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Harrow School online – your prayers answered?

Combining Harrow's heritage with leading online tech, Harrow School Online offers co-ed learning for ages 16-18. We spoke to the new head for the full lowdown.

Harrow Online principal Heather Rhodes

If you thought online schools were a Covid flash-in-the-pan, the entry of Harrow School – yes, the Harrow – into the space is suggesting very much otherwise. One term into her new role, principal Heather Rhodes talks academics, self-starters and the future of learning. Break out rooms at the ready, let’s go!

Harrow School Online – a timely concept for difficult times?

We’ve been planning this online school for some years in association with Pearson Education – nothing this big could get off the ground this quickly! The idea had been to teach a two year A-level syllabus to international students but with the pandemic and the academic fallout it’s actually UK student who make up 40% of our current admissions.

So you’re only teaching A-level students?

Yes, across Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Economics or Spanish and a combined Maths/Further Maths course, plus the Extended Project Qualification for those interested. I’d like to expand into other subjects, including Humanities, Computer Science and English and the plan is, in time, to run a GSCE programme for 14-16 year olds.

Does the UK need another online school?

We think we are offering a first – a full academic offering with the same high entry requirements and expectations as Harrow School. Our Heads of Faculty at Harrow School have been heavily involved in staff selection and also sit in on classes for quality assurance checks, and to join your child would be expected to reach 7-9 or A-A* in at least 7 subjects at GSCE.

Young man wearing headphone looking laptop

Whoa, sounds competitive. What kind of kids will suit Harrow School online?

Online schools offer flexibility so by nature suit elite athletes, those who want a British education but are perhaps overseas or who don’t fit the current school system. The children we teach are ambitious, intelligent, self-motivated and want to make the most of their education – we teach in capped classes of 10 maximum, and the intention is that these children will go onto Oxbridge and Russell Group universities, or other top universities worldwide.

What do you say to parents who worry about lack of socialisation at online schools?

This side of education is really important to us and I think parents would be surprised about how much like a ‘normal’ school we are – we have assemblies, we have Houses and interhouse competitions, and socialising in the real world is part of our curriculum. The children have to participate in local clubs or charities, and we also check they do physical sport – it’s logged and verified by a trusted adult. Obviously in small classes like ours the children get to know each other quickly, and with break out rooms and shared projects it’s amazing how they quickly build friendships. The idea of lonely students sitting at home all day just isn’t the case and though we’re first in this academically driven online space, I don’t think we’ll be the last. A more flexible, online learning is definitely the future.

Young woman at home working on her laptop

Will the students ever get to meet each other?

Every summer there’s a two week Summer Course at Harrow School that Harrow Online students are invited to – it’s more about activities, excursions and having fun than academics and it’s a great chance for the students to get to know each other in the real world. With students from 16 different countries, they won’t all make it, but we think many will. Certainly it’s a brilliant ready-made global network of friends for pupils once they leave.

How much does it cost – should I start selling a kidney?

No, please don’t! Less expensive than most independent day school fees! Full time enrolment is £5,250 per term and there are 100% means-tested bursaries and scholarships available if that’s a path you want to pursue.

Tempted to know more? See info about Harrow Online School’s upcoming Open Events.

Harrow School Online. Tel: 020 3024 4861. Email: admissions@harrowschoolonline.org.

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