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Public school (UK)

A public school, in common British and Irish usage, is a school that charges fees and is financed by bodies other than the state, commonly as a private charitable trust. (For the US usage of the term, see public school.)

Whether the term public school can be applied to all of the several thousand independent schools in the UK is a matter for debate. Whilst some schools openly declare themselves to be public schools, (possibly to attract foreign students), others prefer to be called independent schools.

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

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):

The head teachers of British independent schools usually belong to the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) as distinct from the Secondary Heads' Association.

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 used at public schools in the UK:

See also