Popular with international boarders – as well as rising football stars – Brooke House College is a small school offering a flexible UK curriculum and a top football academy.
Located in the Midlands, the school enrols around 280 students aged 11-18 years. Most students are boarders (95%), the school has a very international intake of students coming from more than 50 countries, and the majority of students here have English as an additional language.
Founded in 1967, the school was originally a 'crammer' for local students wishing to re-sit their A Levels. Today, its focus is on preparing international students for UK university through a choice of GCSEs and A Levels, as well as a University Foundation Programme and English courses.
There's also a very sporty side to Brooke House, which 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.
Brooke House is a school with a very close-knit community where students can enjoy all the benefits of studying (and living) alongside peers from a melting pot of cultures and nationalities. It's sociable (there are events such as an end of year concert), proud of its multicultural community (there's an annual international day), and small enough to give students the extra academic support they need.
The school has just seen a change of leadership with Ian Smith replacing Mike Oliver as Principal in September 2021. Mr Oliver was a popular head who expanded the school to include Years 7-9, made the Football Academy co-ed, and introduced an earlier start time (8.15am) so that footballers can attend lessons before training. He retired after five years in the role.
Mr Smith has taught for 25 years in state, independent and international schools, most recently as Vice Principal at Surbiton High School and Head of Senior School at GEMS Kochi World School in Kerala.
Teaching follows a broad UK curriculum for Years 7-9 (11 to 14 years olds) that is designed to prepare students for study at GCSE level; subjects include art, English, geography, German, history, ICT, mathematics, PE, Spanish, music, drama, and RE. This can be combined with an Intensive English course, if required.
Brooke House offers a one-year accelerated GCSE course, where students can take four or five subjects. Alternatively, students on the traditional two-year GCSE take eight subjects, although some students in the football academy may study fewer.
The choice of GCSEs is not the widest or the most diverse offered across the UK, but it does cover the most popular university entry subjects. There's a wider range of A Level subjects, with options as varied as psychology, photography, Spanish and economics.
The school also offers a popular University Foundation Programme (UFP), a one-year fast track course for international students; this is a popular with overseas students who have finished high school in their home country but need further qualifications to apply to a UK university.
Students have a choice of Intensive English Language Courses to help prepare for GCSE, A Level or UFP courses; this can be studied alongside their academic studies or as a standalone course and focuses on studying English in academic subjects such as science, geography, history and maths.
Class sizes at Brooke House are small, with an average of just eight students. With this teacher-student ratio, you can expect a very personal style of teaching where teachers can identify an individual child's learning needs.
Many teachers were previously A Level or GCSE examiners for the subjects that they teach, and this expertise can help students to understand the syllabus and exam technique.
There's frequent assessment and testing frequent and regular tests, timed assignments and mock exams – much more than you would find at a typical independent school (and parents get five reports every academic year, so are kept very well-informed on their child's progress).
While it will not be the right learning environment for every child – training a student to pass exams does not necessarily prepare them for the world of work. However, it is suited to children who thrive in a smaller, relatively informal class setting, where they may feel less intimidated to speak up and voice their opinions.
Beyond the classroom
While the focus is very much on academic achievement in the classroom, students are encouraged to live a balanced, sociable life. Extra-curricular activities include social events such as discos, film evenings, table tennis and pool competitions, as well as clubs in music, drama, martial arts and sport. Students can sign up to the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme, compete in the school's football and basketball teams, and attend weekend trips to local attractions.
There's also an enrichment programme for all non-footballers that offers a daily hour of like skills, charity work, the arts, and entrepreneurial activities.
Brooke House is a non-selective school with many non-native English speakers, so it's not expected to top the league tables for GCSE and A Levels.
In 2021, 76% of students were graded A*-C at A Level, and 59% were A*-B and 15% were A*-A. In 2019 (the last year that exams were sat), 50% of students were graded A*-C at A Level, and 38% were A*-B and 3% were A*-A.
In the 2021 GCSE results, 89% of students were graded A*-C, 29% were A*-A. This was a particularly strong year; in 2019 (the last year that exams were sat), 58% of students were graded A*-C and just 8% were A*-A.
Looking at results over the past 10 years, there's plenty of rise and fall in the results; this highlights the very mixed abilities and small intake of Brooke House students from one year to the next, as well as the fact that many students may be more focused on football than study.
Are these students getting undergraduate offers from UK universities, though? The answer is yes, from unis including Surrey, Bath, Brighton and Reading, as well as Russell Group universities including King's College London, Nottingham and Warwick.
Boarders stay in one of 18 houses, either located in the school's main campus in Market Harborough or scattered around the town centre. There's a homely feel to this school, where students staying away from home for the first time can expect to settle in quickly. It's also a safe, compact campus where everything is within walking distance.
Each house is single-sex, is supervised by a resident tutor, and has its own lounge area, kitchenette and laundry facilities; there are plenty of single rooms here, too. The houses stay open to all students during the half term holidays at no extra cost, which is a huge bonus for overseas students who may not wish to travel.
Brooke House College is divided between Grade II properties and some more modern buildings located within a main three-acre campus and dotted around the centre of the small town of Market Harborough.
The main school is a housed in a Georgian building; facilities include 14 classrooms and three art rooms. There is also a fantastic new science and technology centre, and dedicated buildings for subjects including modern foreign languages, humanities and social sciences; students use the town's leisure centre for a variety of sports and PE lessons.
Located in the 'middle' of the UK, this school is easily accessible from major cities and airports including London and Birmingham.
Brooke House is non-selective, and there is no admissions exam. Applicants for the Football Academy must attend a trial or submit a footballing reference.
Most courses have flexible start dates (either January or September), which means that students are not restricted to following the UK academic calendar.
Annual fees range from £19,650 for day students to £37,500 for boarding. Students enrolled in the Football Academy pay slightly higher annual fees of £23,460 (day) and £39,900 (boarding).
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