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At the recent ISFA Prep Schools Conference, taking place at Stamford Bridge, the afternoon session provided delegates with an opportunity to have their say on the future of Prep Schools football, as well as coming up with ideas for new activity to help further develop football within Prep Schools and provide greater opportunities for students at this important age group. Below is a summary of the outcomes of the session.


Summary of suggestions on the day:

-  Increasing the number of competitions run by ISFA

- Less regionalisation of national cup

- Introduction of a small school’s competition and plate competition (or tiered competitions)

- Introduction of regional festivals, mixed football competitions and B/C/D team competitions

Response from ISFA:

Recommendations from delegates varied considerably and there was no consensus with some wanting more competitions and tournaments, whilst others wanted less, thus making it difficult for ISFA to satisfy everybody. Small schools’ competitions are a particular problem as there is no consensus as to what constitutes a “small school”, and generally schools keen on this are on the assumption that their own school will be one of the largest schools in any new small schools’ tournament.

ISFA’s current policy on running competitions is that ISFA will run a number of well organised and highly prestigious national competitions and will then encourage and support schools with running their own local and regional leagues (of which there are a great number of successful examples across the country and details can be found by clicking on this link). This is mainly down to resources with ISFA being a small organisation with only 2 staff members covering the whole of the country and all aspects of ISFA and schools’ football. Running many competitions across the country, including festivals, B team competitions, plate competitions etc is impossible for ISFA to deliver, however ISFA is fully supportive of such events / competitions and is incredibly keen to work with schools to deliver these. Any school interested in setting up / running a local competition / league should contact ISFA.

ISFA supports local festivals at younger age groups via its Prep School Community Hub Programme and any schools wanting more information on this can find it be clicking on this link.

ISFA recently conducted a thorough Review of its tournament structure, inviting contributions from schools, and again there was very little consensus which makes it difficult to satisfy everybody. Further information and a copy of this Review is available by clicking on this link.

9v9 Football

Greater opportunities to play 9v9 football to aid the transition between mini-soccer and 11-a-side, including clear specifications on formats for each age group including a 7v7 9v9 11v11 pathway.

Response from ISFA:

ISFA sees 9v9 football as a vital part of a players development, and fully supports the use of 9v9 football by all schools as part of a player pathway from mini-soccer to 11-a-side. ISFA fully supports The FA Rules and regulations on this matter. 9v9 is the normal format at U11 level in club football, however, in schools’ football, where the number of available players from which to select is generally smaller, both The FA and ISFA recommend 7v7 (though 9v9 remains permitted where schools wish). 9v9 is the normal format at U12 level and U12 players should not play 11v11.  The only exception is where U12 players are selected to “play up” at U13 level in which case they may play 11v11.  Currently ISFA does not have a national 9v9 competition (due to the age groups we cater for in our national competitions) this is something we are continuing to monitor. Further details on age groups and playing formats can be found by clicking on this link.

Girls Football

There was a real desire for further development of opportunities to grow girls’ football.

Response from ISFA:

ISFA is in full agreement and fully supports this.  Provision for girls’ football by ISFA has expanded hugely in recent years, not least with the Girls Hub School programme in prep schools (more information on this can find it be clicking on this link) and the U11 and U13 tournaments. ISFA continues to see an ever-increasing number of girls playing football and schools offering girls the opportunity to play football and aims to continue to support the progression and expansion of girls’ football in the coming years. Any school interested in finding out more should contact ISFA.


There was a real desire for continued futsal opportunities for schools.

Response from ISFA:

Since ISFA started providing futsal opportunities there has been a real appetite from schools to play this format of the game and this was reflected at the conference. Following this feedback ISFA has set up a new futsal partnership with a recognised competition provider to further support the development of futsal and increase the futsal opportunities available to schools. Further information on futsal opportunities can be found by clicking on this link.

Other suggestions

Other suggestions on the day included:

- Clear guidelines on what ISFA as good practice / success.

- More conferences / coaching courses.

Response from ISFA:

ISFA is in discussion with The FA on producing a document on what is good practice / success.

ISFA is happy to continue to run conferences and similar events for its member schools as long as demand for such events remain and good numbers of people attend. With regards to coaching courses, ISFA remains in discussions with The FA regarding coaching courses for ISFA teachers. One of the challenges with this is that ISFA is not permitted by The FA to deliver coach education courses (only County FA’s). This is something ISFA’s football development committee continues to discuss and work with the FA on finding a possible solution for this, including looking at ways of partnering with a CFA to deliver such courses. As a funding partner of The FA, ISFA will not run coaching courses which compete or run contrary to The FA’s coaching pathway.

ISFA would like to thank all schools who attended the Prep Schools Conference and submitted their ideas and feedback. They provide valuable insight for ISFA going forward and will continue to help us shape the future of Prep Schools football.


The Drake Suite at Chelsea FC's Stamford Bridge was the venue as over 80 teachers from prep schools across the country attended ISFA's Prep Schools Conference.  The event, run in partnership with ISFA's kit suppliers Discount Football Kits, focussed on providing schools with information on developing players and football in the 5-12 age group, whilst also having their say on the future of prep schools football.

The special guest was The FA's Technical Lead for Players Aged 5-11, Pete Sturgess, who delivered an excellent presentation on the England Foundation Phase DNA and how best to work with young players in the phase.  Following this Ross Millard, currently Director of Sport at Ardingly College but with a background in the Manchester United Academy and 12 years in a prep school, presented on planning a successful prep schools programme.  After lunch ISFA's Football Development Manager, Ian Bent, led the session on gaining ideas and feedback from schools on the future of prep schools football before the day ended with a Q&A session with Ross Millard, ISFA Chief Executive Mark Dickson and Hampton School Director of Football David Burke.  

Any school wanting to find out more on how ISFA can support your prep schools football programme, or the opportunities available to prep schools, should contact Ian Bent via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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