Public Schools Act 1868
The Public Schools Act 1868 was enacted by the British Parliament
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

 to reform and regulate nine of the leading English boys' schools. They were described as "public schools
Public School (UK)
A public school, in common British usage, is a school that is neither administered nor financed by the state or from taxpayer contributions, and is instead funded by a combination of endowments, tuition fees and charitable contributions, usually existing as a non profit-making charitable trust...

" as admission was open to boys from anywhere and was not limited to those living in a particular locality. Most of the nine had grown out of ancient charity school
Charity school
A charity school, also called Blue Coat School, was significant in the History of education in England. They were erected and maintained in various parishes, by the voluntary contributions of the inhabitants, for teaching poor children to read, write, and other necessary parts of education...

s for the education of a certain number of poor scholars, but then, as today, also educating many sons of the English upper and upper-middle classes on a fee-paying basis.

As is clear from the long title of the Act, An Act to make further Provision for the good Government and Extension of certain Public Schools in England, it was not intended to define which schools were "public schools" but to apply conditions to some of them: in practice, these were the most famous and important schools of the day.

The Act followed the report of the Clarendon Commission
Clarendon Commission
Following complaints about the finances, buildings and management of Eton College the Clarendon Commission, a Royal Commission, was set up in 1861 to investigate the state of nine leading schools in England at the time. The Clarendon Report was published in 1864 with general recommendations on the...

, a Royal Commission
Royal Commission
In Commonwealth realms and other monarchies a Royal Commission is a major ad-hoc formal public inquiry into a defined issue. They have been held in various countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia...

 on Public Schools which sat from 1861 to 1864 and investigated conditions and abuses which had grown up over the centuries at nine nationally famous charity schools, six of which were in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 at the time, with three being provincial:
  • Charterhouse School
    Charterhouse School
    Charterhouse School, originally The Hospital of King James and Thomas Sutton in Charterhouse, or more simply Charterhouse or House, is an English collegiate independent boarding school situated at Godalming in Surrey.Founded by Thomas Sutton in London in 1611 on the site of the old Carthusian...

  • Eton College
    Eton College
    Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

  • Harrow School
    Harrow School
    Harrow School, commonly known simply as "Harrow", is an English independent school for boys situated in the town of Harrow, in north-west London.. The school is of worldwide renown. There is some evidence that there has been a school on the site since 1243 but the Harrow School we know today was...

  • Merchant Taylors' School
    Merchant Taylors' School, Northwood
    Merchant Taylors' School is a British independent day school for boys, originally located in the City of London. Since 1933 it has been located at Sandy Lodge in the Three Rivers district of Hertfordshire ....

  • Rugby School
    Rugby School
    Rugby School is a co-educational day and boarding school located in the town of Rugby, Warwickshire, England. It is one of the oldest independent schools in Britain.-History:...

  • Shrewsbury School
    Shrewsbury School
    Shrewsbury School is a co-educational independent school for pupils aged 13 to 18, founded by Royal Charter in 1552. The present campus to which the school moved in 1882 is located on the banks of the River Severn in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England...

  • St Paul's School
  • Westminster School
    Westminster School
    The Royal College of St. Peter in Westminster, almost always known as Westminster School, is one of Britain's leading independent schools, with the highest Oxford and Cambridge acceptance rate of any secondary school or college in Britain...

  • Winchester College
    Winchester College
    Winchester College is an independent school for boys in the British public school tradition, situated in Winchester, Hampshire, the former capital of England. It has existed in its present location for over 600 years and claims the longest unbroken history of any school in England...

The Act removed these schools from any direct jurisdiction or responsibility of the Crown, established church
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 or government, establishing a board of governors for each school and granting them independence over their administration. The Act led to rapid development of the schools, away from the traditional classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

-based curriculum taught by clergymen, to a broader scope of studies.
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