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Public Schools

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Public Schools

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Public Schools

The world of the English public school has long had a hold on the popular imagination. Whether it is through Billy Bunter or Mr Chips, Lindsay Anderson’s If… or Julian Mitchell’s Another Country, we are anxious to get an inside look at the rituals, codes and special slang of these ancient institutions. They include Winchester College (founded in 1382), Eton (1440), Rugby (1567) and Harrow (1572), as well as more venerable establishments such as St Peter's, York, founded as long ago as AD627.

The term “public school” simply means an independently funded secondary school and part of one of the public school associations. They are chiefly boarding schools, arranged into houses and run by a rigid hierarchy headed by the masters and prefects. The public school system was greatly expanded in the nineteenth century, when it was considered the breeding-ground for the future ruling classes, whether at home or abroad in Britain’s Empire. The ideals and traditions of these schools have been envied, admired and emulated all over the world, even while their aura of elitism has been criticised.

Hurstpierpoint College Photo: Derick Bostridge


Your comments

A quintessential part of the English educational system, and an important part of English character, with many people defining themselves and others by their attendance at one of these institutions. From the perspective of a former state school pupil, they also bear the near-unique distinction of being an educational institution which works, rather than simply being the expression of lofty ambitions.

John Scott

Their former pupils have influenced much of the important past, present and future of English political, artistic, military and religious life. They are also rich in tradition and history
Gerald Bryan

Admired or admonished, there's no denying the inherent Englishness of the Public School system.
Jeremy Crawford

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My favourite Icon of England has to be the Cornish Pasty.

Ian Baldry