In Scotland, the holder of this position is sometimes known as the "rector"; however, usage of this term mainly applies to independent schools. The slang term "heidie" is seldom used in Scotland today, and most Scottish schoolchildren now refer to their head teacher as "the head". In North America, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Ireland (including Northern Ireland), the position holder is usually known as the "school principal", but some schools, primarily independent schools (called "private schools" in North America), use the term "headmaster" or "head master".
In the past, the headmaster or headmistress of a British public school was often the owner of the school or a member of the owning family, and the position often remained in the family for many generations.
As in Scotland, the term "rector" is still in use in the United States in private religious schools, as by tradition the head of school was also a priest. Some American state schools (called "public schools"), such as Boston Latin School, Brooklyn Latin School, and Milpitas High School, also use the term "headmaster", either because of the schools' history or historical connections.
In the UK, the terms "headmaster" and "headmistress" used to be the formal titles in most state schools as well as private schools, with "head teacher" only being used as a term to refer to them collectively.
In recent years, however, most state schools have switched to the gender-neutral "head teacher" as the official title. Nevertheless, the gender-specific terms are still commonly used in day-to-day speech and are still the official titles at some of the remaining state grammar schools and most private schools. Some use other terms, such as "high master". In South Africa, independent schools and the majority of state schools use the gender-specific terms "headmaster" and "headmistress" when addressing their head teachers.
"Principal" or "head of school" is often used as the title of the head administrator of an elementary school, middle school, or high school or boarding school in some English-speaking countries, including the United States, India, Australia and New Zealand. Public schools in the United States generally use the title "principal" whereas private schools in the United States sometimes use the title head of school.
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