North London Collegiate School (NLCS) opened a campus in Singapore in August 2020 for children aged three to 16 years. The school is known internationally as being selective and strong on academic attainment.
NLCS will not be the only IB school in Singapore, although it will eventually be one of only eight IB continuum schools here. And it will not be the only school to offer a British public-school education, as there will be four by the end of 2020. However, NLCS (Singapore) aims to be one of the most academically rigorous schools in Singapore – and its track record in the UK, Jeju and Dubai do provide some evidence that the school will be able to deliver.
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 IB continuum school, with parents who can afford the premium fees of a prestigious UK brand, delivering UK (IGCSE) and IB (IBDP) qualifications.
The admissions team do not have an easy job, but it has been done before. This all-through, co-ed day school will be the third international campus for NLCS, following NLCS Jeju in South Korea, which opened in 2011, and NLCS Dubai, which opened in 2017. The Singapore campus will open in September 2020 for Pre KG to Grade 10, and plans to roll out Years 11-13 by 2021.
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 NLCS enters the competitive Singapore schools market with a unique offering.
NLCS (Singapore) plans to be an International Baccalaureate continuum school, which will offer the Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP) and the IB Diploma. In its first two years of operation in Singapore, the school will undertake the application and authorisation processes with the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IB) in order to obtain authorised IB World School status. It cannot officially teach the IB PYP, the MYP and the IB Diploma Programme until approvals are received.
Read more: IB vs A Level? Where to Study in Singapore
We’ve seen other NLCS international campuses get IBO approval, so it is fair to assume that Singapore will do the same. If it does, it will be one of only eight full IB schools in Singapore – and the only one with "British heritage".
For its first year at least, the school says it will offer a curriculum “based largely on that of NLCS (UK)”. This means that we can expect an education that's based on features of the UK National Curriculum and the IB programme up to 16 years; students then take their IGCSES, followed by the IB Diploma Programme in Grades 11-12.
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 will include a Sixth Form (Grades 11-12) from August 2021. Subjects offered at the senior school will 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 promises to bring "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 2016, the school saw an average score of 41.7. 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.
Read more: 2019 IB results in Singapore
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 will be 1:20 in Pre-KG to Grade 1, 1:24 in Grades 2 to 10, and 1:14 in Grades 11-12. 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) is making 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 including 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 promises large, naturally-lit classrooms, and premium science and technology facilities.
There will also be a kindergarten block with dedicated library, art room, music room and multipurpose hall, as well as a separate drop-off area.
While the campus will be 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. Only time will tell as construction is still underway on the site, and campus tours are not taking place. We look forward to seeing the school once it opens though.
Admission and fees
NLCS (Singapore) is registered with the Committee for Private Education (CPE), which regulates Singapore's private education sector. It is accepting applications from students from Pre-KG to Grade 10 for entry in the 2020/21 academic year; the school will open Grades 11-12 in subsequent years.
The school is academically selective and NLCS is promoting itself as one of Singapore’s most academic schools.
"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."
The question is, can this new school – which hopes to enrol around 350 students by September 2020 – maintain a rigid selection process or will this become more lenient to attract numbers. And will students then be out of their depth?
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. For the founding year, NLCS (Singapore) is waiving the capital levy.
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