Founded in 1440 by Henry VI (sister college of King's College, Cambridge, which was founded a year later). Seventy King's Scholars still live in the original buildings (most elegant dining hall and ancient classroom with original benches and graffiti). Buildings of mellow old red brick, medieval courtyards, grounds running down to the Thames, boys in tailcoats and white bow ties hurrying to lessons – the whole place looks like a film set. Magnificent chapel built by Henry VI and a second chapel for Lower Boys. Has appointed an imam and RC chaplain, Jewish and Hindu tutors on the staff too.
Twenty-five boarding houses, including College (for King's Scholars). Single study bedsits for all from day one. Huge variety of rooms and décor. The rooms we saw were pretty salubrious – one housemaster we met drew the line at 'floor-drobes'. Sanctions imposed for messy rooms range from laundry duty to black-bagging, where boys' possessions get stuffed in a bin bag and the culprit must pay a fine to get them back. All rooms networked and school endeavours to teach boys about responsible computer use. Boarding houses scattered either side of the High Street and beyond. Houses are known by the names of the housemasters in charge. They are in post for 13 years, so the names of the houses change with them.
Boys wear tailcoats and stiff collars – apart from office bearers, who wear proper wing collars and white ties. Brilliant for posture, as boys stuff pockets in their tailcoats with essential school kit, pulling even the most round-shouldered teenagers straight. School uniform not as expensive as you might think – good second-hand trade, both boy-inspired and via the school tailors in the High Street. Fancy waistcoats worn by the school prefects, or to give them their proper title, the Eton Society ('Pop'). Pupils don't wear tails across the bridge to Windsor any longer – much informal changing and half-changing (putting on a jacket rather than tails) after lessons. Teaching staff mostly live within 600 yards of the school, which creates a 'good sense of community'.
Lively atmosphere. Every day is structured and active, with boys and beaks constantly on the go. Beaks wear gowns for their three-line whip coffee break – Chambers – when one beak will attract the attention of another by tugging at his gown. Has its own traditional (and ever-evolving) school language: terms are 'halves', weekly tutor sessions are 'private business' and boys who aren't King's Scholars are Oppidans - luckily, a helpful glossary on the school website to explain all. Excellent school mags (The Chronicle, The Junior Chronicle) which are sold on high days and holidays for commission. All boys now have mobile phones and discount-available laptops.