It owes its name to its foundation by the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers (one of the livery companies) through the agency of Robert Aske. The school adopted the motto of the company, "Serve and Obey".
The other part moved to a site in Hampstead, in North London, becoming a direct grant school after the passing of the Education Act 1944. Its formal name was the Haberdashers' Aske's Hampstead School, generally known as Haberdashers'. In 1961, this school moved to its present site at Elstree, initially taking the name Haberdashers' Aske's School Elstree. When the Labour government of 1964-70 withdrew the direct grant arrangements, it became fully fee-paying.
Recently, a number of buildings on the Elstree campus have been opened, including the new Aske Building (2004), a multi-million pound science and geography complex, and the Bourne Building, a series of classics, information technology and history classrooms. The Bourne Building also features at its focus a large assembly hall, inherited from the building that stood there previously. This hall is home to a fine pipe organ, built in 1897 by the famous London firm of Henry Willis & Sons for Hove Town Hall and brought to Elstree in 1962. The instrument retains its original specification of thirty-six stops on four manuals and pedals and is currently maintained by the Willis firm. A full development scheme has been initiated and over a period of time, the school will be re-built in order to keep up with the changing world. As part of this, the school will be based around two main quadrangles.
Perhaps because of the association of haberdashery and the Jewish community (as well as its location in North-West London), the school is popular with Jewish parents, as the list of old boys shows. The school also has a high proportion of Asian pupils.
For a more detailed account of the school's history, see the relevant section in Cockburn et al (1969), referred to below; or a John Wigley's official history of the school, 'Serve and Obey'.
Entry to the school is via a competitive examination set by the school (not the Common Entrance Paper) at either 11+ or 13+ (with entry into the Preparatory school at 4+, 5+, or 7+). As in the past, it has achieved consistently high levels of academic achievement, last year almost 87% of GCSE papers were marked at A* and 90% were marked A* or A. At A-Level over 92% of papers were graded A , and the pupils have been continuously successful in obtaining places at Oxbridge, 43 for 2005 entry, 40 for 2006, and 36 for 2007; making the Girls and Boys schools ninth and nineteenth in the country respectively. The school has been under-represented in national League Tables however, because students take IGCSE papers which are uncounted in Government League Tables and because the school usually limits pupils to taking only three A-Level subjects.Many student have gone to cambridge oxfor harvard MITand the others in the IV league Haberdashers' Aske's received a glowing Inspection report in the autumn of 2005, praised for both its academic achievement and for its extracurricular opportunities and Pastoral Care.
Despite extensive redevelopment however, the school retains strong links with the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers', members of which sit on the School's governing body. Every year a deputation from this ancient Livery company inspects the school and hands out St. John's bibles to every boy in the first year. There are also many visits to the new Haberdashers' Hall.
The school itself contains a vibrant and involved community. Many societies are run within the school by pupils with the support of the teachers. These include school magazines ("Skylark", "Scribe", "Scope", "Timeline" and "The Key"), a school newspaper ("The Habs Bugle"), and religious groups ("J-soc" (Jewish Society), "Islamic Society" and "Christian Union") but other non-literary societies also flourish within the school such as an Amnesty International group, the Politics, Science and Economics Societies which invite outside speakers, Food Society, Film society, Debating Society, Model United Nations Society, Chess Club, Classics Society, Bridge Club, Russian Club, Philosophy Club, J-Soc, Christian Union and Radical Society (A society that invites and debates with speakers with a background in the far-left of politics), a Ukulele Orchestra and many others, although the societies list change term to term as boys create new clubs. The school holds an annual MENCAP Funday and an annual Senior Citizens' Tea Party.
The School also nominates a School Charity annually (and multiple House Charities) to which money raised is to be sent. Recent School Charities have included WaterAid (2004) and Otjikondo School (2005) and charitable events have ranged from cake sales to 'Battle of the Bands' to 'The Russels Ironman Challenge (recently renamed "Mr. Hardman's Atlantic Challenge")' to 'Staff Charity Blind Date'.
Music is also a very popular activity within the school (over half of Boys play at least one instrument), with three orchestras, numerous bands and many more smaller groups. Sport is also a major activity at the school, with a plethora of different teams and a wide array of sports, ranging from Cricket to Rugby Fives and Squash.
Haberdashers' has been successful in the past few years in both National and International competitions. Sports teams have triumphed in football competitions and proceeded very far into the Daily-Mail Rugby Cup.The Cricket 1st XI were one of only four school teams to be undefeated in the 2006 season. HABS teams have won many bridge competitions. HABS is regarded as one of, if not the top Model United Nations school in the UK, with delegations winning top prizes at every conference attended. Debating is a tour de force at HABS with the school having won the School's Mace competition, having coached the England Captain and Worlds Best Debater (Jamie Susskind) and with the school completed the debating quadruple (Durham,Oxford,Cambridge and Bristol) for the first time in schools history.Habs also came runners up in the Bank of England Base Rate Competition, Target 2.0, both in 2006 and again in 2007. A Habs team has reached the final of the Ogden business competition 2007, and is down to the last eight teams in the country this year.
The school offers for students in year 10 and above a choice of either the 'School Community Service' (SCS) or the 'Combined Cadet Force'(CCF). The SCS allows students to take an active role in helping out at the school or indeed external locations, where students volunteer on a weekly basis. The CCF comprises of the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force sections, all of which teach leadership skills, as well as an extensive variety of other skills and qualifications, such as a BTEC diploma in Public Services. The corps takes cadets on a field day each term to take part in activities that are specific to their section (e.g. the RAF section typically go flying). The current contingent commander is Mjr. N.P. Saddington (History department).
The school is divided by Year group with the Prep school consisting of years 1-6, the Lower school 7-9, the Middle school 10-11, and the Sixth Form for years 12-13.
The school is based around a House structure; several shields are awarded by the Headmaster at the end of the academic year for competition between the Houses (Junior Work and Conduct, Senior Work and Conduct, The Crossman Shield, awarded for success in inter-house sporting competitions, and the Dunton Shield, awarded to the house with the highest number of points in all three categories combined). The six houses are named after the original housemasters: Calverts, Hendersons, Joblings, Meadows, Russells and Strouts. In the first two years of schooling, boys are placed in forms according to their House and all lessons are with members of the formgroup; later in the school, the Houses are mixed as classes follow ability streams. The formgroups, however, are dependent upon House throughout the school.
Throughout the Year there are numerous Inter-House events including both sporting and non-sporting competitions (Such as Inter-House Debating, Chess or Inter-House Bridge). It is hoped that every boy will be able to represent their house in at least one activity.
The school holds various charity events and selects two school charities per annum. End of year totals end up in the thousands of pounds. In addition, each of the six houses selects a house charity that can last for longer than a year. For example, Russells House raised over £20,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust between 2003 and 2007.
Every year, the school holds a "MENCAP Funday" which involves the school being transformed into a fun park for disabled children and their siblings. The students from the fourth year upwards pair up or form groups to take visiting children to events set up by teachers and students from both the boys' school and the girls' school. Events include computer games, a candyfloss machine, bouncy castles, football, swimming and a petting zoo.
A recent ISI report of Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School praised the school for its teaching, facilities and extra curricular activities. The inspection lasted 1 school week (5 days) and viewed all aspects of school life. The report can be found at ISI Online Report
The school was ranked at 24 by The Sunday Times in their 2006 Parent Power feature on the best independent schools, down from 18 in the previous year. According to the Times rankings, Habs came 20th (out of 1150 schools) in GCSE rankings and 72nd (out of 939) at A level , though this is largely because most boys at Habs only took three A-levels, and so received a lower total score than other comparable schools. In the same year The Telegraph placed Habs in 44th place based on A and AS level results , and 24th (out of 2703) in their full list ranked by average score per A-level entry