Best of British: 60 things that make Britain great

Imagine you're cut off in a far-off land. What longings would be uppermost in your mind? Here we celebrate those aspects of life that make our islands distinct and beguiling.

43. Public schools


Eton, Shrewsbury, Harrow, Rugby, Marlborough: nearly everyone will recognise that this is not simply a list of cathedral cities and charming market towns, but some of the greatest schools in the world. Ever since William of Wykeman set up his college for poor scholars in Winchester more than 600 years ago, these schools have been part of national life. Private schools only educate about 7% of the school-age population and annual fees are in excess of £30,000 a year for some. Nearly all, however, provide extensive academic, sports, music and arts scholarships and bursaries. They set a gold standard to which ouruniversal eduction should aspire.

‘That’s the public-school system all over.
They may kick you out, but they never let you down’
(Evelyn Waugh)

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