Left scratching your head about the difference between public school, private school and independent school? And where on earth prep schools and boarding schools fit into the picture? Fear not – our at a glance guide will set you straight:
Historically, the most exclusive – and expensive – of boys’ private (mainly boarding) schools, eg Eton, Harrow and Winchester. Formerly the realm of the upper classes, who are now (with fees topping £30K) Now often co-ed, attended by boys and girls aged 13 to 18.
Schools with facilities for pupils to have a home from home on a termly, often offering superb facilities and a multitude of extracurricular activities. NB most now include a large proportion of day pupils. If you live overseas you will need to appoint a Guardian for your child when the school is closed and to provide a range of services supporting your child.
Independent schools and private schools
Essentially the same thing, ranging from grand public schools and highly selective day schools to tiny local ones and everything in between. The common denominator is that they have no state funding but rely on tuition fees, gifts and endowments.
Prep and pre-prep schools
Preparatory/pre-preparatory schools – essentially independent primary schools for children aged 3 to 7/8 (pre-preps), or aged 7 to 11/13 (preps). They prepare pupils for entry to mainly independent secondary schools of all types.
Independent schools, public schools and private schools are essentially the same thing and have history to blame for their different and confusing range of names. Their common denominator is that they all charge fees.
Independent schools range from the glorious and great to tiny schools run by parents who want a particular kind of education for their children. They have no state funding; instead they rely on tuition fees, gifts and endowments.
What is a public school?
In the UK, ‘public school’ is now a somewhat archaic term for the oldest, most exclusive and expensive of the boys’ independent secondary boarding schools (some are now at least partly co-educational). The Public Schools Act 1868 gave the following schools independence from the Crown, the established church or the government in favour of management by a board of governors:
Charterhouse, Eton College, Winchester College, Harrow School, Rugby School, Shrewsbury School, and Westminster.
The term ‘public school’ is gradually being abandoned in favour of ‘independent school’. All of the original public schools are still considered top schools (now joined by a number of other leading schools) and all are reviewed by The Good Schools Guide (subscribers should log-in to read the reviews). Some remain all boys schools but many now take girls either in the sixth-form or throughout the school.
Is there a difference between public schools and independent schools?
Public schools are independent schools but not all independent schools are public schools. (Just to confuse matters, public schools in many countries outside England are actually state schools).
In the UK independent schools – as well as being fee paying – are ‘independent’ because of their freedom to operate, to a considerable extent, outside government regulations, though they have, of course, to conform to official standards of education, health and safety etc, are regularly inspected and prepare pupils for the same public exams as state schools.
Are the best independent schools the ones with the greatest names?
Not necessarily; undoubtedly many of the great names remain leaders within the world of education, but the best school is the one that best suits your child. This might be the grandest and greatest of the traditional public schools, or the local Independent school that goes the extra mile to help your child achieve their potential.