Public Schools in the United Kingdom

public school in England and Wales is an older, student selective and expensive fee-paying independent secondary school which caters primarily for children aged between 11 or 13 and 18. The term "public" should not be misunderstood to mean that these are public sector schools: they are in fact private sector. Traditionally, public schools were all-male boarding schools, although most now allow day pupils, and many have become either partially or fully co-educational. Scotland, having had a state-funded education system for roughly 300 years prior to England, uses the term in a different sense than its use in England, as a school administered by the local government to serve the children of that area.

Public schools emerged from charity schools established to educate poor scholars, the term "public" being used to indicate that access to them was not restricted on the basis of religion, occupation, or home location, and that they were subject to public management or control, in contrast to private schools which were run for the personal profit of the proprietors.

Soon after the Clarendon Commission reported in 1864, the Public Schools Act 1868 gave the following seven schools independence from direct jurisdiction or responsibility of the Crown, the established church, or the government: Charterhouse, Eton College, Harrow School, Rugby School, Shrewsbury School, Westminster School, and Winchester College. Henceforth each of these schools was to be managed by a board of governors. The following year, the headmaster of Uppingham School invited sixty to seventy of his fellow headmasters to form what became the Headmasters' Conference--later the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC). Separate preparatory schools (or "prep schools") developed from the 1830s, which "prepared" younger boys for entry to the senior schools; as a result the latter began limiting entry to boys who had reached 12 or 13 years of age.
Public schools have had a strong association with the ruling classes. Historically they educated the sons of the English upper and upper-middle classes. In particular, the sons of officers and senior administrators of the British Empire were educated in England while their parents were on overseas postings. In 2010, over half of Cabinet Ministers had been educated at public schools; by contrast, however, most prime ministers since 1964 were educated at state schools. In 2014, annual fees at Canford School and Eton College were more than £33,000 for boarders. However, fees at day schools in Greater London, such as Hampton School and University College School, were only around half that figure, whilst day fees at boarding schools across England, from Plymouth College to Dulwich College, Stamford School, Kent College and Durham School, were also considerably lower.