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Tall Ships Challenge: a Lower Sixth initiative by Harrow School working with Harrow Carers and young people known to the Youth Justice System

The project seeks to involve Harrow School boys in work with Harrow Carers and young people known to the Youth Justice System. Close association with Harrow Carers and the Harrow YOT over the preceding six months made it possible to take eight young people on a week-long sailing expedition across the English Channel in July each year. Chartering two 22m yachts from the Tall Ships Youth Trust provided an opportunity for competition, teamwork and the development of individual skills and self-confidence for both groups of young people.


The aim of the partnership is take three diverse groups of young people from their respective comfort zones to be involved in an activity that provides a level playing field and from which both might benefit.

Although a few of the Harrow School boys might have sailed before, none will have been on a yacht as big as 22m and it is unlikely that any will have undertaken a cross-channel voyage overnight by sail, nor one  lasting 12 hours.  This provides an appreciable challenge for them.

For many of the young people known to the Youth Justice System, a day away from the Borough is unusual, none will have been involved in water sports to any great extent and being away overnight is a novelty.

There are many factors that are critical to the success of a partnership such as this: firstly, an enthusiastic group of Harrow School boys prepared to commit to raising the necessary funds, to giving up their time during the year and a week of the summer holidays to spend time with people they do not know in a challenging situation; secondly, a good working relationship between Harrow School, Harrow Carers and the Harrow YOT that permits understanding of the aims and objectives of the project from the point of view of both bodies; thirdly, sourcing a provider such as the Tall Ships Youth Trust, which is well used to running voyages for young people from all backgrounds.     




Harrow School is involved in many different philanthropic activities through Shaftesbury Enterprise but has not worked with youth offenders for a considerable time. The opportunity for such involvement was offered to Year 12 boys in November 2014 and 19 boys responded to the invitation to meet and discuss possible activities. It was agreed that a residential activity, in which both Harrow School boys and young people from the Borough faced new situations, would be best. The Harrow YOT Board gave their go-ahead in January 2015 and planning began.    


The Harrow School boys were set the challenge of raising the money necessary to fund the trip for ten schoolboys, ten young people, two social workers and two Harrow teachers to sail with the Tall Ships Youth Trust for a week in July. This sum is raised in a variety of ways: a concert at Harrow; entry to a Tough Mudder competition; cycling from London to Edinburgh; and gardening for family and friends. Harrow School Combined Cadet Force provided fleeces, sleeping bags and jerseys. All participants were supplied with sailing boots.  


It is recognised that the planning and preparation before and monitoring of the young people during the voyage placed unusual demands on the Harrow YOT. The Harrow School boys contributed hugely to the enterprise while on board and valued the experience, both of sailing and spending time with the young people. Feedback from the young people has been positive, but more will come out in discussion in the next few weeks and months. 

Pupil Involvement

Harrow provided ten boys from Year 12 and three members of the teaching staff.


Initially, the Tall Ships Challenge was planned as a one-off project for July 2015, but the success of the boys in raising the funds and their enthusiasm for working with the young people known to the Youth Justice System, together with the value put on the project by the Harrow YOT, has led to the development of a healthy partnership. Harrow Carers have joined the project and also invite their young people to take part.