Post by David Smith
That's one thing that's always thrown me as regards references to public
school in British fiction (I read a lot of detective fiction, off-and-on).
What differentiates public schools from regular schools, what is a
regular school, and how does one qualify to enter a public school, as
compared to a regular-plain-ordinary school?
"Public" school in England means "private with expensive fees". As
opposed to "publicly funded" (state run) schools.
The reason they're called "public" schools is that when they were
founded, centuries ago, they were open to the /public/ (and in fact most
offered bursaries and scholarships to "worthy" boys of poor family),
instead of the private tutors nobility and the wealthy would hire for
their own children. Or church schools where the youngsters were already
promised to the church as monks or priests.
(I'm using male terms, because at this point they'd have been all male.
Girls' schools came later, mixed public schools are a fairly recent
innovation - within my lifetime)
They usually still have a few scholarship and bursary pupils - I got a
scholarship to a private girls' school in Glasgow when I was 11 years
old (based on IQ - 3000 girls took the exams that year and 120 were
selected, only a dozen or so were "scholarship" - ie free - pupils) -
most families will have to pay several thousand pounds per year to send
their children there. You'll usually find that sons and daughters will
follow their fathers and grandfathers to the same school - their names
being put down on the waiting list at birth - or even before!
We know that Harry inherited a fair bit of wizardly funds from his
parents, stored in the wizard bank until Hagrid takes him there, aged
11. Possibly even a trust fund. His name probably went on the list for
the school as soon as he was born. When his parents died, their will(s)
probably had a clause that Harry's school fees were paid in advance out
of the estate. No doubt some sum of money, in muggle form, was being
paid to the Dursleys for his keep. (otherwise that pair would have
dumped the kid on social services, blood kin or no). The Weasley family
might be scholarships - they're poor but brilliant. The Malfoys will be
paying full fees - in fact they're probably proud of it - not because
they're too stupid to get scholarships, but because they're snobbish
enough to *want* to pay full price!
("reply to" is spamblocked - use the email addy in sig)