Since the England women’s national football team victory against Germany at the UEFA European Women’s Championship this summer, more girls have started participating in the sport at school. For young girls who are keen to follow the Lionesses’ winning example but are eager to maintain high academic standards too, families might consider choosing a school that combines a strong football and sporting provision with educational excellence: a school like Repton Prep in Derbyshire.
The London Guide to Schools, a guide from “The London Magazine” that helps families find the right school for their child, has published an article about football for girls at Repton Prep. The article explains how, under the leadership of coach Ian Clarkson, a new generation of female football talent is on the rise at the School.
While football has been a key pillar of boys’ school sports for decades, the sport has been notably absent for girls. Instead, historically, independent schools have offered girls sports like hockey, netball, and lacrosse.
As professional women’s football has gained media attention over the last few years, that trend has been shifting. More UK independent schools are now embracing the growing demand for girls’ football, with some even hiring former professional coaches to help pupils make the most of their training.
Repton Prep is one such school. Since Repton Prep’s girls began playing football in the 2020/21 season, they have enjoyed the guidance of coach Ian Clarkson, once Birmingham City’s youngest-ever captain, who is now a retired footballer with 450 career games under his belt.
With a full Football Association Youth Award and a UEFA B qualification, Clarkson also coaches the boys’ squad. He has taken both girls’ and boys’ Repton Prep teams to the Independent Schools Football Association (ISFA) regional and national finals. Alongside his role at Repton Prep, Clarkson is the ISFA National Team U14 coach and has a place on the ISFA Executive Committee.
Clarkson is effusive about the progress of girls’ football at Repton Prep. In the past, any girls with an aptitude and enthusiasm for the game have had the opportunity to join boys’ training sessions and boys’ teams. Since 2020, which saw the official start of the School’s more formal approach to girls’ football, the game has come on in leaps and bounds. Now, all girls in Year 2 play football, and, from Year 3 onwards, they take part in competitive matches.
“I’ve always encouraged equality in sport at Repton,” Clarkson says. “The fact that every girl from Years 3 to 8 at Repton Prep is playing football as one of our major sports at school is very satisfying and only the beginning of their journey.”
Clarkson describes how the new “fantastic” approach has meant nurturing “a successful squad, with several girls playing for academies and feeding into the grass-roots game.” Five Repton Prep girls are currently playing for Derby County and Leicester City football academies, with more young players hot on their heels.
Repton Prep acknowledges that, whatever a child’s sporting ability, it’s important to get them involved in sports at school to encourage an active lifestyle and build skills like confidence, leadership, and teamwork.
While Repton Prep offers a range of activities for pupils, including athletics, kayaking, and orienteering, its major sports are hockey, cricket, tennis and football for boys and girls. Repton Prep has a local and national reputation for its high-quality teams and has won many national trophies in these key sports in recent years.
Visiting professional coaches often assist the five specialist staff that make up the School’s PE Department. Pupils in Years 7 and 8 take part in an extensive fixture list during all three terms in hockey, football, and cricket. Most weeks, students in Years 4, 5, and 6 have the opportunity to get involved in two teams per age group.
Like Repton Prep, Repton School has a proud history of sporting excellence, with more than 80% of pupils representing the School in at least one sport and a track record of producing athletes who have competed all the way up to Olympic level. Football is one of Repton’s six focus sports and, while for a long time it’s only been available to boys, the School is now hoping its girls can secure more silverware for the trophy cabinets.
Girls at Repton’s Senior School have been playing football since the 2021/22 season and have Stoke City Football Club’s Molly Holder as their coach. 50 girls are currently training and playing, and these players have achieved impressive outcomes that demonstrate the lasting passion for the game that Repton has instilled in its students. Two 2022 leavers played for Burton Albion U18s and another has signed for Derby County Women’s U18s for next season. Another female student, who joined the School midway through the year and last season took part in the boys’ U15s, is looking to progress to a local club next season.
Across the country, increasing numbers of schools are looking to engage in girls’ football matches, which is good news for competitive students hoping to challenge their skills and up their game — plus, there’s the undeniable appeal of bringing home more wins and trophies.
The ISFA Midlands League, of which Repton is a member, includes other independent schools that Repton girls would typically play hockey and netball against. Football isn’t exclusive to independent schools, though, and many local state schools have girls’ teams that Repton also plays against in friendlies and cup competitions.
Clarkson says he is “hugely proud” of how far girls’ football has come at Repton Prep in such a short amount of time. He adds: “I envisage that with the Lionesses recent win, more schools will develop an appetite for girls’ football so our fixture list will be even broader, exposing the talent coming through to more experience.”
An independent boarding school in Derbyshire, Repton School provides pupils aged 13-18 with a world-class education. Repton Prep, a day and boarding prep school for children aged 3-13, is just 3 miles away from the Senior School and is set in idyllic countryside. Fusing a distinguished tradition for educational excellence, one that dates back to 1557, with a modern approach to holistic development and life skills, Repton produces down-to-earth, well-rounded individuals who have the attitudes and skills needed to thrive in today’s world.
While academic work lies at the heart of Repton, the drive for scholarly achievement never overshadows the pursuit of greatness in other areas of school life. Thanks to Repton’s size, with approximately 1,000 students across the Prep and Senior Schools, the School can cater to every child’s unique strengths and interests while offering internationally renowned facilities and teaching staff. Music, sports, and the creative arts provide Reptonians with ample avenues for self-expression and emotional development alongside their academic curriculum learning.
Repton School’s four values are respect, wholeness, truth, and excellence. These values ensure that each pupil who is lucky enough to receive a Repton education gains a deep regard for others, a life-long interest in learning, and an aspiration to achieve their best, intellectually, morally, and socially.