The Public school (UK) reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Public school (UK)

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A public school, in common British usage, is a school which is usually prestigious and historic, which charges fees, does not arbitrarily restrict admissions, and is financed by bodies other than the state, commonly as a private charitable trust. Often but not always they are boarding schools.

(The British usage is in direct opposition to what any foreign English speaker would expect. For the US usage of the term, see public school.)

Many of the independent schools in the UK do not refer to themselves as public schools. Many choose to use the term independent school. In part this is due to a sense that some 'minor' public schools have many of the social associations and traditions of public schools but without the quality of teaching and extracurricular activities.

The term 'public' (first adopted by Eton) refers to the fact that the school is open to the paying public, as opposed to, a religious school open only to members of a certain church, and in contrast to private education at home (usually only practical for the very wealthy who could afford tutors).

Public schools played an important role in the development of the Victorian social elite. Under a number of forward-looking headmasters leading public schools developed a curriculum based heavily on classics and physical activity for boys and young men of the upper and upper middle classes. They were schools for the gentlemanly elite of Victorian politics, armed forces and colonial government. Often successful businessmen would send their sons to public school as a mark of participation in the elite.

Public schools often relied heavily on the maintenance of discipline by older boys, both to reduce staffing costs and as preparation for military or public service.

While under under the best circumstances the Victorian public schools were superb examples of education, the reliance on corporal punishment and the prefect system could also make them awful. The classics-based curriculum was criticised for not providing skills in sciences or engineering.

The public school system influenced the school systems of the British empire to an extent. Recognisably 'public' schools can be found in many Commonwealth countries.

Today most public schools are highly selective on academic grounds, as well as financial grounds (ability to pay high fees) and social grounds (often a family connection to the school is very desirable in admissions).

Prior to the Clarendon Commission, a Royal Commission that investigated the public school system in England between 1861 and 1864, there was no clear definition of a public school. The commission investigated nine of the more established schools: the day schools (St Paul's and the Merchant Taylors') and seven boarding schools (Charterhouse, Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Shrewsbury, Westminster and Winchester). A report published by the commission formed the basis of the 1868 Public Schools Act.

The Public Schools Yearbook, published in 1889, named the following 25 boarding schools:

However, it omitted the Merchant Taylors' and St Paul's day schools.

Amongst the oldest independent schools in the UK are (chronologically):

For a full list of independent/public schools in Britain see List of UK Independent Schools.

The head teachers of major British independent schools usually belong to the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), as distinct from the Secondary Heads' Association, and it is generally considered that any school that is a member of HMC is entitled to call itself a Public School.

In British usage, a government-run school (which would be called a 'public school' in other areas, such as the United States) is called a state school.

Slang peculiar to or originating from public schools

The following list includes some commonly used slang terms, and some historic slang, used at public schools in the UK:

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Term Meaning Specificity

ABROAD Out of the sick room. Winchester

BAD EGG A nasty and unpleasant person. -

BEARDS! An exclamation of surprise. The Leys

BEDDER A bedmaker and cleaner. Also used in Cambridge University

BIBBLING Six strokes of the cane Winchester

BRUSHING Flogging. Christ's Hospital

CHEESE A dandy. Cambridge

CHINNER Wide grin Winchester

CLIPE To tell tales. -

COXY Conceited -

EXECUTION Flogging by the Head Master with a birchrod. Eton

FAG A junior boy who acts as servant for a sixth-former. -

GOD A prefect or sixth former. Eton

GOOD EGG A trustworthy or reliable person (later inversion of BAD EGG). -

MAJOR Such as Smith Major, the elder brother. -

MAXIMUS Such as Smith Maximus, the eldest brother (of three or more). -

MINIMUS Such as Smith Minimus, the youngest brother (of three or more). -

MINOR Such as Smith Minor, the younger brother. -

MUZZ To read. Westminster

NEWBIE New boy; now a general term. -

PEPPER To fill in the accents on a Greek exercise. -

PLEB A junior boy. -

QUILL To flatter. Winchester

RAG RAG WEEK where sponsored 'misdemeanours' are common. Also used at some universities

SAPPY Severe flogging. -

TITCHING caning Christ's Hospital

See also