Seven percent of British schoolchildren go to private schools called independent schools. There are 2,400 independent schools and they have been growing in number and popularity since the mid-1980's.
Parents pay for these schools, and fees vary from about 250 pounds a term for a private nursery to 3,000 pounds a term or more for a secondary boarding school. Most independent schools are called prep (preparatory) schools because they prepare the children for the Common Entrance Exam which they take at the age of 11. This exam is for entry into the best schools.
The most famous schools are called "public schools" and they have a long history and traditions. It is often necessary to put your child's name on a waiting list at birth to be sure he or she gets 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.
The majority of independent secondary schools, including public schools, are single-sex, although in recent years girls have been allowed to join the sixth forms of boys' schools. Independent schools also include religious schools (Jewish, Catholic, Muslim etc.) and schools for ethnic minorities.