In the United Kingdom, the term "public school" means the exact opposite of its American usage, and refers to the most expensive and prestigious private schools, such as Eton College, Harrow, and a few others. The term public was used because the school was open to all public applicants, albeit ones that could afford to pay the fees. The UK equivalent of US public schools are called state schools which provide education for free to all pupils.
The first UK state school, Beverley Grammar School, was founded in 700AD. Despite the fact that around 90% of UK children are educated at one, some state schools are looked down upon due to poor test results and bullying. Recently many of the worst schools have opted to become Academies which receive public and private money and must accept local children but are more free to set their own wages.
While Great Britain has become increasingly atheistic, many of its state schools, particularly Primary (Elementary) schools, are still Christian schools with prayers and hymns at the beginning of the school day. Over 1 million children in Britain attend schools connected with the Church of England. Such schools are funded by the government but attached to churches and as such, the children attend a religious service at least once a week during school time for a service where they pray together and receive blessings. Church schools are recognised for their distinctive Christian ethos and the impact this has on standards and all round education. The proportions of Church schools regarded as 'outstanding' (by Ofsted) is much higher than the national norm and yet the Church schools are fully inclusive.
In addition to the existence of faith schools it a legal requirement for all "maintained schools" (i.e. government funded) within England and Wales to have an act of collective worship. This was signed into law as part of the 1988 Education Act and "must reflect the traditions of this country which are, in the main, broadly Christian". Liberal teachers often ignore this law and use time available for collective worship to indoctrinate their pupils into their ideology.