Eton College

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Eton College
Eton College.jpg
Aerial view of Eton College from the north
Eton College
Eton, Berkshire, England
Coordinates 51°29′31″N0°36′29″W / 51.492°N 0.608°W / 51.492; -0.608
Type Public school
Independent boarding school
Motto Latin: Floreat Etona
(May Eton Flourish)
Religious affiliation(s) Church of England
Established1440;584 years ago (1440)
Founder Henry VI
Local authority Windsor and Maidenhead
Department for Education URN 110158 Tables
Provost Sir Nicholas Coleridge
Head Master Simon Henderson
Gender Boys
Age range13–18
Enrolment1,311 (2020) [1]
Capacity1,390 [1]
Student to teacher ratio 8:1
Area1600 acres (647 hectares)
Colour(s) Eton blue  
SongCarmen Etonense
Publication The Chronicle
School fees £46,296 per year [2]
US$55,875 per year
Alumni Old Etonians
"Eton College, registered charity no. 1139086". Charity Commission for England and Wales.

Eton College ( /ˈtən/ ) [3] is a public school (fee-charging and boarding for secondary school age boys) in Eton, Berkshire, England. It was founded in 1440 by Henry VI under the name Kynge's College of Our Ladye of Eton besyde Windesore, [4] [5] making it the 18th-oldest school in the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC). Originally intended as a sister institution to King's College, Cambridge, Eton is known for its history, wealth, and notable alumni, known as Old Etonians. [6]


Eton is one of three public schools, along with Harrow (1572) and Radley (1847), to have retained the boys-only, boarding-only tradition, which means that its boys live at the school seven days a week during term time. The remainder of them, including Charterhouse in 1971, Westminster in 1973, [7] Rugby in 1976, Shrewsbury in 2015, and Winchester in 2022, [8] have since become co-educational. Eton has educated prime ministers, world leaders, Nobel laureates, Academy Award and BAFTA award-winning actors, and generations of the aristocracy, having been referred to as "the nurse of England's statesmen". [9]

The school is the largest boarding school in England ahead of Millfield and Oundle. [10] Eton charges up to £49,998 per year (£16,666 per term, with three terms per academic year, for 2023/24). [11] Eton was noted as being the sixth most expensive HMC boarding school in the UK in 2013–14. [12]

The school is included in The Schools Index as one of the 150 best private schools in the world and among top 30 senior schools in the UK. [13]


The Stanberry Window, made in 1923, at Hereford Cathedral, showing Bishop John Stanberry advising King Henry VI on the founding of Eton College Hereford cathedral 033.JPG
The Stanberry Window, made in 1923, at Hereford Cathedral, showing Bishop John Stanberry advising King Henry VI on the founding of Eton College
A statue of Henry VI, the college's founder, in the school yard and Lupton's Tower (background) MK17834 Eton College.jpg
A statue of Henry VI, the college's founder, in the school yard and Lupton's Tower (background)
A 1690 engraving of Eton College by David Loggan Eton College by Loggan 1690 - R - slpl ste02048 merge.jpeg
A 1690 engraving of Eton College by David Loggan

Eton College was founded by Henry VI as a charity school to provide free education to 70 poor boys who would then go on to King's College, Cambridge, founded by the same king in 1441. Henry used Winchester College as a model, visiting at least six times (in 1441, 1444, 1446, 1447, 1448, 1449, 1451, 1452) and having its statutes transcribed. Henry appointed Winchester's headmaster, William Waynflete, as Eton's Provost, and transferred some of Winchester's 70 scholars to start his new school. There is a rumour that he also had carts of earth from Winchester transported to Eton.[ citation needed ]

When Henry VI founded the school, he granted it a large number of endowments, including much valuable land. The group of feoffees appointed by the king to receive forfeited lands of the Alien Priories for the endowment of Eton were as follows: [14]

It was intended to have formidable buildings; Henry intended the nave of the College Chapel to be the longest in Europe, and several religious relics, supposedly including a part of the True Cross and the Crown of Thorns. [16] He persuaded the then Pope, Eugene IV, to grant him a privilege unparalleled anywhere in England: the right to grant indulgences to penitents on the Feast of the Assumption. The college also came into possession of one of England's Apocalypse manuscripts.

However, when Henry was deposed by King Edward IV in 1461, the new King annulled all grants to the school and removed most of its assets and treasures to St George's Chapel, Windsor, on the other side of the River Thames. Legend has it that Edward's mistress, Jane Shore, intervened on the school's behalf. She was able to save a good part of the school, [17] although the royal bequest and the number of staff were much reduced.

Construction of the chapel, originally intended to be slightly over twice as long, [18] with 18, or possibly 17, bays (there are eight today) was stopped when Henry VI was deposed. Only the Quire of the intended building was completed. Eton's first Head Master, William Waynflete, founder of Magdalen College, Oxford and previously headmaster of Winchester College, [19] built the ante-chapel that completed the chapel. The important wall paintings in the chapel and the brick north range of the present School Yard also date from the 1480s; the lower storeys of the cloister, including College Hall, were built between 1441 and 1460. [20]

As the school suffered reduced income while still under construction, the completion and further development of the school have since depended to some extent on wealthy benefactors. Building resumed when Roger Lupton was Provost, around 1517. His name is borne by the big gatehouse in the west range of the cloisters, fronting School Yard, perhaps the most famous image of the school. This range includes the important interiors of the Parlour, Election Hall, and Election Chamber, where most of the 18th century "leaving portraits" are kept.

"After Lupton's time, nothing important was built until about 1670, when Provost Allestree gave a range to close the west side of School Yard between Lower School and Chapel". [21] This was remodelled later and completed in 1694 by Matthew Bankes, Master Carpenter of the Royal Works. The last important addition to the central college buildings was the College Library, in the south range of the cloister, 1725–29, by Thomas Rowland. It has a very important collection of books and manuscripts.

19th century onwards

An Eton College classroom in the 19th century "View of classroom at Eton College, England, showing plainess of the furniture and names carved thereon by the... - NARA - 298013.tif
An Eton College classroom in the 19th century
Eton College students dressed as members of various rowing crews taking part in the "Procession of Boats" on the River Thames during Fourth of June celebrations in 1932 Bundesarchiv Bild 102-13350, England, Rudermannschaft.jpg
Eton College students dressed as members of various rowing crews taking part in the "Procession of Boats" on the River Thames during Fourth of June celebrations in 1932

The Duke of Wellington is often incorrectly quoted as saying that "The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton." [22] Wellington was at Eton from 1781 to 1784 and was to send his sons there. According to Nevill (citing the historian Sir Edward Creasy), what Wellington said, while passing an Eton cricket match many decades later, was, "There grows the stuff that won Waterloo", [23] a remark Nevill construes as a reference to "the manly character induced by games and sport" among English youth generally, not a comment about Eton specifically. In 1889, Sir William Fraser conflated this uncorroborated remark with the one attributed to him by Count Charles de Montalembert's C'est ici qu'a été gagnée la bataille de Waterloo ("It is here that the Battle of Waterloo was won").

The architect John Shaw Jr (1803–1870) became a surveyor to Eton. He designed New Buildings (1844–46), [24] Provost Francis Hodgson's addition to provide better accommodation for collegers, who until then had mostly lived in Long Chamber, a long first-floor room where conditions were inhumane. [25]

Following complaints about the finances, buildings and management of Eton, the Clarendon Commission was set up in 1861 as a royal commission to investigate the state of nine schools in England, including Eton. [26] Questioned by the commission in 1862, Head Master Edward Balston came under attack for his view that in the classroom little time could be spared for subjects other than classical studies. [27]

As with other public schools, [28] a scheme was devised towards the end of the 19th century to familiarise privileged schoolboys with social conditions in deprived areas. [29] The project of establishing an "Eton Mission" in the crowded district of Hackney Wick in east London was started at the beginning of 1880, and it lasted until 1971 when it was decided that a more local project (at Dorney) would be more realistic. However over the years much money was raised for the Eton Mission, a fine church by G. F. Bodley was erected; many Etonians visited and stimulated among other things the Eton Manor Boys' Club, a notable rowing club which has survived the Mission itself, and the 59 Club for motorcyclists.

The large and ornate School Hall and School Library (by L. K. Hall) were erected in 1906–08 across the road from Upper School as the school's memorial to the Etonians who had died in the Boer War. Many tablets in the cloisters and chapel commemorate the large number of dead Etonians of the First World War. A bomb destroyed part of Upper School in World War II and blew out many windows in the chapel. The college commissioned replacements by Evie Hone (1949–52) and by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens (1959 onward).

Among Head Masters of the late 19th and 20th centuries were Cyril Alington, Robert Birley and Anthony Chenevix-Trench. M. R. James was a Provost.

Between the years 1926 and 1939, Eton students were included as part of a group of around 20 or 30 selected public school boys who travelled yearly to various British Empire countries as part of the Public School Boys Empire Tour. The first tour travelled to Australia; the last went to Canada. The purpose of the tours was to encourage Empire settlement, with the boys possibly becoming district officers in India or imperial governors of the Dominions. [30] [31] [32] [33]

In 1959, the college constructed a nuclear bunker to house the college's Provost and fellows. The facility is now used for storage. [34]

In 1969, Dillibe Onyeama became the first black person to obtain his school-leaving certificate[ clarification needed ] from Eton. Three years later Onyeama was banned from visiting Eton after he published a book which described the racism that he experienced during his time at the school. [35] Simon Henderson, current Head Master of Eton, apologised to Onyeama for the treatment he endured during his time at the school, although Onyeama did not think the apology was necessary. [36]

In 2005, the school was one of fifty of the country's leading independent schools found to have breached the Competition Act 1998 (see Eton College controversies).

In 2011, plans to attack Eton College were found on the body of a senior al-Qaeda leader shot dead in Somalia. [37]

Coat of arms

Arms of Eton College: Sable, three lily-flowers argent on a chief per pale azure and gules in the dexter a fleur-de-lys in the sinister a lion passant guardant or Eton College Coat of Arms.jpg
Arms of Eton College: Sable, three lily-flowers argent on a chief per pale azure and gules in the dexter a fleur-de-lys in the sinister a lion passant guardant or

The coat of arms of Eton College was granted in 1449 by the founder King Henry VI, as recorded as follows on the original charter, attested by the Great Seal of England and preserved in the College archives: [38]

On a field sable three lily-flowers argent, intending that Our newly founded College, lasting for ages to come, whose perpetuity We wish to be signified by the stability of the sable colour, shall bring forth the brightest flowers redolent of every kind of knowledge; to which also, that We may impart something of royal nobility which may declare the work truly royal and illustrious, We have resolved that that portion of the arms which by royal right belong to Us in the Kingdoms of France and England be placed on the chief of the shield, per pale azure with a flower of the French, and gules with a leopard passant or .

Thus the blazon is: Sable, three lily-flowers argent on a chief per pale azure and gules in the dexter a fleur-de-lys in the sinister a lion passant guardant or. The three lilies are also evident on the coat-of-arms of Eton provost Roger Lupton. [39] Although the charter specifies that the lily flowers relate to the founder's hope for a flourishing of knowledge, that flower is also a symbol for the Virgin Mary, in whose honour the college was founded, with the number of three having significance to the Blessed Trinity. The motto of the college is Floreat Etona ("may Eton flourish"). The grant of arms to King's College, Cambridge, is worded identically, but with roses instead of lily-flowers. [38]


Eton College . Widok z ulicy - Eton College - panoramio (5).jpg
Eton College

The school is headed by a Provost, a vice-provost and a board of governors (known as Fellows) who appoint the Head Master.

Governance and management

As of 2022 the school governors [40] include:

Statute VII of the College provides that the board shall be populated as follows (in addition to the Provost and Vice-Provost): [40]

The current Provost, William Waldegrave, Baron Waldegrave of North Hill, has made public that he will be stepping down as Provost after the 2024 Summer Half (summer term).

The school contains 25 boys' houses, each headed by a housemaster, selected from the more senior members of the teaching staff, which numbers some 155. [41] Almost all of the school's pupils go on to universities, about a third of them to the University of Oxford or University of Cambridge. [42] [43]

The Head Master is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference and the school is a member of the Eton Group of independent schools in the United Kingdom. The school appointed its first female Lower Master (deputy head), Susan Wijeratna, in 2017. [44]

Eton has a long list of distinguished former pupils. In 2019, Boris Johnson became the 20th British prime minister to have attended the school, [45] and the fifth since the end of the Second World War. [46] Previous Conservative leader David Cameron was the 19th British prime minister to have attended the school, [47] [48] and recommended that Eton set up a school in the state sector to help drive up standards. [49]


Eton has been described as the most famous public school in the world, [50] and has been referred to as "the chief nurse of England's statesmen". [51]

Eton has educated generations of British and foreign aristocracy, and for the first time, members of the British royal family in direct line of succession: the Prince of Wales and his brother the Duke of Sussex, in contrast to the royal tradition of male education at either naval college or Gordonstoun, or by tutors.

The Good Schools Guide called the school "the number one boys' public school", adding that "The teaching and facilities are second to none." [52] The school is a member of the G30 Schools Group.

Eton today is a larger school than it has been for much of its history. In 1678, there were 207 boys. In the late 18th century, there were about 300, while today, the total has risen to over 1,300. [53] [54]

MK17835-38 Ethon College.jpg
Eton College, Provost's Garden

Financial support

About 20% of pupils at Eton receive financial support, through a range of bursaries and scholarships. [55] A recent Head Master, Tony Little, said that Eton was developing plans to allow any boy to attend the school whatever his parents' income and, in 2011, said that around 250 boys received "significant" financial help from the school. [56] In early 2014, this figure had risen to 263 pupils receiving the equivalent of around 60% of school fee assistance, whilst a further 63 received their education free of charge. Little said that, in the short term, he wanted to ensure that around 320 pupils per year receive bursaries and that 70 were educated free of charge, with the intention that the number of pupils receiving financial assistance would continue to increase. [57]

Changes to the school

Registration at birth, corporal punishment, and fagging are no longer practised at Eton. [58] [59] [60] Academic standards were raised, and by the mid-1990s Eton ranked among Britain's top three schools in getting its pupils into Oxford and Cambridge. [61]

The proportion of boys at the school who were sons of Old Etonians fell from 60% in 1960 to 20% in 2016. This has been attributed to a number of factors, including: the dissolution of the house lists, which allowed Old Etonians to register their sons at birth, in 1990; harder entrance examinations as the emphasis on academic attainment increased; a sharp rise in school fees increasingly beyond the means of many UK families; and increased applications from international, often very wealthy, families. [62]

School terms

There are three academic terms [63] (known as halves) [64] in the year:

They are called halves because the school year was once split into two halves, between which the boys went home.

Boys' houses

King's Scholars

One boarding house, College, is reserved for 70 King's Scholars, [65] who attend Eton on scholarships provided by the original foundation and awarded by examination each year; King's Scholars used to pay up to 90 per cent of full fees, depending on their means. This financial incentive has been phased out. Still, up to a third receive some kind of bursary or scholarship. The name 'King's Scholars' refers to the foundation of the school by King Henry VI in 1440. The original school consisted of the 70 Scholars (together with some Commensals) and the Scholars were educated and boarded at the foundation's expense.

King's Scholars are entitled to use the letters 'KS' after their name and they can be identified by a black gown worn over the top of their tailcoats, giving them the nickname 'tugs' (Latin: togati, wearers of gowns); and occasionally by a surplice in Chapel. The house is looked after by the Master in College. Having succeeded in the examination, they include many of the most academically gifted boys in the school.


As the school grew, more students were allowed to attend provided that they paid their own fees and lived in boarding-houses within the town of Eton, outside the college's original buildings. These students became known as Oppidans, from the Latin word oppidum , meaning "town". [66] The houses developed over time as a means of providing residence for the Oppidans in a more congenial manner, and during the 18th and 19th centuries the housemasters started to rely more for administrative purposes on a senior female member of staff, known as a "dame", who became responsible for the physical welfare of the boys. (Some houses had previously been run by dames without a housemaster.) Each house typically contains about 50 boys. Although classes are organised on a school basis, most boys spend a large proportion of their time in their house.

Not all boys who pass the college election examination choose to become King's Scholars, which involves living in "College" with its own ancient traditions, wearing a gown, and therefore a degree of separation from the other boys. If they choose instead to belong to one of the 24 Oppidan houses, they are known as Oppidan Scholars. [67] The title of Oppidan Scholar may also be awarded for consistently performing with distinction in school and external examinations: to earn the title, a boy must obtain either three distinctions in a row or four throughout his school career. Within the school, an Oppidan Scholar is entitled to use the post-nominal letters OS.

Each Oppidan house is usually referred to by the initials (forenames and surname) of its current housemaster, a senior teacher ("beak"), or more formally by his surname alone, not by the name of the building in which it is situated. Houses occasionally swap buildings according to the seniority of the housemaster and the physical desirability of the building. The names of buildings occupied by houses are used for few purposes other than a correspondence address. They are: Godolphin House, Jourdelay's (both built as such c. 1720), [68] Hawtrey House, Durnford House (the first two built as such by the Provost and Fellows, 1845, [68] when the school was increasing in numbers and needed more centralised control), The Hopgarden, South Lawn, Waynflete, Evans's, Keate House, Warre House, Villiers House, Common Lane House, Penn House, Walpole House, Cotton Hall, Wotton House, Holland House, Mustians, Angelo's, Manor House, Farrer House, Baldwin's Bec, The Timbralls, and Westbury.

House structure

Front of Eton College MK17840 Eton College.jpg
Front of Eton College

In addition to the house master, each house has a house captain, a house captain of games and a house captain of arts. All house positions are entitled to stick-ups. Some houses have more than one. House prefects were once elected from the oldest year, but this no longer happens. The old term "Library" survives in the name of the room set aside for the oldest year's use, where boys have their own kitchen. Similarly, boys in their penultimate year have a room known as "Debate".

There are entire house gatherings every evening, usually around 8:05–8:30 p.m. These are known as "Prayers", due to their original nature. The house master and boys have an opportunity to make announcements, and sometimes the boys provide light entertainment.

For much of Eton's history, junior boys had to act as "fags", or servants, to older boys. Their duties included cleaning, cooking, and running errands. A Library member was entitled to yell at any time and without notice, "Boy, Up!" or "Boy, Queue!", and all first-year boys had to come running. The last boy to arrive was given the task. These practices, known as fagging, were partially phased out of most houses in the 1970s. Captains of house and games still sometimes give tasks to first-year boys, such as collecting the mail from the school office. [69]

There are many inter-house competitions, mostly in sports but also in academics, drama and music (esp. House Shout).

Head Masters: 1442–present


Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester in a 1914 dress of a junior Eton pupil, wearing a top hat, neck-tie and "bum-freezer", none of which are now worn Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester 4909925573 1cfc8ea5c0 o.jpg
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester in a 1914 dress of a junior Eton pupil, wearing a top hat, neck-tie and "bum-freezer", none of which are now worn
The 17th Duke of Alba in late 19th century Eton dress, including a mess jacket 17th Duke of Alba at Eton.jpg
The 17th Duke of Alba in late 19th century Eton dress, including a mess jacket

The School is known for its traditions, including a uniform of black tailcoat (or morning coat) and black waistcoat, a starched stiff collar and black pinstriped trousers. Most pupils wear a white "tie" which is a narrow strip of cloth folded over the joint of the collar to hide the collar stud, but some senior boys are entitled to wear a white bow tie and winged collar ("Stick-Ups"). There are some variations in the school dress worn by boys in authority, see School Prefects and King's Scholars sections.

The long-standing belief that the present uniform was first worn as mourning for the death of King George III in 1820 [70] is unfounded. In 1862, Edward Balston, Head Master, noted little in the way of uniform in an interview with the Clarendon Commission.

Lord Clarendon: One more question, which bears in some degree upon other schools, namely with regard to the dress. The boys do not wear any particular dress at Eton?

Edward Balston: No, with the exception that they are obliged to wear a white neckcloth.

Lord Clarendon: Is the colour of their clothes much restricted?

Edward Balston: We would not let them wear for instance a yellow coat or any other colour very much out of the way.

Lord Clarendon: If they do not adopt anything very extravagant either with respect to colour or cut you allow them to follow their own taste with respect to the choice of their clothes?

Edward Balston: Yes.

Lord Lyttelton: They must wear the common round hat?

Edward Balston: Yes. [71]

The uniform worn today was gradually adopted and standardised towards the end of the nineteenth century. [72] Until 1967, boys under the height of 5 ft 4 in (163 cm) wore a cropped jacket (known as an Eton jacket, mess jacket, or "bum-freezer") instead of a tailcoat. [73]

Tutors and teaching

Teachers are known unofficially as "beaks". The pupil to teacher ratio is 8:1, [74] which is extremely low by typical UK school standards. Class sizes start at around twenty to twenty-five in the first year and are often below ten by the final year.

The original curriculum concentrated on prayers, Latin and devotion, and "as late as 1530 no Greek was taught". [75]

Later the emphasis was on classical studies, dominated by Latin and Ancient History, and, for boys with sufficient ability, Classical Greek. From the latter part of the 19th century this curriculum has changed and broadened: [76] for example, there are now more than 100 students of Chinese, which is a non-curriculum course. [77] In the 1970s, there was just one school computer, in a small room attached to the science buildings. It used punched tape to store programs. Today, all boys must have laptop computers, and the school fibre-optic network connects all classrooms and all boys' bedrooms to the internet. [78]

The primary responsibility for a boy's studies lies with his House Master, but he is assisted by an additional director of studies, known as a tutor. [79] Classes, formally known as "divisions" ("divs"), are organised on a School basis; the classrooms are separate from the houses. New blocks of classrooms have appeared every decade or so since New Schools, designed by Henry Woodyer and built 1861–63. [80] Despite the introduction of modern technology, the external appearance and locations of many of the classrooms have remained unchanged for a long time. The oldest classroom still in use, "Lower School", dates from the 15th century.

Every evening, about an hour and a quarter, known as Quiet Hour, is set aside, during which boys are expected to study or prepare work for their teachers if not otherwise engaged. [81] Some Houses, at the discretion of the House Master, may observe a second Quiet Hour after prayers in the evening. This is less formal, with boys being allowed to visit each other's rooms to socialise if neither boy has work outstanding.

The Independent Schools Inspectorate's report for 2016 says, "The achievement of pupils is exceptional. Progress and abilities of all pupils are at a high level. Pupils are highly successful in public examinations, and the record of entrance to universities with demanding entry requirements in the United Kingdom and overseas is strong." [82]

In 2017, a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) schools skills ranking table, designed to show employability, showed the school performed disproportionally badly, falling to 109th place and behind many state schools. Edwina Dunn, the chairwoman of the company producing the report, called for schools to be reassessed based on how suitable pupils are for businesses in the post-Brexit world. [83]

School magazines

The Chronicle is the official school magazine, having been founded in 1863. [84] It is edited by boys at the school. Although liable to censorship, it has a tradition of satirising and attacking school policies, as well as documenting recent events. The Oppidan, founded in 1828, [84] was published once a half; it covered all sport in Eton and some professional events as well, but no longer existed until a recent revival in 2023. The Junior Chronicle is the official school magazine of Lower Boys (pupils in their first two years at Eton) and it is written, edited and designed solely by them.

Other school magazines, including The Academic Yearbook, The Arts Review, and The Eton Zeitgeist have been published, as well as publications produced by individual departments such as The 1440 Review [85] (history), The Agathon (philosophy), The Axiom (mathematics), Scientific Etonian (science), The Ampersand (English), Biopsy (medicine), The Lexicon (modern languages) and The Etonal (music). Online publications also include EtonSTEM (STEM subjects) and The Florentina (environmental).


At Eton, there are many organisations known as 'societies', in many of which pupils come together to discuss a particular topic or to listen to a lecture, presided over by a senior pupil, and often including a guest speaker. [86] At any one time there are about fifty societies and clubs in existence, catering for a wide range of interests and largely run by boys.

Societies tend to come and go, depending on the special enthusiasms of the masters and boys in the school at the time, but some have been in existence for many years. Those in existence in recent times include: 1620 (American), Aeronautical, African and Caribbean, Alexander Cozens (Art), Architectural, Astronomy, Balfour (Jewish), Caledonian (reeling), Chatham, Cheese, Classical, Comedy, Debating, Design, East Asian, Entrepreneurship, Environmental, Francophone, Geographical, Henry Fielding (short-story writing), Hispanic, History, Infusions (Tea), Keynes (economics), Law, Literary, Mathematical, Medical, MENA, Model United Nations, Modern Languages, Originals (general talks), Simeon (Christian), Parry (music), Photographic, Political, Praed (poetry), Rock (music), Rous (equestrian), Salisbury (formerly diplomatic, now colonial history), Savile (rare books and manuscripts), Scientific, Sports, Theatre, Wellington (military), Wine and Wotton's (philosophy). [87]

Among past guest speakers are Rowan Atkinson,[ citation needed ] Jeremy Burge, [88] Ralph Fiennes, Nigel Farage, Jane Goodall, King Constantine II of Greece, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, [89] Anthony Horowitz, [90] John Major, [91] Boris Johnson, Ian McKellen, [92] J. K. Rowling, Katie Price, Hans Niemann, Nicolas Sarkozy, Kevin Warwick, [93] Andrew Lloyd Webber, [94] Vivienne Westwood, [95] Terry Wogan [96] and Alan Yau. [97]

Grants and prizes

Prizes are awarded on the results of trials (internal exams), GCSE and AS-levels. In addition, many subjects and activities have specially endowed prizes, several of which are awarded by visiting experts. The most prestigious of these is the Newcastle Scholarship. The Newcastle Scholarship is awarded on the strength of an examination, consisting of two papers in philosophical theology, moral theory and applied ethics. The Keynes Prize is awarded on an examination of a particular topic within the branch of Economics. The Rosebery Prize for History is awarded on the same day as the Newcastle Scholarship, and follows a similar format of a 3-hour exam during the Lent Half (although the Newcastle Scholarship is awarded on the basis of two such examinations). Also of note is the Gladstone Memorial Prize and the Coutts Prize, awarded on the results of trials and AS-level examinations in C block (Year 12); and the Huxley Prize, awarded for a project on a scientific subject. Other specialist prizes include the Newcastle Classical Prize, which was formerly the same prize as the Newcastle Scholarship, but the two were separated as a decreasing number of philosophers were fluent in Latin and Classical Greek; the Queen's Prizes for French and German; the Duke of Newcastle's Russian Prize; the Beddington Spanish Prize; the Strafford and Bowman Shakespeare Prizes; the Tomline and Russell Prizes in Mathematics; the Sotheby Prize for History of Art; the Waddington Prize for Theology and Philosophy; the Birley Prize for History; the Rorie Mackenzie Prize for Modern Languages; the Robert Boyle Prize for Physics. The Lower Boy Rosebery Prize; the Wilder Prize for Theology and The Hervey Verse Prize for poetry in senior years. Prizes are awarded too for excellence in such activities as painting, sculpture, ceramics, playing musical instruments, musical composition, declamation, silverwork, and design.

Various benefactions make it possible to give grants each year to boys who wish, for educational or cultural reasons, to work or travel abroad. These include the Busk Fund, which supports individual ventures that show particular initiative; the C. M. Wells Memorial Trust Fund, for the promotion of visits to classical lands; the Sadler Fund, which supports, among others, those intending to enter the Foreign Service; and the Marsden Fund, for travel in countries where the principal language is not English.

Incentives and sanctions

Eton has a well-established system for encouraging boys to produce high-standard work. An excellent piece of work may be rewarded with a "Show Up", to be shown to the boy's tutors as evidence of progress. [98] If, in any particular term, a pupil makes a particularly good effort in any subject, he may be "Commended for Good Effort" to the Head Master (or Lower Master).

If any boy produces an outstanding piece of work, it may be "Sent Up For Good", [98] storing the effort in the College Archives for posterity. This award has been around since the 18th century. As Sending Up For Good is fairly infrequent, the process is rather mysterious to many of Eton's boys. First, the master wishing to Send Up For Good must gain the permission of the relevant Head of Department. Upon receiving approval from the Head of Department, the piece of work will be marked with Sent Up For Good and the student will receive a card to be signed by House Master, tutor and division master.

The opposite of a Show Up is a "Rip". [99] This is for sub-standard work, which is sometimes torn at the top of the page/sheet and must be submitted to the boy's housemaster for signature. Boys who accumulate rips are liable to be given a "White Ticket", a form of a progress report which must be signed at intervals by all his teachers and may be accompanied by other punishments, usually involving doing domestic chores or writing lines. In recent times,[ when? ] a milder form of the rip, 'sign for information', colloquially known as an "info", has been introduced, which must also be signed by the boy's housemaster and tutor.

Internal examinations are held at the end of the Michaelmas half (i.e. autumn term) for all pupils except those in the last year, and in the Summer half for those in the first, second and fourth years (i.e. those not taking a full set of public examinations). These internal examinations are called "Trials". [100]

A boy who is late for any division or other appointments may be required to sign "Tardy Book", a register kept in the School Office, between 7:35 am and 7:45 am, every morning for the duration of his sentence (typically three days). [101] Tardy Book may also be issued for late work. For more serious misdeeds, a boy is placed "on the Bill", which involves him being summoned by the sudden entry of a prefect (Sixth Form Select) into one of his divisions, who announces in a loud and formal tone that at a given time a certain pupil must attend the office of the Head Master, or Lower Master if the boy is in the lower two years, to talk personally about his misdeeds. [102] The most serious misdeeds may result in expulsion, or rustication (suspension) or in former times, beating. Conversely, should a master be more than 15 minutes late for a class, traditionally the pupils may claim it as a "run" and absent themselves for the rest of its duration, provided they report their intention so to do at the School Office.

A traditional punishment took the form of being made to copy, by hand, Latin hexameters. Offenders were frequently set 100 hexameters by Library members, or, for more serious offences, Georgics (more than 500 hexameters) by their House Masters or the Head Master. [103] The giving of a Georgic is now extremely rare, but still occasionally occurs.

Corporal punishment

Eton used to be renowned for its use of corporal punishment, generally known as "beating". In the 16th century, Friday was set aside as "flogging day". [104] A special wooden birching block was used for the purpose, with the boy being directed to fetch it and then kneel over it.

John Keate, Head Master from 1809 to 1834, took over at a time when discipline was poor. Until 1964, offending boys could be summoned to the Head Master or the Lower Master, as appropriate, to receive a birching on the bare posterior, in a semi-public ceremony held in the Library[ dubious ], where there was a special wooden birching block over which the offender was held. Anthony Chenevix-Trench, Head Master from 1964 to 1970, abolished the birch and replaced it with caning, also applied to the bare buttocks, which he administered privately in his office. [105] Chenevix-Trench also abolished corporal punishment administered by senior boys. Previously, House Captains were permitted to cane offenders over the seat of the trousers. This was a routine occurrence, carried out privately with the boy bending over with his head under the edge of a table. Less common but more severe were the canings administered by Pop (see Eton Society below) in the form of a "Pop-Tanning", in which a large number of hard strokes were inflicted by the President of Pop in the presence of all Pop members (or, in earlier times, each member of Pop took it in turns to inflict a stroke). The culprit was summoned to appear in a pair of old trousers, as the caning would cut the cloth to shreds. This was the most severe form of physical punishment at Eton. [106]

Chenevix-Trench's successor from 1970, Michael McCrum, retained private corporal punishment by masters but ended the practice of requiring boys to take their trousers and underpants down when bending over to be caned by the Head Master. By the mid-1970s, the only people allowed to administer caning were the Head Master and the Lower Master. [107]

Corporal punishment was phased out in the 1980s. The film director Sebastian Doggart claims to have been the last boy caned at Eton, in 1984. [108]


In addition to the masters, the following three categories of senior boys are entitled to exercise School discipline. Boys who belong to any of these categories, in addition to a limited number of other boy office holders, are entitled to wear winged collars with bow ties.

It is possible to belong to Pop, Sixth Form Select and be a House Captain at the same time. It is less common for a House Captain to belong to Pop but it still happens fairly often.

There are also 4 positions that are considered to be the Head Boys of Eton: President of Pop, Chairman of Pop, Captain of the School and Captain of the Oppidans. The first two are the leaders of Pop and the latter two are the leaders of Sixth Form Select. Captain of the School and Captain of the Oppidans are also in Pop and in the Monarch (rowing prefect body) ex officio.

In the era of Queen Elizabeth I, there were two praepostors in every form, who noted down the names of absentees. Until the late 19th century, there was a praepostor for every division of the school. [104]


Sport is a feature of Eton; which has nearly 200 acres of playing fields and amenity land. [114] The names of the playing fields include Agar's Plough, Dutchman's, Upper Club, Lower Club, Sixpenny/The Field, and Mesopotamia (situated between two streams and often shortened to "Mespots").

The rowing lake at Dorney was developed and is owned by the college. It was the venue for the rowing and canoeing events at the 2012 Summer Olympics and the World Junior Rowing Championships. [115]

The annual cricket match against Harrow at Lord's Cricket Ground is the oldest fixture of the cricketing calendar, having been played there since 1805. A staple of the London society calendar since the 1800s, [116] in 1914, its importance was such that over 38,000 people attended the two days' play, and in 1910 the match made national headlines [117] [118] but interest has since declined considerably, and the match is now a one-day limited overs contest.

In 1815, Eton College documented its football rules, the first football code to be written down anywhere in the world. [119]

Eton Match was the annual cricket match between Eton and Winchester held at each school alternately. First played in 1826, it was originally just the cricket match, held over two days, with a dinner or concert or dance on one of the evenings. Eton Match, as such, ceased to exist by 2001. [120]

There is a running track at the Thames Valley Athletics Centre and an annual steeplechase. The running track was controversial as it was purchased with a £3m National Lottery grant with the school getting full daytime use of the facilities in exchange for £200k and 4.5 acres (1.8 hectares) of land. The bursar claimed that Windsor, Slough and Eton Athletic club was "deprived" because it did not have a world-class running track and facilities for training and the Sports Council agreed, saying the whole community would benefit. However Steve Osborn, director of the Safe Neighbourhoods Unit, described the decision as "staggering" given substantial reduction in youth services by councils across the country. [121] The facility which became the Thames Valley Athletics Centre opened in April 1999. [122]

Eton's Shooting VIII competed in the Ashburton Shield for many decades against the other major public schools. In July 1935, the "Public School Rivalry" was reported thus: "Charterhouse, Harrow, Winchester, Eton, Rugby and Clifton, all previous winners, were determined to add to their laurels" in the competition. Eton reportedly drew with Charterhouse and beat Clifton in the July 1939 competition held at Bisley. [123] [124] [125] As with the other schools, Eton's cadet corps sent a team of eight men - the Shooting VIII - to compete annually at Bisley. [126]

Among the other sports played at Eton is Eton Fives. [127]

Olympic rowing

In 2006, [128] six years before the 2012 London Summer Olympics and London 2012 Summer Paralympic Games, Eton completed the construction of Dorney Lake, a permanent, eight-lane, 2,200 metre course (about 1.4 miles) in a 400-acre park. Eton financed the construction from its own funds. Officially known throughout the Games as Eton Dorney, Dorney Lake provided training facilities for Olympic and Paralympic competitors, and during the Games, hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Rowing competitions as well as the Olympic Canoe Sprint event. [128] It attracted over 400,000 visitors during the Games period (around 30,000 per day), and was voted the best 2012 Olympic venue by spectators. [128] Thirty medal events were held on Dorney Lake, during which Team GB won a total of 12 medals, making the lake one of the most successful venues for Team GB. The FISA President, Denis Oswald, described it as "the best-ever Olympic rowing venue". [128] In June 2013, it hosted the World Rowing Cup. Access to the parkland around the Lake is provided to members of the public, free of charge, almost all the year round. [129]

Music and drama


The current "Precentor" (Head of Music) is Tim Johnson, and the School has eight organs and an entire building for music (performance spaces include the School Hall, the Farrer Theatre and two halls dedicated to music, the Parry Hall and the Concert Hall). Many instruments are taught, including obscure ones such as the didgeridoo. The School participates in many national competitions; many pupils are part of the National Youth Orchestra, and the School gives scholarships for dedicated and talented musicians. A former Precentor of the college, Ralph Allwood set up and organised Eton Choral Courses, which run at the School every summer.

In 2009, the School's musical protégés came to wider notice when featured in a TV documentary A Boy Called Alex. The film followed an Etonian, Alex Stobbs, a musician with cystic fibrosis, as he worked toward conducting the difficult Magnificat by Johann Sebastian Bach. [130] [131]


The exterior of Eton's main theatre, the Farrer Farrer Theatre.JPG
The exterior of Eton's main theatre, the Farrer

Numerous plays are put on every year at Eton College; there is one main theatre, called the Farrer (seating 400) and 2 Studio theatres, called the Caccia Studio and Empty Space (seating 90 and 80 respectively). There are about 8 or 9 house productions each year, around 3 or 4 "independent" plays (not confined solely to one house, produced, directed and funded by Etonians) and three school plays, one specifically for boys in the first two years, and two open to all years. The school plays have such good reputations that they are normally fully booked every night.[ citation needed ] Productions also take place in varying locations around the School, varying from the sports fields to more historic buildings such as Upper School and College Chapel.

In recent years, the School has put on a musical version of The Bacchae (October 2009) as well as productions of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (May 2010), The Cherry Orchard (February 2011), Joseph K (October 2011), Cyrano de Bergerac (May 2012), Macbeth (October 2012), London Assurance (May 2013), Jerusalem (October 2013), A Midsummer Night's Dream (May 2014), Antigone (October 2015), The Government Inspector (May 2016) and Romeo and Juliet (May 2017). On top of this, every three years, the School holds a fringe-style School Play Festival, where students and teachers write, direct and act in their own plays, hosted over the period of a week. The most recent one was held in October 2016, which hosted a wide variety of plays, from a double bill of two half an hour plays, to a serialised radio drama, written by a boy in F block (the youngest year.)

Often girls from surrounding schools, such as St George's, Ascot, St Mary's School Ascot, Windsor Girls' School and Heathfield St Mary's School, are cast in female roles. Boys from the School are also responsible for the lighting, sound and stage management of all the productions, under the guidance of several professional full-time theatre staff. [132]

Every year, Eton employs a 'Director-in-Residence', an external professional director on a one-year contract who normally directs one house play and the Lower Boy play (a school play open solely to the first two-year groups), as well as teaching Drama and Theatre Studies to most year groups.

The drama department is headed by Scott Handy (taking over from Hailz Osbourne in 2015) and several other teachers; Simon Dormandy was on the staff until late 2012. The School offers GCSE drama as well as A-level "English with Theatre Studies".


Eton's best-known holiday takes place on the so-called "Fourth of June", a celebration of the birthday of George III, Eton's greatest patron. [133] This day is celebrated with the Procession of Boats, in which the top rowing crews from the top four years row past in vintage wooden rowing boats. Similar to the Queen's Official Birthday, the "Fourth of June" is no longer celebrated on 4 June, but on the Wednesday before the first weekend of June. Eton also observes St. Andrew's Day, on which the Eton wall game is played. [134]

Charitable status and fees

Until 18 December 2010, Eton College was an exempt charity under English law (Charities Act 1993, Schedule 2). Under the provisions of the Charities Act 2006, it is now an excepted charity, and fully registered with the Charities Commission, [135] and is now one of the 100 largest charities in the UK. [136] As a charity, it benefits from substantial tax breaks. It was calculated by David Jewell, former Master of Haileybury, that in 1992 such tax breaks saved the school about £1,945 per pupil per year, although he had no direct connection with the school. This subsidy has declined since the 2001 abolition by the Labour Government of state-funded scholarships (formerly known as "assisted places") to independent schools. However, no child attended Eton on this scheme, meaning that the actual level of state assistance to the school has always been lower. Eton's former Head Master, Tony Little, has claimed that the benefits that Eton provides to the local community free of charge (use of its facilities, etc.) have a higher value than the tax breaks it receives as a result of its charitable status. The fee for the academic year 2021–2022 was £44,094 (approximately US$60,000 or 52,000 as of November 2021), [137] although the sum is considerably lower for those pupils on bursaries and scholarships.

Support for state education

London Academy of Excellence

Eton co-sponsors a state sixth-form college, the London Academy of Excellence, opened in 2012 in the London Borough of Newham in East London, [138] the second most deprived borough in England, [139] and just over a mile from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the main venue for London's 2012 Summer Olympics. In 2015–2016, it had around 440 pupils and 32 teachers. [140] The college is free of charge and aims to get all its students into higher education. [141] The college's close relationship with Eton has led it to be described as 'the Eton of the East End'. [142] In 2015, the college reported that it had been named best sixth form in the country by The Sunday Times . [139]

Holyport College

In September 2014, Eton opened, and became the sole educational sponsor for, Holyport College, a new purpose-built co-educational state boarding and day school that provides free education for around 500 pupils. It is located in Holyport, near Maidenhead in Berkshire. [143] [144] Construction costs were around £15 million, in which a fifth of places for day pupils have been set aside for children from poor homes, 21 boarding places for youngsters on the verge of being taken into care, and a further 28 boarders funded or part-funded through bursaries.[ citation needed ]

State school pupils

The above-described developments are running alongside long-established courses that Eton has provided for pupils from state schools, most of them in the summer holidays (July and August).

Universities Summer School

Launched in 1982, the Universities Summer School is an intensive residential course open to boys and girls throughout the UK who attend state schools, are at the end of their first year in the Sixth Form, and are about to begin their final year of schooling. [145]

Brent-Eton Summer School

Launched in 1994, the Brent-Eton Summer School offers 40–50 young people from the London Borough of Brent, an area of inner-city deprivation, an intensive one-week residential course, free of charge, designed to help bridge the gap between GCSE and A-level. [146]

Eton, Slough, Windsor and Heston Independent and State School Partnership

In 2008, Eton helped found the Eton, Slough, Windsor and Heston Independent and State School Partnership (ISSP), with six local state schools. The ISSP's aims are 'to raise pupil achievement, improve pupil self-esteem, raise pupil aspirations and improve professional practice across the schools'. [147] Eton also runs a number of choral and English language courses during the summer months.

Historical relations with other schools

Eton College has links with some private schools in India today, maintained from the days of the British Raj, such as The Doon School [148] and Mayo College. [148] Eton College is also a member of the G30 Schools Group, a collection of college preparatory boarding schools from around the world, including Turkey's Robert College, the United States' Phillips Academy and Phillips Exeter Academy, Australia's Melbourne Grammar School and Launceston Church Grammar School, Singapore's Raffles Institution, and Switzerland's International School of Geneva.

Eton has fostered[ when? ] a relationship with the Roxbury Latin School, a traditional all-boys private school in Boston, US. Former Eton Head Master and Provost Sir Eric Anderson has visited Roxbury Latin on numerous occasions. [149]

Eton College helped to fund the Chapel of Trinity College, Kandy, Sri Lanka. [150]

The Doon School, India

The Doon School, founded in 1935, is an all-boys' public school in India that was modelled along the lines of Eton and Winchester. [151] The School's first headmaster, Arthur E. Foot, had spent nine years as a science master at Eton College. [152] In February 2013, Eton's Head Master Tony Little visited Doon to hold talks with its then headmaster, Peter McLaughlin, on further collaboration between the two schools. [153] Both schools participate in an exchange programme in which boys from either school visit the other for one academic term. [154] Doon has often been described in the media as the 'Eton of India'. [155]

Old Etonians

The Old Etonian Tie: black with Eton blue stripes Old Etonian Necktie.svg
The Old Etonian Tie: black with Eton blue stripes

Former pupils of Eton College are known as Old Etonians.


Eton has produced twenty British prime ministers. Eleven of them are shown above.

Royalty and nobility

A number of blue-blooded pupils come to Eton from aristocratic and royal families from six continents, some of whom have been sending their sons to Eton for generations. This is an incomplete list.









Thirty-seven Old Etonians have been awarded the Victoria Cross—the largest number to alumni of any school (see List of Victoria Crosses by school).

Partially filmed at Eton

Here follows a list of films partially filmed at Eton. [172] [ better source needed ]


See also


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