Tanglin: Building a School of the Future

With its Olympic-standard facilities for gymnastics, a bespoke climbing wall, professional recital halls and a hub for motivational speakers, how is the new Tanglin Centenary Building meeting the new challenges of the 21st Century?
Tanglin: Building a School of the Future
By Carli Allan
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There’s plenty to think about when choosing an international school for your child. Curriculum, fees, location, community – the list is long. With children spending so much of their childhood on campus, how much should parents be looking at the design of their school and its facilities? 

The architectural design of a school has an impact on the way students learn, and investment in new facilities and buildings can bring huge benefits. In Singapore, there are many international schools investing in superb cutting-edge facilities; in this current academic year alone, several leading schools are building and renovating.

Canadian International School has opened a new Junior Wing at its Lakeside campus with a huge 2,600 sqm Outdoor Discovery Centre. Singapore American School is upgrading its 36-acre Woodlands site to include a new athletics facility and two new swimming pools, new elementary and middle schools, and upgraded facilities for the arts, science, technology and robotics. XCL American Academy is opening a purpose-built campus with a three-storey library, 50m Olympic-sized swimming pool, and a 750-seat auditorium.

Most recently, Tanglin Trust School has unveiled the Tanglin Centenary Building, an 11-storey building with state-of-the-art facilities.

As it moves towards its centennial in 2025, Tanglin has designed and built a ‘school of the future’ with learning spaces to accommodate new teaching methods and technologies.”

Occupying nearly 25% of the school’s entire floor space, the building has an Olympic standard gymnastic centre, competition-standard swimming pool, 15-metre high bespoke climbing wall, professional recital halls, and an institute where former Olympians and business leaders from the likes of Dyson give guest lectures. It’s an impressive building that supports Tanglin’s ‘mind, body and soul’ approach to education.

Craig Considine, CEO of Tanglin Trust School, explains:

“The Tanglin Centenary Building not only acknowledges our past, but more importantly, it is about the future – it provides opportunities for balanced and holistic education for future generations of students. The key facilities will challenge our students’ physical, social, emotional and intellectual growth, helping them flourish as individuals.

“We offer a holistic education, and as such we need outstanding facilities. As a not-for-profit school, we want to ensure our student have the very best opportunities to achieve their potential.”

A school is more than just a building, though, and buildings don’t teach children, teachers do. Tanglin’s staff are well-equipped to keep up with the latest developments in education through training and development. It’s all delivered in a new Continuous Professional Development (CPD) Centre (complete with a virtual training room for attending online courses and conferences) which is also housed in the new Centenary Building.

We step inside the new Tanglin Centenary Building to find out how one of Singapore’s oldest international schools is designed to meet the new challenges of the 21st Century.

Sporting ambition

The 50m swimming pool offers improved access to aquatic activities for students of all ages, all abilities.

Tanglin has a strong sporting culture and it’s a top contender in the competition between Singapore schools to build the best sporting programmes in the country. At Tanglin, it is more about offering a wide breadth of sport and developing an inclusive, sport for all ethos that caters for all abilities and ages. As Mr Considine has said, he wants “every student to leave Tanglin with a healthy attitude towards physical activity”.
Facilities in the new Centenary Building include a 50m, two-metre deep swimming pool with international competition standard 2.5-metre-wide lanes, a moveable bulkhead and starting blocks; it also has a lightning proof canopy so that students can train in all weather conditions.

The 800sqm-plus Gymnastics Centre has Olympic standard apparatus including Olympic-sized sprung floor, full-length tumble track and air track, vaulting table and full-length vault track, four full height beams, pommel horses and parallel bars, dedicated apparatus for male gymnasts, and a large landing pit. A bespoke 15m high climbing wall is designed and manufactured by Climbing World Championship wall makers, Walltopia, and offers excellent opportunities to learn top-roping, bouldering and other climbing skills.

As a former professional footballer, PE teacher, and head of one of the UK’s sportiest schools (Millfield), sport is close to Mr Considine’s heart. He explains why it was a priority to offer new and improved sporting opportunities for Tanglin students in the new building.

“The swimming pool is 50m long, with a movable boom which allows for two 25m spaces. When combined with our existing 25m pool complex, we are able to teach many more students the essential lifeskill of confidence in water and swimming. We also have many students in our swim programme. The additional lane space and additional coaches allow greater participation and a focus on performance level swimmers. 

“The development of indoor cricket nets also allows our students to progress in a part of the world where it is difficult to access cricket facilities.

"Our gymnastics centre is wonderful, providing our students with a training facility to develop their strength, brace, and skills on various apparatus. It is also a donor sport for those that play multiple sports. It is a critical element of our physical education programme as it provides challenging and stimulating elements. 

“These sporting facilities are utilised by outstanding coaches. It is after all the people that are most important rather than the facilities!”

Arts take centre stage  

Pianists at the school now have the use of three brand new Fazioli Grand Pianos.

Since taking on the challenge of steering Singapore’s oldest British international school into the future CEO of Tanglin Craig Considine has said that a “broad holistic education is at the heart of Tanglin”. This includes putting the arts at the heart of its curriculum, teaching creative subjects from early years (as young as three) up to sixth form, and investing in dedicated facilities to ensure that art, drama and music are not side lined.

Two levels of the new 11-storey building are dedicated to music. Level 9 is the new home for the senior music department and a brand-new recording studio. Level 8 houses individual teaching rooms and spaces for small groups to practice. There are also three brand new Fazioli Grand Pianos and two rehearsal halls, one of which is a 100-person rehearsal room suitable for symphonies, as well as a smaller 60-person recital room. 

As Tanglin approaches its 100th anniversary in Singapore in 2025, it has launched its Centennial Arts Trail project. The first artwork commission, The Brain by Singaporean sculptor Victor Tan, is in the atrium of the Centenary Building, 

Mr Considine said: 

“The Infant Maestro Suite, and the Music School on Levels 8 and 9, reflect the importance of music making at Tanglin. We have made a significant investment in instruments, and it is wonderful to see students flourish. There is also much creativity taking place in the new kitchen on our Lifeskills floor.”

Spaces for early learning

Students in the Infant School can now walk across a bridge to their own dining hall and music room.

As a large school with 2,800 students, Tanglin has a 'schools within a school' model; each of the infant, junior, and senior/sixth form schools have their own head of school, uniform, house system, timetable etc. Bigger can mean better and, at Tanglin, each school has its own community within the campus and dedicated facilities such as a library, sports hall and play areas.

It can be challenging for pre-schools within international schools to replicate the genuine village feel of a much smaller standalone nursery, though. However, Tanglin has created a nurturing and child-centred environment – and the Centenary Building offers even more age-appropriate facilities.

Accessed via a bridge from the Infant School, there are new early years' spaces including an infant dining hall, new music classrooms and child-friendly multipurpose halls with flexible learning spaces. From the calming, welcoming colours to the acoustic sounds, everything within these spaces has been designed with infant children in mind. The small performance space, for example, where children are encouraged to develop self-confidence in informal performances.

Food for thought

The Centenary Building is designed to be a hub for creative thinking, professional development, thought leadership, and discourse. The newly-established [email protected] works with external collaborators across different sectors and disciplines, bringing in expertise, programming and inspiring talks and discussions for students, faculty and the wider Tanglin community. 

Most recently, the Institute has been working with a major bank on a student entrepreneurship programme. Over the last term, the Institute has hosted speakers who are thought leaders on high performance teams, athlete development, mental health and wellness, innovation and design; it has also held a faculty research forum.

The list of high-profile speakers so far is impressive – it includes former Olympian, David Faulkner, MBE OLY, former England cricket captain, Adam Hollioake, an industry expert from Dyson and a lecturer from Yale-NUS College, amongst others.

When asked the rationale behind creating this institute, Mr Considine said:

“The world is a challenging place for young people looking to progress in their life journey.

"Connecting them with The Institute facilitates opportunities to extend their intellectual skills, to connect them with local businesses and educational institutions, to commit themselves to research in areas they are passionate about, and to help them formulate their thinking on a broad range of intellectual and societal matters by listening to local and global thought leaders.”

Building a community

There's a new co-working space for parents at Tanglin Trust School.

For most working parents, the major perks of a co-working space are free wi-fi or a decent cup of coffee. How about finding a place to work that is not just close to your child's school, but actually inside it! Tanglin has opened a parent co-working space within its new Centenary Building where parents to have short meetings or take a phone call while they wait for their children.

Other new facilities created just for Tanglin parents include viewing galleries where parents can watch their children train at the pool or at the new gymnastics centre, as well as a larger café and additional lounge areas for parents to connect with one another. It’s spaces like these that can really help to build a school community, and give new parents the opportunity to meet other parents. 

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