The national curriculum for England leaves it for schools to decide whether girls have equal access to football in timetabled PE lessons. Figures published by the FA showed that just 63% of girls are offered football lessons in state primary schools, with the figure dropping to 44% in secondary school.
Independent schools in the UK can offer more opportunities for both boys and girls to get involved with football in a competitive and fun, social environment. As you’d expect, most fee-paying day and boarding schools offer students the chance to represent their school at both a local and regional level. But there is also a rising number of schools that are setting student-athletes on the path to being a professional footballer. Schools across the UK are raising their game with world-class facilities, professional coaches and elite training programmes to support the athletes of the future.
WhichSchoolAdvisor rounds up some of the best UK boarding schools for football, for both girls and boys.
Located in the Berkshire countryside – and within an hour of London – Bradfield College is one of the leading UK schools for football education. The school has an acclaimed football programme for boys, and a fast-growing football programme for girls. It also offers football scholarships for students entering Year 9 and the Sixth Form.
Facilities across its sprawling campus include 10 grass football pitches and a strength and conditioning gym. Its Director of Football, Luke Webb, had a three year professional playing career at Arsenal, Coventry City and Hereford United.
Very much a boarding school (only 10% are day students), Bradfield offers a broad curriculum that includes a choice of A Levels or the IB Diploma Programme; it takes a very caring approach to educating its 13 to 18- year-olds; and its extensive co-curricular programme offers every student the opportunity to extend their learning.
Millfield School is synonymous with sport and is a top contender for educating future Olympians, whether you see your child competing in football, swimming, athletics, netball or rugby. There are not many that can compete with this co-ed independent day and boarding school for sport.
When it comes to sport, Millfield is almost untouchable; it was the most represented school at the London 2012 Olympics and 2014 Commonwealth Games. This is the school where students train for Olympic Gold, are coached by former Olympians, and have the use of world-class indoor and outdoor facilities on campus.
Students may be offered individual sporting programmes instead of joining timetabled PE lessons, and it’s perhaps easier to list the sports that Millfield does not offer. While this is certainly the school for students with a competitive streak, there is room for those who prefer to play for fun: there are B teams, all students spend at least 3.5 hours in PE lessons per week, and there is a wide choice of after-school clubs too.
Shrewsbury School has a strong sporting ethos and offers a wide breadth of sports with particular strengths in football, cricket, and cross country. On the 100-acre site there are nine full-size grass pitches and an artificial Astroturf surface, and the 'Top Common' has full irrigation, which allows all year round training and matches.
There’s a good balance of enjoyment and achievement in sport here, encouraging students to compete for fun in the school’s house leagues or train at the highest possible level in the dedicated athlete programme – and there are many platforms for students to develop their sporting skills.
Brooke House College is a small boarding and day school in Market Harborough, which offers a bespoke education to an international student community. Its small class sizes, intensive English courses and flexible start dates combine to offer overseas students an exam-focused pathway to studying at a UK university. The school also has its very own Football Academy.
Brooke House launched a football academy in 2008 that has grown to 170 players (boys and girls). The Academy has seen several players progress to a professional football career after leaving the school, with many more playing for County, National and International teams. Recent successes include a signing to the Turkish Süper Lig club, Galatasaray.
Football Academy students follow a bespoke timetable that allows them to balance their sporting ambitions with their academic study. They attend regular GCSE, A Level and University Foundation academic classes in the morning and football academy training in the afternoons; weekends and evenings are devoted to homework, football matches and social activities. The academy is based at the Harborough Town Football Cub.