Football is one of the most popular team sports for children in England. Despite this, only 63% of girls currently have access to football in physical education (PE) lessons. But change is afoot. Earlier this year, the UK government announced that schools should provide girls with equal access to all sports, including football.
Repton School, an independent co-educational day and boarding school in Derbyshire, is leading the way in girls’ football. Here’s how Repton is levelling the playing field and championing equal access to football for its female pupils.
An Overview of Repton’s Football Programme for Girls
Repton School has been blazing the girls’ football trail for a while now. The School has a dedicated girls’ football coach who is also a professional player. And one Repton pupil recently made the English Schools’ Football Association (ESFA) England U15 Schoolgirls’ squad.
At Repton Prep, Repton School’s junior site, girls have been playing football since the 2020-21 season. Their coach is former professional footballer (and Birmingham City Football Club’s youngest-ever captain) Ian Clarkson. Clarkson and the other UEFA B-qualified coaches lead regular training sessions for all pupils from Year 1.
Now, every girl at Repton Prep from Years 3 to 8 plays football as a major sport. The School has a busy schedule of fixtures, and Repton Prep teams often play in regional and national matches. The Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS) and Independent Schools Football Association (ISFA) host many of these competitions.
Some particularly talented pupils are even honing their skills at local football academies. In 2022, five Repton Prep girls got involved with academies at Leicester City and Derby County. The same year, Repton Prep’s football programme received praise from The London Guide to Schools.
Pupils from Repton School and Repton Prep share the senior site’s sports facilities, including 10 football pitches. Overall, the School is something of a heavyweight when it comes to sporting achievement. Its investment in coaching talent and facilities has seen exceptional results over the years: Several Old Reptonians are Olympic athletes.
Emily Chosen for the England U15 Schoolgirls’ Squad
The story of one Repton pupil, Emily W, makes a great case study for the importance of equal access in football. Back in 2022, Emily was the first Repton pupil in recent years to join the Midlands U15 ESFA squad. Notably, she was just 14 years old. Emily was already playing two years up in academy football, having previously progressed to Leicester City’s U16 squad.
The ESFA is the governing body for school football in England and celebrates the abilities of extraordinary players. Emily’s achievement in joining the squad placed her amongst the top 64 U15 girls footballers in the country.
Then, in January 2023, the ESFA announced that Emily would represent the England U15 Schoolgirls’ official squad. She joined 18 other players selected for the team for the 2022-23 season.
To land this position, Emily and the other successful girls had to progress through a rigorous selection process. The final trial took place at Shrewsbury Sports Village, and Emily emerged as one of six defenders chosen for the squad.
The team got together in February 2023 for their first training camp, which prepared them for the coming season. The girls’ competitive fixtures took the form of the Bob Docherty Cup during the April half-term. The Scottish Schools’ Football Association in Glasgow hosted the event this year.
The squad won their first match 5-0 against Northern Ireland and then drew 1-1 with the Republic of Ireland. Unfortunately, the team lost their third match against Scotland, but the score was a respectable 2-1. In the end, Emily and the squad came joint second in the cup.
Back at Repton, Emily continued to bring her defending talent to inter-school matches. During the Lent term, she helped Repton’s 1st XI squad secure a 4-0 win against Uppingham School. She also played in Repton’s first ISFA Midlands League game, which ended in an emphatic win over Rugby School.
Girls’ Football at Repton School Goes From Strength to Strength
With Repton School investing in girls’ football, it’s no surprise the programme is seeing skilled players like Emily find success at regional and national levels.
Molly Holder is the girls’ football coach at Repton. She plays for Stoke City in the Football Association Women’s National League North, the third tier of women’s football. Thanks to Holder’s coaching expertise and passion for the game, more girls at Repton are getting involved in football and developing their skills.
Last year, 50 Repton girls (an impressive 12% of the School’s population) took part in football training and competitive matches. The girls’ teams train three times a week, with high attendance across all year groups.
Girls at Repton are also free to join the School’s age-appropriate boys’ training groups. Some even take part in the boys’ matches: Last year, seven of Repton’s female footballers competed in various boys’ fixtures. Star player Emily joined the boys’ U14A team during the School’s 2022-23 season.
Repton continues to build an impressive fixture list for the girls’ teams. In addition to matches against other schools, the schedule includes games with prominent teams like the Manchester United U14 and U16 squads.
The School has also forged robust connections with Derby County’s Regional Talent Club, and several Repton girls play at the club level. In 2022, one School leaver joined Derby County Women’s U18s, while two others represented Burton Albion U18s.
The football provision for girls at many UK schools may have only emerged after the government’s equal access decree in March 2023. A few years ahead of the game, Repton School is already scoring big for gender equality with its progressive football programme.
Learn more about football at Repton School.
About Repton School
Repton School is one of the UK’s most prestigious schools, where pupils aged 13-18 enjoy an excellent, forward-facing education. Repton encourages a healthy balance between academic studies, sports, extra-curricular activities, and rest. This holistic approach ensures pupils emerge from the School as multi-faceted individuals, well-prepared for the challenges and opportunities of modern life.
Repton recently became a through-school with Repton Prep, extending the School’s educational journey from nursery to A Level.