Known internationally as being selective and strong on academic attainment, North London Collegiate School (NLCS) has opened an all-through campus in Singapore that aims to be one of the most academically rigorous schools in the city-state.
NLCS (Singapore) is a fast growing school and is well placed to compete against top tier schools such as Tanglin, Dulwich College (Singapore) and Singapore American School. Parents looking for a high achieving school (based only at this time on NLCS’ reputation) are willing to pay the high fees, citing excellent teachers, pastoral care and academic focus as its strengths.
Clearly the school is niche. For many, it will be the high annual tuition fees of up to $45,885 that will rule the school out as an option. For others, it will be the strict selection process (although how enforced its criteria will be has yet to be tested by commercial realities). Getting through will be academically able students looking for an academically focused school, with parents who can afford the premium fees of a prestigious UK brand delivering an inquiry-based education leading to the IB Diploma Programme.
With its central location in Queenstown, purpose-built campus, strong links to its UK mother school, and a very experienced and convincing founding head, there is no doubt that NLCS has entered the competitive Singapore schools market with a unique offering.
This all-through, co-ed day school is the third international campus for NLCS, following NLCS Jeju in South Korea, which opened in 2011, and NLCS Dubai, which opened in 2017. Its track record in the UK, Jeju, and Dubai does provide some evidence that the school will be able to deliver some outstanding results.
The Singapore campus opened in September 2020 – and its ambition is matched by growth. The school has already rolled out all grades (FS1-Year 13); the Sixth Form opened in August 2021. It had a founding cohort of almost 400 students from Pre-K to Grade 10.
According to our Parent Survey, parents rate the school lower for sport and the arts (in top 25% of Singapore schools) but their priority is for the school to deliver excellent exam results (34%), its choice of curricula (34%) and to be a happy place to learn (33%).
100% of parents said they would recommend this school to other parents. This is above the average for schools in Singapore (85%) and above the average for Singapore Central schools (88%). It is also above the average for premium schools in Singapore (86%) and above the average for British schools in Singapore (82%). 83% of parents are happy with the academic performance at the school.
NLCS (Singapore) offers a curriculum “based largely on that of NLCS (UK)”. It's an education that's based on features of the National Curriculum for England and the inquiry-based IB programme up to 16 years, followed by the IB Diploma Programme in Grades 11-12. It's one of only a few international schools here not to offer IGCSEs as part of a blended curriculum.
Read more: IB vs A Level? Where to Study in Singapore
In the Junior School, from Grades 1 – 5, the “rigorous curriculum” covers reading, writing, and mathematics alongside science, history, geography, social studies, art and design, ICT, music, drama, and PE.
The Senior School is for students in Grades 6 to 12 (Years 7 to 13 in the UK system) and includes a Sixth Form (Grades 11 – 12). Subjects offered at the senior school include mathematics, English, chemistry, biology, physics, physical education & health, PSE, modern foreign languages, geography, history, art, ICT, design and engineering, drama, and music.
Beyond the classroom, the school brings the "NLCS’ ethos of rigorous scholarship, extra-curricular excellence and outstanding pastoral care to Singapore".
NLCS UK has been ranked number one in the UK for International Baccalaureate results, with an average IBDP score never dipping below 40 points. In 2021, the school saw an average score of 43.2. The South Korea school, which is only in its third year for IBDP, has an average of 38 points – on a par with the highest-ranking schools in East Asia.
While these results are impressive, the Singapore branch of NLCS cannot claim to be an academically successful school without a single student ever taking an exam there. The school is not the same, the teachers are not the same, and the environment is wholly different. However, statistically, NLCS can provide as much of a guarantee of good results as you are going to get from a new school.
The school's first IB cohort will sit their exams in May 2023.
NLCS is clearly succeeding internationally, which would suggest that the Singapore school has plenty of expertise to draw from. And one of its key strengths is having Paul Friend as the founding principal. Friend moves to Singapore from his position as principal at North London Collegiate School’s first international school in Jeju, Korea. Prior to this, Friend held four headships, including one at Dulwich College Shanghai.
It is Friend’s success at Jeju that raises the bar at NLCS (Singapore). In the school’s first graduating year in 2019, NLCS (Jeju) sent six students to Ivy League colleges, four students to Oxbridge, and 16 to the prestigious ‘big four’ London colleges of Imperial, UCL, LSE, and King’s. He has also recruited around 50% of his teaching staff from NLCS campuses, which means the school will have many teachers in the classroom who are familiar with the 'brand'.
Another one of NLCS' strengths is keeping class sizes small. The teacher to student ratio is 1:20 in Pre-KG to Grade 1, 1:24 in Grades 2 to 10, and 1:14 in Grades 11 and 12. It is aiming for a total student body 1,200, so smaller than some of Singapore’s top-tier schools.
Campus and facilities
We’re seeing other new schools move into existing buildings. NLCS (Singapore) has made an impact by opening a purpose-built campus in Depot Road, Bukit Merah. It’s a modern campus with a small footprint but a big wow factor.
This is a school that fills every spare inch of space with some seriously impressive facilities: a performing arts centre modelled on NLCS London (seating capacity of 700-plus); six-lane 50m swimming pool; gym, football field, and tennis and basketball courts; separate junior and senior libraries; 1,100 sq m outdoor plaza play area; roof gardens; and a sixth form centre. It has large, naturally-lit classrooms, and premium science and technology facilities.
There is also a kindergarten block with dedicated library, art room, music room, and multipurpose hall, as well as a separate drop-off area.
While the campus is shiny and new with bells and whistles, there are drawbacks to its location. It is next to the busy Depot Road, there is no space for any expansion, and it could feel slightly cramped.
Admission and fees
NLCS (Singapore) is registered with the Committee for Private Education (CPE), which regulates Singapore's private education sector. The school is academically selective.
"Our admissions procedures are rigorous and NLCS (Singapore) is academically selective. We firmly believe in only enrolling students into our school whom we are sure will thrive in our care."
Fees range from $30,925 for FS1 up to $45,885 for Year 13, making it one of the most expensive international schools in Singapore. Additional fees include an application fee of $500, a one-off capital levy of $3,500, and a one-off enrolment fee of $3,500, which is fairly typical for the big international schools.
North London Collegiate School (Singapore) is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
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