Tuesday, February 19, 2008
An independent school in the United Kingdom is a school relying, for all of its funding, upon private sources, so almost invariably charging school fees. In England and Wales the term public school is often used for independent secondary schools, and the term private school for independent preparatory schools.
Some independent schools, particularly the more traditional institutions, also have charitable status, which has the effect of giving them a subsidy.
There are more than 2,500 independent schools in the UK, educating some 615,000 children.
Most of the elite independent schools are either full or partial boarding schools, thus, to a substantial degree, a 'public school' education and the associated ethos, rather than mere financial status, remain defining characteristics of the upper- and professional middle classes.
Independent schools in England
Independent schools in Scotland educate about 31,000 children. Although many of the Scottish independent schools are members of the ISC they are also represented by the Scottish Independent Schools Council, which is the body recognised by the Scottish Parliament as the body representing independent schools in Scotland. Unlike England all Scottish independent schools are subject to the same regime of inspections by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education as local authority schools and they have to register with the Scottish Executive Education Department.
Most of Scotland's independent schools are in Edinburgh or Glasgow. However, notable schools in the country include Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen, Dollar Academy in Clackmannanshire, Glenalmond College in Perth and Kinross and Gordonstoun in Elgin.
Independent schools in Scotland
Independent schools are entirely free to select their own pupils (subject to the general legislation against various forms of discrimination). Nowadays most schools pay little regard to family connections, apart from siblings currently at the school. Although some credit may be given for musical or sporting promise, the principal forms of selection are academic and financial (parents' ability to pay the high fees and costs, up to £27,500 per annum for boarding pupils). Some parents make immense sacrifices to be able to send their children to these schools, because the education is seen by them to be academically beneficial (in terms of examination league tables), and to offer cultural, social and professional advantages, as well as a wide range of sporting, musical and artistic facilities.
Many (but by no means all) independent schools are highly selective on academic grounds, using the competitive Common Entrance examinations at ages 11-13. Scholarships are offered to attract bright pupils, sometimes approaching GCSE standard. Means-tested bursaries (scholarships) to assist the education of the less well-off, a mission which may form the historic basis of the school, are usually awarded on a competitive basis but perhaps taking more factors into account. Subsequently, there will usually be fully streamed teaching for all pupils, and regular internal examinations. Facilities for dyslexia or for gifted children are common, but other special needs may only be accommodated at the school's discretion.
Independent schools, as compared with state schools, are generally characterised by lower pupil-teacher ratios and more individual teaching; longer teaching hours (sometimes including Saturday morning teaching), though shorter terms; more time for organised sports; a broader view of education than that prescribed by the national curriculum, to which state school education is in practice limited; more emphasis on individual achievement, whether academic, sporting, musical, dramatic or artistic, or otherwise; more availability of traditional academic subjects such as classics; old, sometimes unsuitable but historical buildings and traditions; an emphasis on mixing with the right people, acquiring a good accent and good connections, and inadvertently developing the 'public school ethos' - these are all things sought after by not only the top independents. The old popular image of bullying, beating and buggery, which lasted from before "Tom Brown's Schooldays" through a large part of the 20th century, is hard to eradicate. However, following the arrival of mobile telephones, by which the most protective or credulous parent can feel reassured, there has been less of it in reality.
School rules can be more easily enforced when a boarding pupil is subject to school discipline 24 hours a day, and indeed a gating (confinement to school boundaries) may be a punishment in itself; minor misdemeanours may attract detention in a particular place; work in the house or grounds; early rising, pre-breakfast exercise and reporting; or lines (writing out a text, a particularly gruelling task if the text is incomprehensible Greek with accents and breathings). Unlike the state sector, a child may be expelled under the school's statutes, at the discretion of the Head, primarily with a view to the wider interests of the school: the most usual causes being drug-taking, whether at school or away, or any notorious rejection of the school's values, such as academic dishonesty or violence. Pupils not expected to qualify for university might be asked to leave before the sixth form.
In England and Wales there are no requirements for teaching staff to have Qualified Teacher Status or to be registered with the General Teaching Council. In Scotland a teaching qualification and registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) is mandatory for all teaching positions.
Selection and conditions
See also preparatory school (England)
In England and Wales a preparatory school, or prep school in current usage, is an independent school designed to prepare a pupil for fee-paying, secondary independent school. The age range is normally eight to eleven or thirteen, although it may include younger pupils as well. An independent school which only caters for under eights is a "pre-prep" and the junior departments of prep schools which cover the first years of schooling are also called "pre-preps". :
Wholly independent prep schools, both charitable and proprietary.
Junior schools linked to senior schools.
Choir schools, which educate child choristers of cathedrals and some other large religious institutions; they all accept non-chorister pupils with the exception of Westminster Abbey Choir School. These schools are usually affiliated to Anglican churches, but may occasionally be associated with Catholic ones such as Westminster Cathedral.
Schools offering special educational provision or facilities.
Schools with particular religious affiliations. Terminology
The head teachers of major British independent boys' and mixed schools belong to the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), and a common definition of a public school is any school whose head teacher is a member of the HMC. It is debatable as to whether any girls' school can be considered to be a public school. Public schools are often divided into "major" and "minor" public schools, but these are not official definitions and the inclusion of a school in one or the other group is purely subjective (although a select few would be included in any list of "major" schools). Thus, in E W Hornung's book Raffles Further Adventures (1901), the following exchange takes place: "'Varsity man?" "No." "Public school?" "Yes." "Which one?" I told him, and he sighed relief. "At last! You're the very first I've not had to argue with as to what is and what is not a public school." A similar exchange takes place in "Murder must Advertise" by Dorothy L. Sayers:'"What' would you call a public school, then?" "Eton...and Harrow" "Rugby?" "No no, that's a railway junction!"'
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: two day schools (Merchant Taylors', London and St Paul's) and seven boarding schools (Charterhouse, Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Shrewsbury, Westminster and Winchester). A report published by the commission formed the basis of the Public Schools Act 1868.
Another way of determining the major public schools is to distinguish them by the players allowed to play in the Butterfly Cricket Club which was founded by an old rugbiean. Only players who came from what were and are considered the major public schools were allowed to play. The schools included Charterhouse, Eton, Harrow, Marlborough, Oakham, Rugby, Westminster and Winchester.
However, the common perception of public schools is that they pre-date the 20th century and were established as boys-only schools even if they are now coeducational, with distinctive traditions and high academic performance.
Some suggest that only particularly old independent schools should be afforded the dignity of "public school". (see Lists of independent schools in the UK below)
The Public Schools Yearbook published in 1889 named the following 25 boarding schools, all in England:
However, it notably omitted the Merchant Taylors' and St Paul's day schools that had been listed in the Act. It also omitted others, including Epsom College and the City of London School, a day school (which derived from a mediæval foundation of 1442) was reconstituted by a private Act of Parliament in 1835 and was held to be a public school by the Divisional Court in the case of Blake v City of London in 1886.
A handful of day schools (non boarding) founded in the 19th century were widely considered to be "major Public schools" by the 20th century due to their reputation and alumni.
These included University College School (which for much of the previous century had gained infamy in educational circles as the 'Godless school of Gower Street'), however, by 1907, it was important enough for the King, accompanied by the Archbishop of Canterbury, to open the school's new site in Hampstead.
Similarly, King's College School, Wimbledon, founded by King's College London, quickly became recognised as an important school.
Both schools are now members of the exclusive Eton Group of Independent schools.
Perhaps the best way to tell if a school is a "Grand Public School" in modern times is to check an edition of Who's Who. The headmasters of the most prestigious schools have an entry there by virtue of their position.
Winchester College Public Schools Yearbook
Some public schools are particularly old, such as The King's School, Canterbury (founded c.600), Sherborne School (founded c.710, refounded 1550 by Edward VI), Warwick (founded c.914),The King's School, Ely (founded c.970), Bedford School (granted Letters Patent by Edward VI in 1552, though the original school is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1085) Westminster (founded 1179 if not before), High School of Dundee (founded 1239), Stamford School (re-endowed in 1532, but in existence as far back as 1309), Eton (1440), and Winchester (1382), this last of which has maintained the longest unbroken history of any school in England. These were often established for male scholars from poor or disadvantaged backgrounds; however, English law has always regarded education as a charitable end in itself, irrespective of poverty. For instance, the Queen's Scholarships founded at Westminster in 1560, are for "the sons of decay'd gentlemen".
The transformation of free charitable foundations into expensive institutions came about readily: the foundation would only afford minimal facilities, so that further fees might be charged to lodge, clothe and otherwise maintain the scholars, to the private profit of the trustees or headmaster; and also facilities already provided by the charitable foundation for a few scholars could profitably be extended to further paying pupils. (Some schools still keep their foundation scholars in a separate house from other pupils). After a time, such fees would eclipse the original charitable income, and the endowment would naturally become a minor part of the capital benefactions enjoyed by the school. Nowadays there is remarkably little difference between the fees of an ancient public school with magnificent facilities, grounds and endowments, and those of many minor public schools with little capital: effectively the capital and income from former benefactors finance superior facilities, which attract better staff and wealthy parents who may be generous in their turn.
However, some do demand significantly higher fees than others, the most expensive being (in order) Winchester, Charterhouse, Cranleigh, Eton, Harrow, Gordonstoun, Cheltenham Ladies College, Cheltenham College, Dean Close, Bedales, Rugby and St John's School, Leatherhead
One school which continues its charitable foundation ethos is Christ's Hospital, a boarding school in Horsham; fees are charged according to the family income (in 2005, about one third of the pupils paid less than £250 per year). Well-off families are discouraged - the number of pupils that pay the full fee (~£15,000) is limited to 6% of the School population. Millfield is a modern foundation with a significant proportion of its pupils on scholarships for those with limited means.
The educational reforms of the nineteenth century were particularly important under first Arnold at Rugby, and Butler and later Kennedy at Shrewsbury, the former emphasising team spirit and muscular Christianity and the latter the importance of scholarship and competitive examinations. Most public schools developed significantly during the 18th and 19th centuries, and came to play an important role in the development of the Victorian social elite. Under a number of forward-looking headmasters leading public schools created 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 a public school as a mark of participation in the elite. Much of the discipline was in the hands of senior pupils (usually known as prefects), which was not just a means to reduce staffing costs, but was also seen as vital preparation for those pupils' later rôles in public or military service. More recently heads of public schools have been emphasising that senior pupils now play a much reduced role in disciplining.
To an extent, the public school system influenced the school systems of the British empire, and recognisably 'public' schools can be found in many Commonwealth countries.
Origins of independent schools
The role of public schools in preparing pupils for the gentlemanly elite meant that such education, particularly in its classical focus and social mannerism, became a mark of the ruling class. For three hundred years, the officers and senior administrators of the "empire upon which the sun never set" invariably sent their sons back home to boarding schools for education as English gentlemen, often for uninterrupted periods of a year or more at a time.
The 19th century public school ethos promoted ideas of service to Crown and Empire, understood by the broader public in familiar sentiments such as "it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game" and "the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton". Ex-pupils often had a nostalgic affection for their old schools and a public school tie could be useful in a career, so an "old boy network" of former pupils became important.
The English public school model influenced the nineteenth century development of Scottish private schools, but a tradition of the gentry sharing primary education with their tenants kept Scotland comparatively egalitarian.
Acceptance of social elitism was set back by the two World Wars, but despite portrayals of the products of public schools as "silly asses" and "toffs" the old "system" at its most pervasive continued well into the 1960s, reflected in contemporary popular fiction such as Len Deighton's The IPCRESS File, with its sub-text of tension between the grammar school educated protagonist and the public school background of his superiors and posh but inept colleague. Postwar social change has however gradually been reflected across Britain's educational system, while at the same time fears of problems with state education have pushed many middle-class parents towards public schools, which now prefer to be known as Independent schools.
Many politicians of all parties, including Labour leaders Clement Attlee, Hugh Gaitskell and Tony Blair, have been products of independent schools.
In 2003 84.5% of senior Judges in England and Wales were educated at independent schools, as surveyed in .
Associations with the ruling class
For a fuller listing of public and other independent schools in Britain, see the List of independent schools in the United Kingdom.
See also the List of the oldest schools in the United Kingdom.
Amongst the oldest independent schools in the UK are (chronologically):
The King's School, Canterbury (597)
The King's School, Rochester (604)
St Peter's School, York (627)
Sherborne School (early 8th C)
Wells Cathedral School (909)
Warwick School (914?)
St Albans School (948)
The King's School, Ely (970)
Norwich School, Norwich (1096)
High School of Glasgow (1124)
Bristol Cathedral School (1140)
Westminster School (1179)
High School of Dundee (1239)
Abingdon School (1256) (possibly as old as (1100))
Royal Grammar School Worcester (1291)
Bablake School (1344)
Wisbech Grammar School (1379)
Winchester College (1382)
Hereford Cathedral School (1384)
Oswestry School (1407)
Durham School (1414)
Sevenoaks School (1432)
Eton College (1440)
City of London School (1442)
St Dunstan's College (earlier than (1446))
Magdalen College School, Oxford (1480)
Stockport Grammar School (1487)
Loughborough Grammar School (1496)
Giggleswick School (1507)
St Paul's School (1509)
Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Blackburn (1509)
Royal Grammar School, Guildford (1509)
Wolverhampton Grammar School (1512)
Nottingham High School (1513)
Pocklington School (1514)
Manchester Grammar School (1515)
Bolton School (1516)
King's School, Bruton (1519)
Royal Grammar School, Newcastle (1525)
Sedbergh School (1525)
Ipswich School (1528)
The College of Richard Collyer (1532)
Bristol Grammar School (1532)
Stamford School (1532)
Berkhamsted Collegiate School (1541)
The King's School, Gloucester (1541) (dates back to the (11th century))
The King's School, Worcester (1541)
The King's School, Chester (1541)
Dauntsey's School (1542)
King Henry VIII School (1545)
Bradford Grammar School (1548)
Bedford School (1552)
King Edward's School, Birmingham (1552)
King Edward's School, Bath (1552)
Shrewsbury School (1552)
Leeds Grammar School (1552)
Bromsgrove School (1553)
Christ's Hospital (1553)
King Edward's School, Witley (1553)
Tonbridge School (1553)
King Edward VI School, Southampton (1553)
Gresham's School (1555)
Oundle School (1556)
Hampton School (1556)
Brentwood School (1557)
Repton School (1557)
Solihull School (1560)
Kingston Grammar School (1561)
Merchant Taylors' School (1561)
Elizabeth College, Guernsey (1563)
Felsted School (1564)
Highgate School (1565)
Rugby School (1567)
Colfe's School (1568) (refounded (1652))
St Edmund's College (1568)
Bury Grammar School (1570)
Sutton Valence School (1576)
Woodbridge School (1577)
St Bees (1583)
Oakham School (1584)
Uppingham School (1584)
Queen Elizabeth's Hospital (1590)
Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Wakefield (1591)
Stonyhurst College (1593)
Emanuel School (1594)
Wellingborough School (1595)
Whitgift School (1596)
Aldenham School (1597)
Kimbolton School (1600)
Blundell's School (1604)
Downside School (1607)
Charterhouse School (1611)
Batley Grammar School (1612)
Monmouth School (1614)
Haberdashers' Aske's School (1614)
Perse School (1615)
Dulwich College (1619) (founded as: The College of "God's Gift")
Merchant Taylors' School, Crosby (1620)
Latymer Upper School (1624)
Chigwell School (1629)
Exeter School (1633)
Red Maids' School (1634)
Hutchesons' Grammar School (1641)
The Maynard School (1658) (all girls)
George Heriot's School (1659) Oldest independent schools in the UK
It is not a requirement in the independent sector, as opposed to the state sector, to be a qualified teacher to teach in schools.
The former classics-based curriculum was also criticised for not providing skills in sciences or engineering. It was Martin Wiener's opposition to this tendency which inspired his 1981 polemic "English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit: 1850-1980". It became a huge influence on the Thatcher government's opposition to old-school gentlemanly Toryism.
Some parents complain that their rights and their children's are compromised by vague and one-sided contracts which allow Heads to use discretionary powers unfairly, such as in expulsion on non-disciplinary matters. They believe independent schools have not embraced the principles of natural justice as adopted by the state sector, and private law as applied to Higher Education.
The exclusivity of independent schools has attracted political antagonism ever since the First World War. Many of the best-known independent schools are prohibitively expensive for ordinary parents, although some are based on charitable foundations originally established up to a thousand years ago to provide free education for the talented poor, but now only offer a few competitive scholarships and bursaries. The Thatcher government introduced the Assisted Places Scheme in England and Wales in 1980, whereby the state paid the school fees of those students capable of gaining a place but unable to afford the fees. This was essentially a response to the decision of the previous Labour government in the mid-1970s to remove government funding of direct-grant grammar schools, most of which then became private schools; some Assisted Places students went to the former direct-grant schools such as Manchester Grammar School. The scheme was terminated by the Labour government in 1997, since then the private sector has moved to increase its own means-tested bursaries. Generally political attacks have been resisted by concern that there should be no totalitarian state control of education, and undoubtedly by influential 'Old Boys' (former pupils) who tend to be fiercely protective of their Old Schools. Pending the enactment of the Charities Bill, which fell at the 2004 general election but has again been passed by the House of Lords in 2005, many independent schools now make a point of sharing their sporting, musical or other facilities with the public or with local state schools, and supplementing their charitable endowments with an increased number of subsidised scholarships and bursaries.
In 2005, students at fee-paying schools made up 43.9% of those selected for places at Oxford University and 38% of those granted places at Cambridge University, although such students made up only 7% of the school population (source: The Times 2 March 2006). The public schools may give a better education to their more motivated students; their antagonists argue that other children's unfulfilled potential deserves Tertiary Education. The Labour Government has brought financial pressure to bear on the universities to admit a higher proportion of state school applicants than would be obtained simply by their A-level grades and interview performance, on the basis that applicants are academically crammed by an independent school education, and receive an undue advantage from the interview system.
Rebecca Smithers A-level student sues for £100,000 over 'grade fixing', The Guardian 7 October, 2002.
Jenny Booth Red tape drove me out, says Downside's head, The Daily Telegraph 13 October, 2002.
David Millward University eases entry rules to lure state pupils, The Daily Telegraph 19 February, 2003.
Glen Owen Public schools switch scholarship funds from the rich to the poor, in The Times 29 April, 2003.
Staff, Head attacks elite public schools, BBC 2 July, 2004.
Tony Halpin Public schools plead to be let off fines over fee-fixing, The Times 1 October, 2005 "The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference of leading public schools is due to hold its annual conference next week. "
Posted by gigihong07 at 8:15 AM