Harris Westminster Sixth Form

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Harris Westminster Sixth Form
Fair use logo Harris Westminster Sixth Form.png
Steel House Entrance.jpg
Harris Westminster Sixth Form main entrance
11 Tothill Street


TypeSixth form
Free school
MottoAmbition. Perseverance. Legacy.
FounderHarris Federation
Westminster School
Department for Education URN140939 Tables
PrincipalJames Handscombe[1]
Staff45 (teaching) 10 (support)
Age16 to 18
HousesSomerville; Turing; Garrett; Equiano (Formerly Wilberforce)
Colour(s)Grey and Red
PublicationThe Rose

Harris Westminster Sixth Form (also known as Harris Westminster or HWSF) is a selective mixed sixth form in central London which was established with the goal of increasing the rate of entry to top universities among students from areas of socio-economic deprivation.[2] Its aim is to "combine the strengths of Westminster School in teaching academically able students with the Harris Federation’s experience in establishing and running outstanding maintained sector schools across London". The Harris Westminster building was bought by the government for £45 million in order to create the school.[3]


The school was formed from an agreement in 2013 between Harris Federation and Westminster School. It aimed to take on 125 pupils in September 2014, reaching an enrollment of 250 the following year.[1] 167 pupils were offered places in the first year, almost 30% of whom were entitled to free school meals.[2] In 2017 a collection of assemblies from the school's first three years was published.[4]


The school is located at 11 Tothill St in Steel House, a former Ministry of Justice building built in 1936,[5] within walking distance of Westminster School, Westminster Abbey and St Margaret's Church on Parliament Square, where its assemblies are usually held.


The 8 storey uninspiring building was converted by Nicholas Hare Architects. The street level ground floor is devoid of natural light while the seventh floor has magnificent views over the rooftops of the historic buildings of Westminster. Hare's solution was to maintain a central lift column, with toilets and associated services, on the dark side. The ground floor became a hall and the classrooms are on the subsequent floors either facing Tothill street or the alley behind. The seventh floor was renovated for the cafeteria.[6]

Building Layout
Floor Subject Notable Rooms
G None Library, Hall
1 Maths Map Room/Meetings Room
2 Chemistry Room 20 & Room 22
3 Biology
4 Physics
5 English/Humanities
6 Music rooms Student Support, Student Study Area
7 Art Cafeteria
8 Politics/Philosophy William Blake Reading Room

The building had been designed in 1936 by Sir John Burnett, Tait and Lorne. The original portland stone façade is adorned with stone figures of Greek gods, Vulcan, God of Fire, Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders and Hercules stealing the golden Apples of Immortality.


Harris Westminster Sixth Form offers a mixed curriculum, consisting of both A Level and Cambridge Pre-U subjects. The Cambridge Pre-U is offered in Languages, English Literature, PTE and Art History. Subjects with the smallest uptakes (presently German, Drama & Theatre, Music and Classical Languages) are studied at Westminster School. Year 12 students also take part in 'Cultural Perspectives' courses, which aim to develop cultural capital and to broaden the curriculum. [7]

Extracurricular activities[edit]

Currently, the school also runs weekly compulsory societies in every subject studied at A-Level or Pre-U and societies for prospective Law and Medicine students. On a Thursday afternoon, the school takes part in sports at sites across London or other activities such as Bridge and Debating. The school runs an annual House Cup competition made up of a wide range of competitive activities (19 in 2019/20). These include House football, netball and University Challenge.[8]

Examination performance and recognition[edit]

In its first year of AS Level results, 30% of overall grades were 'A', with the highest achieving departments being Mathematics and Geography at 40% 'A' grades. In its first year of A2 Level results, over 40% of results were A/A* and 25% of their students achieved at least 3 A grades with 50% taking up places at Russell Group universities and six at Oxford or Cambridge. In 2018, 47% of the A-level grades were A/A* (or equivalent), including 17% A* grades (or equivalent). Just under a half of the students attained at least an AAB combination of grades, while a quarter achieved A*AA or better. This marked the best examination performance in the school's history.[9] In 2019, the school received 37 Oxbridge offers, bettering the record of many renowned private schools.[10]

In 2016, the school was investigated by Ofsted and consequently rated "outstanding" in all areas.[11]

In 2019, it was highlighted by the Good Schools Guide as an example of an effective partnership between state and private schools.[12]

Also in 2019, it was named "Sixth Form College of the Year" by The Sunday Times with the Oxbridge success and support for disadvantaged students noted.[13]

In 2020 the partnership between Harris Westminster and Westminster School was recognised with the "Independent-State School Partnership Award" in the TES Independent School awards.[14]


  1. ^ a b Macquarie, Rob (25 October 2013). "'Oxbridge' academy set up". Cherwell.
  2. ^ a b Hurst, Greg (26 March 2014). "Pupils queue up for a place at 'hothouse' state school". The Times. Archived from the original (pdf) on 26 March 2014. Alt URL
  3. ^ "Michael Gove under fire for 'outrageous' £45million spend on free". Evening Standard. 29 March 2014. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  4. ^ "As I stand here this morning". Harris Westminster Sixth Form. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  5. ^ "Steel House". Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  6. ^ Architects, Nicholas Hare. "Harris Westminster Sixth Form Academy - Projects". Nicholas Hare Architects. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  7. ^ "Cultural Perspectives - Harris Westminster Sixth Form". www.harriswestminstersixthform.org.uk. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  8. ^ "Societies". www.harriswestminstersixthform.org.uk. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  9. ^ "HW results 2018". Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  10. ^ "Oxbridge offers 2019". The Times. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  11. ^ "Ofsted report". Ofsted. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  12. ^ "Good Schools guide". Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  13. ^ Leonard, Sue. "Sixth Form College of the Year". The Times. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  14. ^ "TES Independent Schools Awards 2020". TES. Retrieved 7 March 2020.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°29′59″N 0°07′52″W / 51.4996°N 0.1310°W / 51.4996; -0.1310