6 Weird British Public School Traditions

Whether they’re being awarded with school medals, wearing preposterous top hats or engaging in arcane sporting activities, the prestigious British public school is a peculiar place. Here are 6 weird traditions from the Crème de la Crème of expensive UK educational establishments…

1. Fagging

Although this practice is said to have been abolished and faded out in the 1970s and 1980s, ‘fagging’ in which older pupils (sometimes called ‘fag-masters’) take on younger pupils as ‘fags’ (i.e. unpaid servants) probably still goes on to a lesser degree at p

restigious British public schools. In the bad old days, disobedient ‘fags’ would be punished, often physically, for insubordination.

2. Complex clothing

Harrow, a British public school particularly well known for it’s elaborate codes and systems when it comes to donning the correct attire. For formal occasions, official monitors may wear a black top hat and carry a cane, prominent members of sports teams may wear grey waistcoats, arts society members (who belong to The Guild) may wear maroon waistcoats and members of the 1st XI cricket team are entitled to wear a black-speckled hat. Spiffing!

3. Sending up for good

If you’ve been an extra good boy, school medals may be in the offing, but at Eton there is an even more prestigious award. In very rare circumstances, when a piece of student work is positively superlative, it can be sent up for good – a practice which will store the work in the College Archives forever.

4. Painful hexameters


One particularly torturous traditional punishment at Eton was the copying of Latin hexameters. Wrongdoers may be given 100 hexameters to copy to atone for their misdemeanours. When a pupil was given more than 500 hexameters it was known as a Georgic. These are rarely given at 21st century Eton, yet they are not unheard of.

5. Umbrella privileges

At Eton, the self-elected prefect ‘Pop’ society are e


ntitled to certain privileges. Traditionally they may wear chequered sponge-bag trousers and a waistcoat of their own design. In school tradition, they once had the sole right within the school to furl their umbrellas and to sit on the wall of the Long Walk, although these rules are now considered outdated.

6. The Jargon

Every British public school worth it’s upper class salt has plenty of impenetrable jargon to bandy about. Here are a few of our favourites:


  • Beaks  Teachers (Harrow)
  • Burning Bush A lamp post used as a meeting point outside the school (Eton)
  • Eccer Exercise (Harrow)
  • Tosher Shower (Harrow)
  • Mesopotamia or ‘Mesopots’ A specific foot

    ball field used in the winter (Eton)

  • Rip A punishment for a particularly bad piece of work (Eton)

    Blog Post: 6 Weird British public School Traditions Eton College Cote of Arms

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