The great tradition of independent schools is our tradition. We got here first. We started the ball rolling. In 1382, to be exact. Every other boarding school in the world is probably based on Winchester. All those of you who think Eton is the mutt's nuts (boo! hiss!) are definitively wrong. anyway, back to the story:
Once upon a time there was a man, named William of Wykeham, who was both the Bishop of Winchester and the High Chancellor. He was also excruciatingly rich (which had nothing to do with the fact that all the nation's taxes came through his hands). He created a school for:
"Seventy poor and needy scholars"
These scholars were to have their entire school fees paid by William, himself. However, a scholar now only gets half price fees (although when you consider that we're talking £17,000 to £20,000 per year, thats quite a lot). As, of course, now, Winchester has commercialised itself somewhat, rather than 70 there are now 700 boys, culled from the richest families of England and the World. It is as much a status symbol as an education. It can also be so for parents: to have multiple children attending offensively expensive schools is indicative of the kind of wealth that could... do something really useful if properly re-directed.
In order to make room for the large size increase (which happened only about 150 years ago), new boarding houses were built. Unfortunately, they have not been in any way refurbished for those 150 years. Some of them could really use a coat of paint! The boarding houses all have three names: a house letter (A to I, K, and X for college), a postal address which is typically the surname of the first ever housemaster, and a common name, which tends to be either the first housemaster's nickname, or the name of the second housemaster. This will likely be an unsuspecting parent's first run-in with the dreadful Winchester Notions. This is a language which Wykehamists (boys at Winchester) use to make themselves feel superior to the rest of the world. Notions are nearly as beloved as sarcasm, which unfortunately is so overused here that it has almost lost its value as verbal currency.
Winchester's superiority over the other schools of its ilk is its superior exam performance. Invariably coming in the top five of all major league tables of British secondary schools, it is normally only beaten by St Paul's. Less snobby than Radley, less bound by tradition that Eton, and formerly run by a man who is the former head of the QCA (Dr Nicholas Tate), exams have become quite a focus recently. However, with the appointment of the new headmaster, Mr Thomas Cookson, himself an Old Wykehamist, it is hoped that education may be pursued beyond the simple goals of exams.
The college's exam performance, however, not been to the detriment of the education received, due to the wide variety of non-examined subjects available in the curriculum, and the huge selection of extra-curricular activities. We play football, Winchester College Football and cricket as out main sports, have consistently strong athletics, hockey, fencing, judo, karate, aikido and squash teams, and more others than I could name if I tried.
We also have extremely strong showings in Art, Music, and D&T, with large, modern, extensive buildings dedicated to each.
All this obsequious propagandising is making me sick, so I will come back to this node when I have something sensible to say, or if I negotiate getting paid for sucking up to the school.