In the United Kingdom Independent schools (also private schools, sometimes public schools) are fee paying schools which are governed by an elected board of directors and are independent of many of the regulations and conditions that apply to state funded schools. In addition to charging tuition fees, many also benefit from gifts, charitable endowments and charitable status. There are around 2,500 independent schools in the UK, which educate around 615,000 children, being some 7% of all British children and 18% of pupils over the age of 16. Many of these are members of the Independent Schools Council.
Some of older, more expensive and more exclusive schools catering for the 13-18 age-range in England and Wales are known as Public schools, the term 'public' being derived from the fact that they were open to pupils regardless of where they lived or their religion. Prep schools, (or preparatory school) educate younger children up to the age of 13, and 'prepare' pupils for entry to thee public schools and other independent schools. Some former grammar schools converted to an independent fee paying model following the 1965 Circular 10/65 which marked the end of their state funding, others converted into comprehensive schools.
Some independent schools are particularly old, such as The King's School, Canterbury (founded 597), St Peter's School, York (founded c.627), Sherborne School (founded c.710, refounded 1550 by Edward VI), Warwick School (c.914), The King's School, Ely (c.970) and St Albans School (948). These schools were founded as part of the church and were under their complete dominion. However, it was during the late 14th & early 15th centuries that the first schools, independent of the church, were founded. Winchester & Oswestry were the first of their kind and paved the way for the establishment of the modern "Public school". These were often established for male scholars from poor or disadvantaged backgrounds; however, English law has always regarded education as a charitable end in itself, irrespective of poverty. For instance, the Queen's Scholarships founded at Westminster in 1560, are for "the sons of decay'd gentlemen".
The transformation of free charitable foundations into institutions which sometimes charge fees came about readily: the foundation would only afford minimal facilities, so that further fees might be charged to lodge, clothe and otherwise maintain the scholars, to the private profit of the trustees or headmaster. Also, facilities already provided by the charitable foundation for a few scholars could profitably be extended to further paying pupils. (Some schools still keep their foundation scholars in a separate house from other pupils.)
After a time, such fees would eclipse the original charitable income, and the original endowment would naturally become a minor part of the capital benefactions enjoyed by the school. In 2009 senior boarding schools were charging fees of between £16,000 and nearly £30,000 per annum.