The Top 10 Football Boarding Schools in the UK
Known worldwide as the home of football, the UK is unsurprisingly home to many independent schools with outstanding football programmes. Our team of school placement experts is pleased to present our list of the best independent schools for football in the UK.
For the ambitious footballer, there can be few better places to study than in the UK. Here, outstanding football development programmes, often led by ex-professional coaches and making use of state-of-the-art facilities, are married to the traditional academic and co-curricular virtues of the British independent sector.
There is a lot to consider when weighing up the best football schools in the UK – including location, coaching staff, training facilities, and academy and university destinations. Some have fantastic programmes for both boys and girls, while others are only just beginning to bring their provision for female footballers in line with their offering for boys. Much will also depend on personal preference, and for this reason, there could be a different top-10 list for every family. The schools in our list, though, reliably achieve the combination of football excellence and academic heft that almost every family is looking for.
At SLT, our in-house team of school experts know the independent sector better than anyone. We have worked with many outstanding athletes to help them find – and win places at – the school that matches their academic and sporting ambition.
We are pleased to present our list of the best independent schools for football in the UK.
The best Football Boarding Schools in the UK
Charterhouse is a prestigious co-educational day and boarding school for pupils aged 13 to 18. Founded in 1611 and set in 250 acres of grounds in Surrey, Charterhouse has long held a reputation as one of the leading public schools for football. Its 22 teams train and play across the fourteen Astro-turf and grass pitches on site. The boys regularly play against other leading football schools including Eton, Repton and Shrewsbury. Girls’ football is an increasing focus, with outside professional coaches bolstering the schools’ football staff. Fixtures against Westminster, Bedales and St Catherine’s are an annual highlight.
Like Charterhouse, Shrewsbury is a traditional English public school where outstanding football provision has been married to more traditional, academic excellence. A co-ed day and boarding school for pupils aged 13 to 18, Shrewsbury was founded in 1552 and has a history with football that is almost as old as the game itself. The school holds the oldest copy of the Laws of football in the world, and its alumni (known as Salopians) were involved in codifying the game in the mid-19th century. Shrewsbury’s leading boys’ teams regularly compete for the highest national prizes in school football, and the First XI went unbeaten in the 2021/22 Hudl Independent Schools League. In 2022, the school launched its Girls’ Football programme, championed by former England player Laura Bassett and current Manchester United player Aoife Mannion.
Millfield is a co-educational day and boarding through-school for pupils aged 2 to 18. Located in rural Somerset, Millfield has long been known as an excellent sport school. Its football programme has developed a reputation as an academy-level development pathway. Under the stewardship of its team of 19 coaches, including two UEFA A and three UEFA B licenced coaches, Millfield’s footballers make use of its eleven full-sized pitches and three training areas. Football tours abroad are popular, with recent destinations including Holland, Russia, Florida, South Africa and Barcelona. Notable alumni include England and Aston Villa centre back Tyrone Mings. The girls’ football programme is a strength, and includes intensive training, performance analysis and sports psychology, alongside fixtures against other schools and professional academies.
The strength of Repton’s football provision can be seen in the number of recent alumni going on to lead professional careers – foremost among them the Premier League footballer Will Hughes at Derby County, Watford and Crystal Palace. A co-educational day and boarding school for pupils aged 13 to 18, Repton is set in enviable grounds in Derbyshire. Stoke City player Molly Holder leads the girls’ programme and is currently working towards her UEFA B license. All footballers benefit from the school’s high-performance sport programme. Repton prides itself on the continuing development of both its players and its coaching staff, embedding a culture of excellence that outlasts the success of individual school stars.
Bradfield is a co-educational day and boarding school for children aged 13 to 18, located in Berkshire. The school has an ethos of ‘football for all’, regardless of ability. Nonetheless, it is a haven for elite talent – the school’s top footballers make use of its strength and conditioning gym, and train and play on its Rectory site, which benefits from a state-of-the-art under soil drainage and irrigation system. All the staples of an excellent football programme are on offer, particularly for its boys’ teams, including intensive pre-season and term-time training under the supervision of dedicated coaches. The offering for girls has not historically been as strong but is improving; there are currently 30 regular players and two teams who train three times a week and enjoy classroom tactics sessions.
Bede’s is a co-educational day and boarding through-school, from nursery to sixth form, located in East Sussex. Known for its championing of student independence and choice, Bede’s also has excellent football programmes for both boys and girls. Its new football academy for girls, linked to Lewes Ladies FC, will launch in September 2023. Players will benefit from bespoke strength and conditioning programmes and the use of VEO and HUDL technology for filming games, all led by UEFA B and FA Youth Advanced coaches. For boys, Bede’s HUDL 1st XI programme, launched in 2019, provides year-round training and specialist coaching, with yoga, video analysis, and strength and conditioning coaching on offer.
Culford is a co-educational day and boarding school for pupils aged 2-18. The school is based in almost 500 acres of Suffolk parkland, with a beautiful 18th-century mansion the centrepiece. Pupils on Culford’s Football Programme receive annual individual development plans designed specifically by the Head of Football, former Republic of Ireland international Alan Lee. He has 20 years of experience as a professional player and is a UEFA ‘A’ and FA Advanced Youth Licensed coach. The Football Academy is led by Paul Land, a former coach in the Swansea Football Academy where he specialised in the development of players from the Foundation to Youth Development phase. Facilities include floodlit grass and all-weather pitches, an indoor sports hall, a strength and conditioning suite and fitness studio, and physiotherapy and medical facilities. Culford also has a partnership with Bury Town FC for its elite girls’ footballers.
Whitgift is a boys’ senior school located in Croydon. Mostly a day school, it has some limited boarding provision. Whitgift historically had a very strong reputation as a sport school, but it is now increasingly academically excellent, too. Such is the school’s strength in football that sports scholarships are usually reserved for those in Premier League academies. Whitgift pupils have won ten national titles in the last five years with several alumni playing professionally in the Premier League, most notably Callum Hudson-Odoi and Victor Moses at Chelsea. Pupils are supported by a team of coaching staff including UEFA-qualified coaches and ex-professional players.
Ellesmere College is a co-educational day and boarding school for pupils aged 7-18. It is located in Shropshire, not too far from Shrewsbury, another leading boarding school for football. Ellesmere’s Football Academy is under the stewardship of David Raven, an ex-professional player for clubs in England and Scotland, with a UEFA ‘A’ coaching license. The programme, which sees juniors training for five hours per week and seniors for eleven hours, is also supported by ex-professionals Jon Macken, Richie Wellens and Franck Sinclair. Players get regular exposure to professional scouts; for those looking to continue their education after leaving Ellesmere, applications for US university scholarships are supported.
Royal Russell, a co-educational day and boarding school for pupils aged 13 to 18, is another excellent football school in Croydon. Its provision, under the leadership of two UEFA A coaches, is stronger for boys than girls, and includes 5 full-size grass pitches and one full-size astroturf, with another 4th Generation astroturf currently under construction. Players can make use of statistical performance analysis software and video analysis of matches. Strength and conditioning is delivered by a dedicated coach. Royal Russell’s elite footballers go on a development tour to Real Madrid, where they play the academies of other leading Spanish clubs. The school are currently the U18 ISFA National Champions and are also recent winners of major titles in our U13 and U15 age groups. Three players have gone on to sign professional contracts in the last two years.
Find the best school for your child
- At SLT, our school placement service is comprehensive and personal. We meet with you and your child, find out what makes them tick and what you’re looking for, and use our in-depth knowledge of independent schools throughout the UK to match them to the perfect school for them.
- No ‘best-of’ list or school search tool, no matter how comprehensive, can get to know you and your child. If you would like personal advice on which school is right for your child, please contact our expert team of school admissions consultants.
- If the school you are considering requires your child to sit admissions tests, we work with entrance exam specialist tutors who know schools’ requirements inside-out and can make all the difference to a successful application. Make an enquiry if you would like to book in a session with an entrance exam tutor.
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