Seven per cent of British Schoolchildren go to private schools. There are 3 levels of private schools: primary schools (age four to eight), preparatory schools (age eight to thirteen). At the age of 13 children take an examination. If they pass it, they go to public school, where they usually remain until they are 18. Many preparatory and most public schools are boarding schools, the children live at school during the school terms. But though these schools are called public, they are, in fact, private and it can be very expensive to send a child to such a school.
The most famous public schools have a long history and tradition. It is often necessary to put a child’s name on a waiting list at birth to be sure he or she get a place. Children of wealthy or aristocratic families often go to the same public school as their parents and their grandparents. Eton is the best known of these schools.
It is situated in Eton, a town about 20 miles west of London, on the River Thames. The school was founded in 1440 by King Henry 4, and some of the original buildings are still standing. Many famous figures from British public life were educated at Eton. Immediately opposite Eton, across the Thames, is Windsor, a town which is closely associated with Eton.
Windsor Castle, the largest castle in England and a favourite home of the Royal family, dominates the skyline the town.
Traditionally, public schools were always single-sex schools but now many of them are becoming co-educational, both boys and girls attend the school. Eton, however, still remains a public school for boys only.