michaelahpurple Fri 25-Mar-16 08:48:07

Yes, the Harrow system sounds definitely the worst of the three! Thanks for the advice HG. Am kicking myself for not getting on with this in January but was rather suffering from my general sulk about having to think and strategise for schools my son with go to when virtually 14 while I am still trying to get him fully settled at his prep. It all seems so unreasonable - with a 13 year old as well I know perfectly well that I have no idea which school will suit the little one yet and genuinely resent having to worry about year 6 pre-testing - we could have spared ourselves 8+ and gone the 11+ route if wanted that. Hey ho

kippersyllabub Fri 25-Mar-16 08:54:57

Hmmm... The Harrow registration form states at the top that most applicants don't specify house choices, so their applications are shown to all housemasters.

What's being said on this thread seems at odds with that.

Whycantweallgetalong Fri 25-Mar-16 09:20:36

That is part and parcel of the confusion with Harrow 's application. The form may say that but when you speak to the school it becomes clear you'd be better off stating your house preferences, otherwise how do you select your preferred houses? At what point? It's is from the first 3 preferences you give that you get your first interview from. If you don't state any preferences then, the HM's will first invite from those who named them on their forms, then look at others.

We've been through the Harrow process twice and with friends as its a popular choice at our school. At registration we didn't state any preference, but at the
same open day, the Previous HM, told all of us, it is not important to have a meeting/interview with a preferred HM, that it's only useful if the candidate had a previous connection to the school but other than that, it bestows no benefit at all and all will be treated the same i.e have the same chance of getting in. However on pretest day, it was announced, ' now is the last chance you have to make an impression on your chosen HM'. We also met other parents telling us their DS had 'passed' the first interview and was already on the HM's list. To say we were bewildered is putting it lightly.

The new HM Eric Sye? Made a point of mentioning the first interview but still only casually said, 'some will be invited to interview', but basically everyone has the same chance of getting in. I don't see how that can be.

I believe Harrow is a fantastic school, once you get in. It's just their admissions process could do with a complete overhaul. I don't think it's fair to parents or the boys at all.

kippersyllabub Fri 25-Mar-16 09:24:47

Okay, I understood that some candidates were invited to interview after the pre-test if they performed very well. Other candidates are invited to interview when they do the Y7 Harrow test. Is that what you think as well or have we got different understanding of this?!

Whycantweallgetalong Fri 25-Mar-16 09:25:51

Sorry Eric is the new registrar, not HM, got them mixed up.

Whycantweallgetalong Fri 25-Mar-16 09:50:15

Up until last year, there were 3 stages to their admissions. First interview, Pre test, Common entrance. The last two stages are very clear to everyone. The first stage isn't.

There is a first interview with one of the HM's you would have stated on your registration form.(although, they say it's not important! But it is)
If they like you, you get added to the list of one of your preferred HM's. (The amount of choice you have at this point is directly related to who/how many invited you for the first interview). Usually no more than 3. But it could be just one.

The next stage is pretest
The pretest inludes an interview, a computer test, and a written essay piece of work.
Who interviews you on pre test day will be determined by who's list the candidate is on . Meaning the lucky candidate will be seeing his now HM for the second time. He already likes you, boy feels nice and relaxed, you just need to ace the tests now!

There are no more interviews after this. The final stage is Common entrance.

If you were unsuccessgul for whatever reason to get on an HM's list you will still be invited to pre test, but have no idea who will interview you, and you won't be preferred choice anyway, (although they don't tell you that! But the inference is clear) unless you somehow went under their radar but completely blew them away on pre test day. They will slot you into a gap created by someone who was on the HM's list but disappointed on pre test day.

Now they have introduced ISEB I'm not sure wether this comes before or after the first interview, but it would make a 4th layer, unless they've scrapped the first interview..I don't know.

Its very hard to explaining it all in writing, because there's a lot of unspoken stuff going on in the background and you have to read between the lines,like the form that says, you don't have to state your preference, but then you find out it would have been wise to do so. This is my only gripe with the school. Otherwise it's a fantastic school!

Any by the way, at that first interview, be aware that parents sit in on it too, not just the boy. At least Radley make that very clear.

Please feel free to PM if you want to.

Charlie19 Fri 25-Mar-16 11:22:14

It seems a very complicated system to run. It is misleading for parents. Some people we know never chose any houses and were written to with a choice of 3 houses to visit. Others had chosen houses from information on the website. It is difficult when there is no system to visit houses before registering to be able to make an informed choice to select a preference. When you choose you have no idea of knowing if the HM will be someone your family and child will like. This is why they say you do not have to choose any. The HM then look at the details to see who they like on paper.

HM seem to have to much power which I am sure will lead to Houses having a certain type of boy even if they try to choose a variety of qualities.

I do not envy admissions job at all. They could be left with strong applicants without a house choice and weaker applicants with a house choice later failing the pre test? I would be interested to know if the weaker candidate looses his place or if a HM can have the power to take that weaker candidate over and above one who has had an exceptional result but with no house choice confirmed?

Winchester make all their houses available to visit before you register. At the time it seemed very early but in the end a choice was made and everything ran very smoothly.

Eton as someone said above at least you have a place when you are choosing a House.

Tonbridge simply test and interview by various teachers all on the same day. A very pleasant experience. No HM involvement whatsoever! Get through that experience admissions invite you to visit 3 houses of your choice you list your preferences and admissions place the boys in the houses. HM has no choice or input at all. HM just get on with their jobs with the boys that they are allocated. Now that is an easy system and fair to everyone.

Interesting that those in the school also did not find the admission to Harrow pleasant. May I ask were you happy with the House and HM in the end?

happygardening Fri 25-Mar-16 12:51:30

I'm not sure what the best system is for choosing an HM. Harrow's seems frankly confusing and ridiculous, another reason I'm glad we didn't even consider it, I take this sort of thing as a general indication of their approach to both boys and parents in general.
I can see Tonbridge's on paper seems the fairest but knowing how important an HM is I'm glad we were able to choose ours and also that he was able to choose the 12 boys who he felt would all fit in to his house. I would have hated to have had to put a 1st 2nd and 3 rd choice, if you get your 3rd choice and you have some sort of problem or you or your DC dint get on with them are you always going to wonder of it could have been better handled if you got your first choice? Some schools I know don't give parents a choice this is your HM end of story. I think I would also have felt uncomfortable that at HM's were also stating if my DS was their 1st 2nd or 3rd choice.
"HM seem to have to much power which I am sure will lead to Houses having a certain type of boy even if they try to choose a variety of qualities."
Of course at Winchester the HMs have lots of power and can reject a boy because they feel he's not suitable for their house, I guess its inevitable that each HM will look for a certain type or maybe they try to get a balance. I remember joking to one parents on the day they started that it looked like our HM had chosen 2 very tall ones, two very short ones, 2 average height ones, two from abroad etc a balanced cross section of the population!

Whycantweallgetalong Fri 25-Mar-16 15:05:21

Houses at Harrow have very strong personalities. You have the sporty houses, the very musical/arty houses, they even have an 'international house'.They do have international students in all houses, however this particular house seems to have an unusual large proportion. Quite often you will be steered away from a very sporty house if the boy is not sporty.
I remember lobbying to get ds1 to see an HM years ago, the HM asked our prep head bluntly, 'Can you assure me, he is in the top teams for rugby and football? Because if he isn't I don't want to see him'.

But to be fair it's a heavily oversubscribed school and I think this is the reason for this madness.

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