I attended Eton College during easily it's most public years, 1995-2000. Though most boys whom where there anywhere during that time, and currently, tend to disavow any knowledge of the place, I happily and proudly admit to being an OE. Firstly, Eton offers a first rate education. Not only the usual fare of maths, English, history and sciences, but also many languages. But it is not only about books and maths, there is also a lot of sport and extras on offer. You may do the regular sports, such as rugby, football, cricket, rowing, hockey, and athletics. Or, you may chose from a variety of lesser known used ones, judo, golf, polo, fencing, shooting, rackets, fives, sailing, squash, badmintion, and beagling. Eton even has it's own sports, played at no other schools: the field game, and the wall game. If you are not sporty, you may try your hand at the other activites. A fantastic art school, great theatre, house plays, CCF, music school with many bands, orchestras and chiors, a well written Chronicle, school of mechanics, or one of over 50 societies. The societies attract the greatest speakers imaginable! One of the best aspects of Eton, that makes it above and beyond other schools like it, is the great pastoral care. Every boy is in a house, with about 50 other boys. Each has their own room straight from the beginning. Half of the houses eat in Bekynton, a cafeteria, the other half in their houses dining room. The food is for the most part quite good. Aside from having your housemaster and his wife as a role model and person to talk to, you also have your Dame, and tutor. It is quite easy to fit in, as boys are not impressed by money or social standing. Everyone is very friendly, and easy to talk to. Windsor is a great place to go into, and London is not over an hour away.
Eton College near Windsor is probably the most famous school in Britain, apart from Grange Hill. It is a curious institution with a unique place in our national psyche. The school of 23 Prime Ministers and countless other political, cultural and aristocratic players that have graced our national stage since its foundation in 1440 (including Percy Shelley, George Orwell, William Gladstone, Ian Fleming and, well, stacks of people) its historic ties are unlike any other school in the world. Obviously in recent years its profile has been raised by the fact that the Royal Princes are/have been educated there but even that aside, Eton is a unique school. I was fortunate to be able to attend Eton as a schoolboy between 1994 and 1996. They were extraordinary years in my life for a number of reasons and I want to offer a personal portrait of the school on Dooyoo. Let me clear up one thing straightaway. I went to Eton on a Scholarship paid for by Eton. My parents paid nothing and neither did the taxpayer under anything like the Assisted Places Scheme. It was a sixth-form scholarship that included my boarding and tuition fees and a uniform allowance for my A-level years. The Sixth Form Scholarship was designed for people like me who came from state maintained schools who achieved well academically and had something to offer the school. After exams and interviews I was awarded a place and a fantastic opportunity. I finished my GCSEs in the June of 1994 at a really good Comprehensive in Sussex knowing that the following September I would be leaving my mates and home to go to boarding school. In retrospect I really had no idea for the culture shock I was letting myself in for. During that lovely summer I went up to Eton to meet my new Housemaster and Dame (a house master’s trusty lieutenant and matron to the boys). My housemaster was a good-humoured Kiwi with a huge beard and my Dame was a funny and slightly subversive Scotswoman. I liked them
both a lot and they helped me settle into my new way of life. I also went up to get my uniform from one of the old style tailors on the High Street. I got two tail suits and sports kit (which I must confess to having hardly used). The list from my Housemaster included stipulations as to how many pairs of pants and socks were necessary as well as the number of hankies and casual clothes were required. My mother and I left this largely up to our own discretion. I didn’t settle in straightaway and it was not until the following Easter that I felt I belonged in the school. But Eton is a meritocracy and if you are good at something you a welcomed and encouraged. From an early stage my appalling sports talents were recognized and my name no longer appeared on the team-lists, which was cool even in a school which placed so much emphasis on the sporting pursuits. I excelled in such arty fields as drama, debating and writing for the myriad of school publications there were. I directed a play in my final year that was taken to Edinburgh and I edited the Eton College Chronicle. Nowhere else, I believe, would I have been given access to such resources and autonomy to partake in these activities. As one would perhaps expect the facilities are quite extraordinary. Apart from its own theatre, drama studios, concert hall, golf course, indoor swimming pool, outdoor swimming pool and boathouse. There are also acres and acres of playing fields, sports facilities for Rock Climbing and squash and a huge rowing lake, fantastic music facilities, workshops and gardens. For those who so desire there is also a pack of beagles for those who like a bit of hunting. I would always wonder at these fantastic facilities but I also think that so many other boys took them for granted. But then, perhaps if your parents were paying the fees they were all that were to be expected. That said I know of nowhere else in this country where one could have access to thi
s array of opportunities. Perhaps as a result of the daunting choice of distractions Eton is not academically the most glittering of Public Schools. Of course, the results are very good but it is no longer close to the top of the league. The headmaster would always say that he took pride in that fact that the School educated “the whole man.” I would agree that most Old Etonian escape into the world as balanced men, as with other schools some invariably do not. The teaching was invariably of a high standard from men(and a few women) who were usually competent if not expert in their fields. But the biggest change I experienced was in the class sizes and the class behaviour in place. Classes were small and well behaved. The atmosphere for learning was good and I revelled in being able to dabble in three subjects I love- English, History and Politics – in a really conducive atmosphere. The libraries too were outstanding and havens for study. The History Library had big leather sofas and a couple of Joshua Reynolds on the walls. I also loved the opportunity for options that allowed boys to break from their specialities and look at subjects as varied as cookery, creative writing, silver work and American Studies. The only thing I would seriously criticize about the old place is the pastoral care. There persists a stiff-upper lip attitude. I personally feel I was well served by my Dame who looked after me above the call of her duty. I am not sure this is true across the board. Now Eton is a large school with 1270 pupils. All the boys board in houses of roughly fifty. This gives Eton a feeling akin to a town rather than a school. Traffic moves freely amongst the besuited boys but sometimes this just makes the individual boy feel small, lost and lonely. I am pleased I joined at 16 because I am not sure that I would have coped had I been younger. Although it is a huge advantage that Eton provides each boy with their own room from day one o
ffering privacy and security there still persists a tyranny from older boys. It’s not the old-fashioned thrashing and fagging style but older boys do not always treat the younger chaps with the understanding they deserve. I was house captain and I was sometimes irritated with my peers for their insensitivity. I think the school needs to adopt a slightly more caring approach. That said, the tone is perhaps changing. The growing number of female staff is influencing this as are hard learnt lessons of recent years. I hope, perhaps, that you might now look beyond the black tail suits and old architecture and see in Eton a modern, functioning school with much to offer. For further details see the website which is rather good. It also has further details of scholarships. Floreat Etona!