Brooke House College
A new head with exciting new plans for this co-ed day and boarding school for 11-19 year olds in Market Harborough. The school may be small but it has a huge international intake (60 nationalities) and also boasts a top Football Academy.
In the beautiful market town of Market Harborough, voted Muddy’s Best Place to Live in Leicestershire, the location couldn’t be better but don’t take my word for it, just ask the parents who’ve liked it so much they’ve moved here.
Being almost in the middle of the country, means there’s excellent links to London (a one-hour train ride) and easy access from Nottingham, Warwickshire, Cambridge and even Birmingham. It takes a mere 15 minutes to get here from Leicester via train and is very close to Northants too.
Brooke House College is a small school with a big heart. This co-ed day and boarding secondary school (11-19 years) set in the heart of Market Harborough, has been established since 1957 and is made up of Grade II properties and some more modern buildings. The main campus is spread across 3 acres and the rest is dotted around the small town centre, seamlessly integrating itself into the warm and friendly community.
The intimate cohort of around 270 students comes from an incredible 60 different countries, from the Caribbean to Cambodia, with 95% boarding. Class sizes are understandably small – a teeny tiny average of 8 – and one of the big calling cards here is that with such a diverse intake, students have a great opportunity to mix, learn and experience a variety of cultures. A re-vamped co-curricular programme and admitting girls into the football academy is hoping to catch the attention of more UK families.
The main building, Brooke House is a large, elegant Grade II Georgian mansion where all the students – including day pupils – can gather to eat. There are plans to move the restaurant and dining hall to the U18 accommodation building, also known as DJW (named after the founder, Donald Williams) which they aim to open after Easter. They’ll also be adding a sports bar (no alcohol of course) and a chill out area. Brooke House will then become the central educational hub where all classes will take place.
The High Street building is more of a traditional teaching building with 14 classrooms and three art workrooms. Meanwhile, the Paul Kitchener Building is where all the English programmes and the enrichment programme take place.
The other listed building, College House is where the newly refurbed STEM Centre reopened in Jan 2020. It cost around £600k and has eight new labs to learn in, each one kitted out with new interactive screens, computers and more.
The department has doubled in size over recent years. Solo-instrumental music lessons are now offered and small ensembles and singing groups have also been established and there’s exciting plans afoot to plough money into updating this department next. Speaking to Mike the Principal, he feels that “a school without music is a school without a soul” and has been a driving force behind its expansion. Drama is now introduced at KS3 and an end-of-term concert and international day performances also take place.
The USP for Brooke House School is its extraordinary Football Academy. Started up in 2008, the Academy has grown substantially, not only in size but also reputation (former Nigerian professional footballer Jay-Jay Okocha’s son went here to give you an idea of the calibre). Starting off with just 11 boys, the Academy now has 180 players and offer the same training opportunities to both boys and girls. They play for the County, National and International teams and enter the ESFA Cup as well as the ISFA Shield fixtures along with competitive games with professional clubs and other schools.
Recently, Brooke House College won two national titles and currently, 10 boys and girls in the Academy are national representatives for their countries, and there are 15 players with signed contracts to football clubs between Jan 2020 – Jan 2021. Most recently, one player signed to the Turkish Süper Lig club, Galatasaray which isn’t too shabby.
Former Premier League footballers are consultants and coaches here too, including Kirsty Linnett so you know you’re in the best possible hands to improve technical skills and develop everything from your ball control to tactical knowledge. Previous guest coaches have included Aldo Dolcetti; first team coach from Juventus, as well as Salif Diao and Steve McMahon both former Liverpool players.
They’ve got access to grass pitches, and two floodlight artificial grass pitches plus a training facility and onsite classrooms for workshops and analysis work over at Harborough Town Football Club, just a stone’s throw away. But it’s not just football skills that they learn; the coaching team also design individual training programmes to target strength, conditioning and advise players on their diet and nutrition as well as allowing the players to gain FA coaching awards and develop their video analysis.
Other sports at the school include basketball, tennis and squash but football is the passion peddled morning, noon and night here.
In keeping with the relaxed, homely feel to the school, there’s a no uniforms policy at Brooke House though if this kind of informality gives you an allergy, you’ll be pleased to know that the kids still call teachers by their surnames.
The footballers go on regular international tours anywhere from Spain to China and also take part in competitions abroad frequented by top scouts.
The diverse cohort is celebrated every year with an International Day event where pupils wear traditional costume and put on a short performance of music, singing or dancing. In the afternoon they move into the dining room and feast on food cooked by the students – everything from Nigerian Jollof Rice to Vietnamese curries.
With children from 60 counties to teach with many of the kids focused on football, there are inevitably academic challenges to overcome, but with average class sizes of 8, students really do benefit from individual attention here. Over the last few years, a new full-time Heads of faculty and a vice Principal have focused on raising the grades, and the school has seen the GCSE grades move from below average to 83% grades at A* – C (2019-20) though with such small yearly cohorts, percentages do rise and fall more profoundly than at larger schools. Regular tutor periods to set targets, track and monitor progress plus, a more rigorous use of data to track value-added scores has also helped.
A level pass rates are now at 100% with 43% at A*-B, and in the last three years, the school has received three Oxbridge offers (check out the full academic results here). Other students have gone off to Russell Group universities including Kings College, Nottingham and Warwick.
They follow quite a traditional curriculum here for both GCSE and A Levels. BTECs aren’t offered but the EPQ qualification, much sought after by universities, has been running here for 3 years as well as other enrichment activities such as the Young Enterprise scheme and the Investments and Securities qualification.
The school day starts a little earlier here, at 8.15 am so that the footballers can get lessons in before they go off to train in the afternoons. Non-footballers have a further double period each afternoon and then move into the enrichment programme. Brooke House also offers the opportunity for international students to study the University Foundation Programme. This is aimed at students from countries who don’t have a 13-year education system as we do. They can specialise in a number of subject pathways from Business, Sciences to Contour Fashion and study for it instead of A levels. The course also includes a pathway into medicine.
Ian Smith recently joined as Principal at Brooke House. He’s worked in state and independent schools around the UK. He was a Vice Principal at Surbiton High before heading to The International School of Geneva or Ecolint, the first and largest international school in the world and more recently with GEMS Education in Kerala South India. His colourful career means he’s bringing with him heaps of experience and is focusing on helping his school to become world class, through something called, High Performance Learning (HPL). This research-based programme helps schools adopt a flexible framework that strengthens teaching and adds value to students to help them succeed in their future. It’s an initiative he wants to put in place to achieve high performance throughout the school (it’s already outstanding in some areas). He’s also working with an education company called ‘8 Billion Ideas’ to provide students with vital skills and values to help them thrive and is introducing project-based learning (PBL) for KS3 (Years 7, 8 & 9). This student-centered method of teaching aims to encourage inquisitive minds by allowing students to actively explore real-world challenges and find solutions.
WRAP AROUND CARE
Everything is within walking distance here. The only time they use a bus is when the footballers head for training just to save time. Three meals are provided and included in the fees as are all the co-curricular activities which are part of the boarders’ timetable. Currently they don’t offer Saturday school but Brooke House is very flexible and responsive so if students feel there is a need, it can all be put into place very quickly.
The College offers full-term boarding with some flexibility in terms of exeats and welcomed weekly boarding for its day pupils during lockdown, which speaks volumes for how friendly and caring the pastoral care is.
Accommodation is managed and owned by the College itself and is both on and off campus. Boys and girls stay in separate accommodation and as a rule, all students under 16 stay on campus. Accommodation here can sleep two in each room but lots of single rooms available too.
It’s very family focused here and each boarding house has at least one live-in, full-time, Residential Tutor who is trained to keep them safe and support them in every way possible. The over 18s only live off campus (with parents permission) and are supervised by the Head of Boarding and Pastoral Care. Common rooms and activities in each boarding house vary and is determined by the students themselves. The girls have a cosy sitting room where they can watch DVD’s and play board games whereas the boys have a gym, ping pong tables, Xbox and of course, a massive TV to watch sports.
They continue to invest in their boarding accommodation and recently purchased a historic hotel in the middle of the town. It’s been extensively refurbished and is now used for U18 accommodation with en-suite facilities, a shiny new common room and all just a stone’s throw from the main campus.
If you’re looking to send your kids here, you’ll appreciate the fact that everything is included in the price from three hot meals a day for the boarders to all co-curricular activities. For boarders, it’s £12,970 per term; for day students it’s £6,800. For footballers, the fees are slightly higher at £13,800 and for day students, £8,110 which is great value for money.
With so many students boarding, outside of Covid restrictions it’s usually a full schedule of extra curricular activities at Brooke House, from ice skating to kayaking after dinner for off campus activities for day and boarding pupils, including cooking, discos, karaoke and treasure hunts. There are full-day excursions on weekends and can include trips to Windsor Castle, Brighton, Alton Towers, Cambridge or London and longer weekend cultural visits to cities including Rome, Paris and Edinburgh and also there’s full participation in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme. For those who like the idea of getting behind the wheel, the College also runs unique Motorsports courses and link up with Arden in Banbury for simulation training and older kids can get their F4 licence for circuit training.
WORD ON THE GROUND
A very warm, friendly, family-oriented school. With some parents being so far away from their children, they love the strong sense of support and community within the school.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: If you’re a budding footballer, this is your wheelhouse. Great for those who want good travel connections and prefer smaller, more nurturing schools. There’s definitely a feeling of family to this place which they’re really proud of, so if you like a homely yet polished setting, you’re in the right place.
Not for: Those who want a rural location or an array of sports. If you prefer a traditional HMC school with uniforms or a large campus, this may not be the one for you. Currently only 21 students are day pupils so some parents may not like the largely international cohort.
Dare to disagree? Be my guest! Take a look at Brooke House College’s Virtual Open Day here.
Brooke House College, 12 Leicester Rd, Market Harborough LE16 7AU.
Tel 01858 462452.