A state school.
In American English, a school maintained at the public expense is called a public school. What do the British people call a school maintained at the public expense?
I need native speakers' help.
A state school.
To confuse the issue, in BrE, a public school is a term for a school where the parents pay fees to send their children there. It is effectively a private school, a term which is used for the same schools!
Frequently, you'll hear "public school" used in a slightly derogatory way. For example, many members of the previous Conservative cabinet (and some of the current one) were educated at public schools and lots of people suggested that that meant they came from privileged, rich households who understood nothing of the frustrations of the normal, working people. Calling those members of the government "public school boys" has a definite connotation.
The same can't be said of the term "private school". If I said to my neighbour, "Where do your kids go to school? The local comprehensive?", they might answer with "No, we decided to send them both to private school". That would indicate to me that the parents are probably fairly well-off financially, but it doesn't have the same "snobbish" feel to it.
Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.
Over here, it is the private school that has that connotation. All of the politicians (and a large majority of public school teachers) send their kids to private schools.
Let me further complicate the BrE confusion.
Public school can seem elitist to some. Private school can seem elitist to some, but, because only the top schools outside the state sector are recognized as public schools, private school can suggest 'second class non-state school' to others, independent school has become a popular way for both public and private schools and their supporters, to refer to such schools.
The important thing for learners to remember is that public schools in the USA are funded by the state; they provide education free of charge. Public schools in the UK are not funded by the state; they provide education at a cost. Other details* are relevant only to those studying education systems rather than the language.
* At least two members of this forum went to a direct grant grammar school. Let's not go there.
Last edited by Piscean; 14-Sep-2016 at 08:00. Reason: typo
In the UK, public schools were called that because they weren't schools to train the clergy. Nowadays, they tend to call themselves independent schools, though the majority of speakers still call them public schools.