The Harrow School – privilege and high expectations

Another remarkable day, this one focused on a more leisurely visit to The Harrow School. With the Roundtable’s coach trapped in Harrow’s narrow streets, the delegation walked the last quarter mile to the school to be warmly greeted by Headmaster Jim Hawkins in Form 4 of the “Old School,” site of Dumbledore’s classroom in the Harry Potter movies. Engraved on Form 4’s walls are the names of generations of Harrow students, who include such luminaries as Winston Churchill, Nehru, and King Hussein of Jordan.

Harrow, is widely considered to be one of the finest secondary schools in the world. Like its rival Eton, it is an independent, boarding school for boys; it was founded under a royal charter from Elizabeth I in 1572. It enrolls 800-900 boys, all of whom board full time. Graduates are known as “Old Harrovians.” Basic annual costs at Harrow run to approximately $45,000 annually for room, board, tuition, and fees. It enrolls students who are highly privileged and very ambitious, although a bursary (scholarship) program funds the enrollment of exceptional students from distressed backgrounds.

Harrow has a rich history and tradition. Harrow’s line of famous graduates includes eight Prime Ministers, foreign statesmen, Members of Parliament, several kings and members of various royal families, and notable figures in the arts and sciences, including George Lord Byron, the Romantic poet and hero who swam the Hellespont and wrote “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” and “Don Juan,” while starring himself in the latter role.

School leaders were extraordinarily generous in their treatment of the visiting Roundtable delegation. Headmaster Jim Hawkins took the time to greet us. Old Harrovian Dale Vargas (a former housemaster at the school) led us on a fascinating historical tour. And Jesse Elzinga (director of studies) and Nick Paige (head of modern languages) hosted us at lunch and patiently answered our questions about the many facets of Harrow that make it  unique and successful. Elzinga agreed that, assuming a high degree of selectivity beginning two years before enrollment, key features at Harrow included high expectations, individualized support for students, and a genuine sense of community within the school.

Class sizes are normally limited to 15 students and more advanced classes (say in the third year of a language) typically enroll eight.

Headmaster Jim Hawkins greets Roundtable in "Fourth Form" room, site of filming for Harry Potter movies

The twin towers of the Old School

Generations of students have carved their names into the wood on the walls of the Fourth Form at Harrow

Harrow boys are required to wear official uniform, including straw boaters, when walking the streets of town

Old Harrovian Dale Vargas delights in the history of his school. Here he shows Roundtable visitors the school chapel

The great hall into which the entire student body can be crammed for performances of Shakespeare and annual renderings of the "Churchill Songs," a tradition dating back to 1941 when Winston Churchill returned to Harrow to enjoy the old school songs

Jesse Elzinga (director of studies) and Nick Paige (head of modern languages) greet James Harvey and Paul Ash

Lunch in the faculty dining room

James Harvey extends the Roundtable's appreciation for Harrow's generous hospitality to Nick Paige





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