What is the best public school in the country?
You won’t find these descriptions in Tatler
Why does everyone love talking about public schools so much? Maybe it’s because the girls are fitter, the boys have names like nineteenth century poets and the teachers are the weirdest and beardiest in the country.
Finally The Tab is asking all the right questions – which one is the best? We asked the old boys and girls of Britain’s finest institutions why their school was more elite than all the rest.
“There is simply no comparison between Eton and Harrow. And to all Harrovians, we have 19 Prime Ministers.
“In a whole host of ways, Eton is unique. It is, for example, the only four letter word that receives an enthusiastic welcome from people with tight arses and large inheritances as well as an enthusiastic bottling from people with loose tracksuits and small brains.
“Its students also display the odd desire to conceal their Etonian identities in all facets of their daily lives. We see this in conversation, with the incorporation of the word “G” into conversational situations when “old bean” would be the far more natural fit. This, of course, stands alongside other cringeworthy favourites such as “bless”, “donny”, and “bumbaclart”.
“This phenomenon can also be observed in Etonian fashion with the replacement of a tailcoat with a purple camouflage Bape x Stussy hoody 6 sizes too big at the end of a long day of Greek suffixes and the poetry of John Donne. It cost 800 pounds, but hey, American Express.
“If you’re a proper delusional Etonian, you obviously support Chelsea, where you go down the Bridge with the boys – AKA Daddy – and fuck shit up with the headhunters (get intimidated by the chanting from your box).
“Also, 19 prime ministers.”
– Written by Old Etonian Oscar Dealtry, who is currently on a gap year.
“Shrewsbury too can stake it’s claim as one of England’s elite public schools. It’s running club, the ‘Royal Shrewsbury School Hunt’, is the oldest in the world and the Royal Shrewsbury School Boat Club is also the most successful school rowing club in the history of the Henley Royal Regatta.
“Sir Neville Cardus (Google it) once described Shrewsbury’s playing fields as “the most beautiful in the world”. This is hardly surprising if you’ve seen the first team football pitch. The groundsmen care more about their grass than the housemasters do about the third form just a week into term.
“This is probably true seeing as I’d rather sleep on the pitch than one of the beds in School House.
“It’s very easy to talk about Shrewsbury’s sporting success, but since Charles Darwin left there has been little to talk about regarding our academics. Yes, Charles Darwin went to Shrewsbury.
“The arrival of girls in 2008 however, has sparked an improvement on this front, with boys finally being able to relieve themselves of their sexual frustration and be able to concentrate on their work. I am joking of course, the boys still get none, the girls just work harder.
“At least we actually now how to talk to girls now.”
– Written by a Leeds Uni first year.
“My esteemed headmaster claims that Winchester develops ‘an unaffected modesty of manner’ in its pupils – so the fact I’m even writing this would seem to contradict that.
“Many of my peers moaned about the sports pitches – they were fools to do so, as I for one am unlikely to play on anything as good ever again. Aside from the vast array of sports on offer: football, fives and some of the country’s finest fly fishing, Winchester’s music facilities were astoundingly good – quite easily better than any uni I’ve been to.
“In academic terms, the ‘hallmark of a Winchester education’ is Div – a daily lesson in which we could study pretty much anything we wanted. In one term, my class covered the Rolling Stones, 19th century portrayals of Islam in art, the Troubles in Northern Ireland and even budget dating basics (handy given the lack of girls)
“When Tatler declared Winchester its ‘Public School of the Year’ in 2010, I wonder whether that particular magazine was aware that Winchester offers nearly a fifth of its pupils financial assistance – a whole yeargroup. Anyone who calls it ‘exclusive’ should remember that this is only an academic distinction: if you can’t pay, the school will help you out, so it was no playground for millionaires like the Daily Mail would have you believe.
“It’s not really in the Winchester ethos to compare, but I don’t think anywhere else does conformity with such a degree of quirkiness. There’s compulsory chapel, but the dress code is fairly relaxed – it’s not as though they make us dress like the butler every day (cough Eton cough).
“You can wear any combination of shirt, tie, jacket and dark trousers – although I could get away with bright red skinny chinos as long as I didn’t walk past the Second Master.”
– Written by Bristol second year Richard Cubitt.
“Marlborough is a Proper boarding school not like the sissy ones which claim to be ‘full boarding’ when actually a 1/4 of the pupils are day (I’m looking at you Wellington).
“Staying in at weekends means Saturday nights on the town, and as long as you’re in lower sixth you can drunk in the local pub as the school has an agreement with the local police- no biggie. The town of Marlborough and the surrounding countryside is about as British as it gets.
“We also have fabulous names for the lower school year groups: shell, remove, hunderd. Teachers are beaks and a punishment is called a chit.
“Sporting wise the rugby fifths are called the ‘god squad’ due to the coach being the famous Father Dickie. The first teams are not too shabby either.
“Alumni include Siegfried Sassoon, Jack Whitehall, The Duchess of Cambridge, Sam Cam, Frances Osborne, Sally Bercow. So basically Marlborough girls are alongside some of the most powerful men in the country.”
– Written by Hattie Freer-Smith, a second year at Bristol.
“Taking the alumni route gives a mixed picture of the school: Robert Baden Powell (founder of the Scouting Movement), and Genesis (sans Phil Collins) don’t feature on many lists together. Although I’m sure prospective Carthusian parents are told this exemplifies the myriad of educational options open to students.
“And this probably holds true: it’s hard to sum up a school when one student can march around dressed like a Marine in the afternoon, then play some football, then trombone in the Jazz Band, some more football, maybe Alternative Music Society, and finish up with a Darts Society.
“Often ridiculed by pupils at other schools, accepting girls only in the sixth form is actually a fantastic, tried and tested maneuver by the governing body to allow the boys to refine their sensibilities for three years.
“This gives them a much better shot with the girls when they arrive. I have to say, being surrounded by the meagre offerings of the other stone-clad institutions this year, it wasn’t worth looking past their astros.”
– Written by Bristol second year Will Coleshill.
“Oremus. The initiating word of the famous Latin Prayers that are held at 9am every Wednesday, enjoyed as the universal savoury weekly treat. The event is also a chance for the headmaster to announce the school’s positions in the league tables.
“Westminster School…” he would habitually begin, invoking pupil’s adrenaline to begin pumping and palms to moisten, “is once again top of the Financial Times School League table!” With that message, a deafening roar would erupt as students embraced, school monitors wept uncontrollably and housemasters nodded, arms folded with a smug grin spattered over their faces. It was less of a “whey!” and more of a “rah!”
“The school, entrenched in hallowed tradition, also holds the annual ‘Greaze’, when 30 sweaty schoolboys of ages 13-18 wrestle and jostle passionately for a large pancake.
“As the other public schools depreciate, drowning in the overwhelming torrent of progressively lower marks and diminishing worldly relevance, Westminster has majestically ridden on the crest of the wave with token leftist students and random pangs of appreciation of the real world, perhaps out of guilt.
“This is probably because of the cracking PR team the school possesses.”
– Written by a Bristol student.
“Harrow prides itself on producing ‘well rounded boys’, which is surprising since most shells are no less skeletal when they stumble out of Bill Yard five years latter.
“Of course, all but a a few boys are forcefully kept in shape by a series of steep climbs up London’s tallest hill; coupled with a daily regimen of half a dozen cigs, these gentlemen are able to stay slim and trim. Like all rules, this one has an exception, namely the gorilla-minded monsters of our school’s rugby team, who include the man-mountain Billy Vonupola.
“Indeed, Harrow has produced a great many very impressive men. Of note is Stanley Baldwin, who wisely put in place policies to help avoid the Second World War. Then an Etonian came to power and the shit hit the fan. Another Harovian called Winston Churchill had to clean up the mess, and clean he did. Churchill’s oratory powers helped rally England, and he was eternally grateful to his English teacher in the bottom division.
“Ultimately Harrow is functional – we are the Deadlift, Squat, Bench and Pull up. A Harrovian is rough on the edges, but he gets shit done. He knows section attacks and rugby drills. He is disciplined (enough), but can sure have a good time (or as good a time as possible when in the company of only men…).
“Harrovians are pretty tough too – they play their own bizarre game and then shower in the frigid Ensign winter. They usually get good grades too – 10 A*s is increasingly frequent. But as of yet, no Harrovian has scored above a C on the OFQAL recognized modestly GCSE. Long may this world continue.”
– Written by Macaray Wildblood.
“There is no denying that Rugby was the best School. Yes we had to go to lessons from nine to five pretty much every day and endure a two hour prep each night, but that didnt stop us having fun.
“Every saturday night we flocked to ‘bar’ where two years of drunken girls and boys flirted and danced there way through the night and all the drama was discussed the next day on our way to chapel.
“The dorm nights were filled with stupid antics (hiding from the head of house so they actually thought we’d all gone missing), evading the cross country run by finding old shortcuts, and getting detention for wearing ‘more than 2 necklaces at one time’.
“The memories go on, but I cant remember a single day at rugby where we didnt laugh and this is it what makes it the best school: you’ll remember it forever.”
– Written by a Manchester student.
“Situated among the grassy heartlands of Oxfordshire, Radley College (known simply as ‘the college’ to some) represents a truly quintessential English Public school.
“Whether it be the Latin Motto, Harry Potter-esque uniform or completely unique language, Radley possesses virtually every boarding school stereotype around.
“With approximately 700 boys living in 10 Socials (houses) on campus there is tight knit community among both pupils and Common Room (teachers) whether it be in lessons, on the sports field or at the various societies and events that take place every week.
“Sport remains a huge part of Radley’s ethos and with the second largest area of mown grass in the UK and terrific ground staff, they posses a fabulous set of pitches, including ‘Bigside’ which according to the legendary match day chant contains the highest rugby posts on the circuit.
“However, the favourite feature for many is the JCR where after a long day Sixth Formers can congregate for a cheeky pint at the very reasonable price of £2.50.”
– Written by an Exeter student.
“Ah Wellington. The History. The stunning grounds. The bubble. Home to the most ‘well-rounded’ and best behaved kiddiewinks in the world. Diversity? Erm… Socialist society count to date: one brave soul floating in a sea of conservatives.
“And no you can’t sit next to a boy at lunch. Or walk across Turf. Or wear makeup #TheStruggleIsReal
“Royalty, international pop stars, and sons and daughters of politicians are just a few who come to seek refugee as Wellington attempts to make them humble by renting out the Royal Albert Hall for a school performance.
“Despite being all ‘liberal’ we do have weird restrictions. Compulsory well being lessons. Compulsory sport. Compulsory cadet service. Compulsory chapel. Other than that we’re pretty liberal…
“Getting into any university would be a breeze if you do the IB because no one really knows what it is. Oh… and rugby. is. life. Don’t bother coming down if you don’t know THE song and are decked out in Welly gear. As for girls full makeup will suffice.
– Written by a Sophomore at NYU.
City of London
“City is a ‘great’ school. Our great alumni include several prime ministers, child actors and stand out members of the public. Whilst Eton may have a better reputation, Westminster better looking girls, City is the best because of the wholehearted commitment to institutionalised inappropriate banter.
“Everyone in the school has such a strong commitment to offensive comments, sniggering in assembly at a 6 ft 4 senile and the painful pronunciation of any name that is not explicitely mentioned in the old testament, one can almost consider it a religion.
“Our football is limited, our rugby non-existent and our model railway society is reserved for only the most committed and socially-awkard ‘athletes’. You guys can have the sport and the name. We have the bants.”
– Written by a Bristol student.