A prefect is - in the UK at least - a student monitor, chosen by teachers to keep an eye on the younger pupils. This practice has been abolished in most schools, except private schools.

Prefects were chosen by the teachers as being the people with the best personalities and work record. They watched over the corridors during lesson times, and made sure that the masses stayed in line during lunch and played nice at break time. Prefects were allowed to hand out minor punishments in the form of lines and essays. They were distinguished from other students by some form of badge or other identifying symbol (in my old school, they wore yellow bands around the wrists on the blazer, instead of blue, and had dark blue ties with light blue and yellow stripes, as opposed to the simple blue that the rest of us wore).


What a bunch of pricks! I can't believe that anyone in a position of power over the education of a few thousand impressionable young minds would think that this system was a good idea. In theory, having older students looking out for the younger ones would be useful, but the problem was that there was nobody to keep them in order ("Who watches the watchmen?" and all that...) and the more sadistic among them would start handing out 3000 word essays on topics such as "The Inside Of A Ping-Pong Ball".

To be fair though, I did know quite a few decent prefects in my time at the school, which was always handy seeing as the powers that be seemed to believe that the word of a prefect was truth, and as such, without any contravening evidence, they could basically so whatever they liked to make the lives of the others miserable.

I left the school before I became old enough to become a prefect, had they had a momentary lapse in sanity and actually selected me. A lot of my friends went on to become them though, and I hope they remembered the things that prefects used to put through and treated people fairly.
Who the fuck am I kidding?
I haven't conducted any research on the topic, so the below may, quite possibly, only apply to my school. For information, my school is a male-only public school (in the UK sense) which has students from ages 11-18.

There are prefects at two levels in the school. At age 13-14, or upper-third form (the end of the lower half of the school) there were several junior prefects with limited powers, distinguished by a different tie. They existed mainly to vaguely keep order and assist at assemblies.

Secondly, there are the main type of prefects, appointed at the end of the lower sixth (effectively the upper sixth, because the year ends early when you have public exams). They are distinguished by a different tie, and have far more responsibility. They can give duty slips, which result in the offender having to assist in cleaning the dining hall and effectively losing a lunchtime. Prefects assist in monitoring lunch queues, assemblies and whatever the school needs them to do.

Within the (sixth form) prefects there exists a smaller hierarchy. The lead prefect is the School Captain (a similar concept to Head Boy). His deputies are the vice-captains. The most senior prefects are known as senior prefects.

Both junior and sixth-form prefects are appointed by the senior members of staff, with consultation from form tutors and at one point a vote by the students.

As well as the duties mentioned above, all prefects help with school events, which for a public school can be quite large. They assist with showing people in and around at concerts or sporting occasions, and this can involve a substantial amount of effort put in outside of normal school hours.

In addition to the different tie, at certain occasions prefects wear special gowns, blue for junior and purple for sixth-form prefects, with varying gold or black trim to show special status for the school captain and senior prefects. The sixth-form prefects attend a prefects' Christmas dinner in black tie as recognition for their efforts.

Finally, an additional class known as prefects are house prefects. They do not have any special powers but are appointed in the upper sixth to help in the organisation house activities, usually with a prefect assigned to each year. They are appointed by the relevant housemaster.

Pre"fect (?), n. [L. praefectus, fr. praefectus, p. p. of praeficere to set over; prae before + facere to make: cf. F. pr'efet.]


A Roman officer who controlled or superintended a particular command, charge, department, etc.; as, the prefect of the aqueducts; the prefect of a camp, of a fleet, of the city guard, of provisions; the pretorian prefect, who was commander of the troops guarding the emperor's person.


A superintendent of a department who has control of its police establishment, together with extensive powers of municipal regulation.


Brande & C.


In the Greek and Roman Catholic churches, a title of certain dignitaries below the rank of bishop.

Apostolic prefect R. C. Ch., the head of a mission, not of episcopal rank.



© Webster 1913.

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