Founded in 1925 Tanglin has over 90 years of experience delivering British-based education to Singapore's international community. At least for the international community, it is part of the fabric of the city.
Located in the Queenstown area, Tanglin is a not-for-profit, all-through school that enrols more than 2,800 students (736 Infants, 768 Juniors and 1,320 Seniors), representing more than 60 nationalities from nursery through to sixth form. This school is probably the most British of the top schools in Singapore, at least in terms of student numbers; around 54% UK passport holders.
It's a large, popular and high-achieving school that prides itself on being a big school with a small school feel. And, far from resting on its laurels of being one of the most oversubscribed schools in Singapore, Tanglin is investing in some extraordinary new facilities (the Centenary Building will open in August 2022), changing some traditions that have existed for decades (it now has a unified house system to give all students a grouping that will remain with them as they grow up at Tanglin), and introducing new programmes and curricula (most recently, it opened a Forest School in the Infant School).
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”. But in a vast school of 2,800 students aged three through to 18 years, how can students experience this at every stage of their education?
Well, the school is currently focused on driving a much stronger line of ‘Team Tanglin’ – of being one school that offers four stages of education (Infants, Junior, Senior and Sixth Form). And, having identified that elements of the British curriculum simply don’t work within its international setting, Tanglin has set up new whole-school committees with representatives from academic, co-curricular and pastoral areas of the school to help scaffold each stage of a student’s development. For example, most recently, it has changed the syllabus to bring the important transition between the Junior and Senior Schools together under one curriculum.
The general feedback from parents is that despite its size, Tanglin has created individual school communities where the individual child is well-known and supported by a team of excellent teachers. There are frequent references to personalised learning, allowing individuals to flourish and exploring each child’s potential. Families recognise that Tanglin is a high-achieving school, but what they really value is its holistic approach to education and well-rounded learning experiences.
According to our Parent Survey, 94% of parents would recommend this school, 46% are not at all concerned about bullying, 55% say the school can meet their child's specific learning needs, and 93% are happy with the level of academic performance. 55% of parents totally agree that the fees represent good value for money given the quality of the school offering, and over 70% of parents say that their child enjoys going to school and has a tremendous sense of belonging.
In April 2022, Tanglin was ranked 8th in Singapore's Best Employers List; it topped the education category ahead of other large international schools UWCSEA (ranked ninth) and Singapore American School (18th). The ranking of the city-state's top 200 companies with 200-plus employees rates employers on various aspects of their job, work environment, reputation and potential for development.
Tanglin follows the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and National Curriculum for England throughout its infant, junior, and senior schools; students study for their IGCSEs in Years 10 – 11 and have the choice of more than 10 different courses. The school delivers a well-rounded education in all year groups, with specialist subjects including art and design, music, drama, PE, and Chinese. Key features of the curriculum include Latin in Years 7 – 9, lifeskills in Years 10 – 11, and a choice of Chinese, French, and Spanish in Years 7 – 8 (one of which students must continue with through to IGCSE level).
The school delivers nature-based learning in its Forest School programmes for students as young as three. It also offers a bespoke curriculum for its very youngest students; The Curiosity Approach is run alongside the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) in the nursery to transform its youngest classes into “an even calmer and more tranquil learning environment”.
Children are encouraged to be curious by being given the freedom to access a wide choice of objects. For example, children may find a decorated egg that could inspire dragon role play with nests being made from twigs in the classroom, or an investigation into real eggs using magnifying glasses. The approach takes parts from Reggio, Steiner, Te Whariki and Montessori to create an early years’ programme that focuses on creating a culture of curiosity and can build confidence and nurture ‘thinkers and doers.
Throughout the Junior and Middle Senior Schools, Tanglin can be relied on to deliver a very British education based on the UK curriculum - and one that prepares students well for taking IGCSEs, A Levels and the IB Diploma Programme.
Unshackled from any national curriculum, it does have the freedom to offer a bespoke curriculum, though, and the school has proved it has the ambition and flexibility to adopt a variety of global educational practices in wellbeing, academia and the arts. Whether addressing the limitations of the UK's PSHE education by introducing its own Lifeskills curriculum or training its teachers to deliver the Positive Education model, Tanglin keeps learning fresh, relevant and innovative.
They also bring together a team of international staff who have worked in a wide range of different education systems, which can add to the diversity and strength of a school’s learning environment. It’s one of the huge advantages of sending your child to an international school; teachers are not restricted to a single national curriculum, and an education can combine the strengths of Western and Eastern pedagogy.
An example of this is the school's adaptation of the Positive Education model to suit the age groups across its three schools. For example, in the Infant School, teachers will refer to Character Strengths in their feedback to students by saying, "You showed excellent resilience when solving a word problem, rather than saying something vague like 'good job'."
At IGCSE level, in addition to the core subjects, students pick four additional courses (one humanities, one language, one arts/creative, and a ‘free’ choice). These options are as varied film studies, psychology, economics, Latin, graphic communication and Chinese.
As a larger school, Tanglin is able to offer less traditional subjects – its A Level options include philosophy, politics, film studies, and design technology – and it has the flexibility in the different option blocks it can offer.
Michael Roberts, Tanglin’s Head of Upper School, says:
“Here at Tanglin, our starting principle is that students should have a broad and varied pathway through I/GCSE. This enables them to avoid specialising too early, which can lead to problems later on if they change their minds about the future they want to pursue. For this reason, as well as English, maths and science courses, we ask students to choose subjects from different groups so that they have a combination of arts/creative subjects, humanities subjects, and languages.
“This then really helps to support the IB or A Level pathways offered at Tanglin, and also enables students to continue to apply themselves to different disciplines and expose themselves to the different inputs and outputs that these varied disciplines demand.”
Tanglin is the only school in Singapore to offer both the IBDP and A Levels at sixth form level (Years 12 – 13); there are around 320 students in the Sixth Form. There’s early support and advice from Year 9 to help students decide which direction to choose from: teachers make an assessment and rate each subject as to whether an individual is capable of taking it at A Level or IB (higher or standard level).
This is not a story of UK vs International, but considerably more about offering a choice of curricula that plays to the strengths of a child. The IBDP continues a broad and balanced learning approach to subjects; students need to successfully complete six subjects (three at higher level and three at standard level) which must include a language and a science. A Levels are more specialised, and focus on three or four subject areas that normally reflect the direction students are likely to take at university level; A Levels allow students to focus on their strengths and, perhaps more importantly, opt out of those subjects that would bring their grades down. Both qualifications are widely accepted for entry into universities worldwide.
Regardless of pathway, all students follow the Tanglin Core – A Level students follow the Extended Project Qualification and the Community, Action, Service programme (the CAS is not reserved only for IB students); IB students follow the CAS programme, prepare an Extended Essay and take the Theory of Knowledge.
Competition from other schools ensures that Tanglin is never complacent, even though waitlists remain long here. Tanglin’s post-16 curriculum continues to improve evolve to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world and the broad needs of students. Most recently, it has remodelled the personal, social, health and citizenship education (PSHCE) as its own Lifeskills programme. In the Sixth Form, Lifeskills is less about teaching lessons on sex education, drugs etc and more about getting students to engage in a dialogue and create a collective understanding of the way society is.
Schools in general do not offer both the IBDP and A Levels for two reasons. Firstly, you need a large student body, and secondly, it is expensive to deliver. While most schools fall short on one or the other, Tanglin is a school with a student body of almost 2,800 strong and with fees at the higher end of the scale in Singapore. As a parent, this means you join an all-through school knowing that the school should be able to cater to the learning needs of your child, whatever they may prove ultimately to be.
As recognised by BSO inspectors, teaching at Tanglin is "well adapted to challenge the most able students to achieve outstandingly well. The curriculum is equally well adapted to support disabled students and those who have special educational needs."
Read about our tour of the campus here.
Technology features strongly across the curriculum, and there’s a 1:1 iPad programme in Years 5 and 6 and a 1:1 laptop programme from Year 7. Each year group area has access to a range of technology, including interactive whiteboards, shared pods of desktop computers, cameras, 3D printers, and Lego robotics.
The school offers film studies at IGCSE, A Level, and IB, and it is well-equipped to do this. A new facility has Mac computers loaded with packages including Final Cut Pro X for video editing, Cinema 4D for 3D animation, Adobe After Effects for compositing and motion graphics, a Foley pit for sound editing, a screening room, and a film studio with green screen.
There's a passion for film at this school, which recently hosted the Across Asia Youth Film Festival. During his visit to Tanglin, British film director Dan Sully said:
"The facilities are better than some universities I've seen. They give students the opportunity to collaborate, share ideas and make films together. I wouldn't leave the suites if I was here!"
Results at GCSE, A Level and the IB are outstanding overall, and compare favourably with high performing selective and independent schools in the UK, as well as other top tier schools in Singapore.
|Average score||Pass rate||Highest score||Top scorers||40 points plus||35 points plus||Bilingual Diploma|
Tanglin Trust School, which is typically among the top three international schools in Singapore for the IB, has an average score of 41.3 which is 3.8 points higher than the Singapore average this year and nearly one whole point higher than last year's 40.7 points out of 45. This is a record-breaking average for the school and well above the world average (31.98 this year).
Tanglin is one of only a few international schools in Singapore to offer both the IBDP and A Levels at sixth form level (Years 12 – 13); there are around 320 students in the Sixth Form overall.
This year, three students achieved 45 points and 11 students achieved 44 points. In the IB cohort of 51 students, 100% of the cohort achieved 35 points or more. 11% of the cohort scored a very high 44 points or more, and 93% of the cohort scored 38 points or more. Two students achieved the Bilingual Diploma.
Read our roundup of Singapore's 2022 IB results here.
In addition to celebrating a high average score in its 2022 IB Results, Tanglin has scored highly in its A Level exams.
A very high 40% of all grades were an A*, more than double the average in England, where 14.6% of all grades were an A*. At Tanglin, 69% of all grades were an A* or A (it was 70% last year), compared to 36.4% in England and 58% in independent schools in England. The pass rate was 100%.
Other achievements include:
In 2022, the school also achieved its best ever set of I/GCSE results – 68% of Tanglin students achieved A* and 85% were A* to A, more than twice the percentage in England.
Other results include:
The strong results in external examinations are to be applauded, especially as Tanglin is a non-selective school with “a mixed ability cohort”. That said, students wishing to enrol in the school must "display the intellectual capacity to fully participate in and benefit from the school's curriculum".
Craig Considine took over from Peter John Derby-Crook as CEO from August 2018. Australian-born Considine was formerly the head teacher at Millfield School in the UK, and has experience in a number of Australian independent schools.
Three years down the line Craig has heralded several key changes at Tanglin based on a progressive outlook on academics and education, even in the face of adversity. Very much a team player, Craig credits working alongside his “amazing heads of school" to build on the "nuts and bolts of what makes an excellent school".
Read our interview with Mr Considine here.
At the heart of the school is the TTS Foundation, which enhances the curriculum by funding inspirational visitors and developing the sports and arts programmes. The TTS Foundation organises visits from musicians, storytellers, authors, and theatrical groups, including Robert Swan (polar explorer), Dominic Peckham (choral conductor), Google, and Rowan Williams (former Archbishop of Canterbury). It has also funded initiatives such as an edible garden and the Year 2 Pedal Power programme, which teaches children how to cycle.
The school says:
“We’re lucky with our foundation as it's very active and its mission is to enable extraordinary opportunities – and I think they really do. It’s so inspirational for the students.”
The infant, junior, and senior/sixth form are inspected every three years by British Schools Overseas (BSO) inspectors – and all three have been judged Outstanding in their most recent reports dating from 2016 – 2018. Tanglin Trust is currently the only British Schools Overseas (BSO)-inspected British school in Singapore.
In the 2018 infant school report, inspectors praised the "very strong leadership" in the early years, "outstanding progress in all areas", and how "a focus on using natural and real objects developed children's sense of curiosity".
In the 2016 junior school report, inspectors commented on the "lively atmosphere in all lessons", "highly stimulating learning environment", and an "extensive number of cross-curricular topics" such as An Island Paradise project that links geography, science, history, and English. The report says: "As well as achieving exceptionally well in reading, writing, maths and science, the standards reached by pupils in other subjects across the curriculum are also exceptionally high."
In the 2017 senior school report, inspectors noted the "outstanding" quality of teaching and learning, and how the "teachers' enthusiasm for learning is infectious". All students, including the most able and those who have special educational needs and/or disabilities make rapid progress throughout the school."
Tanglin has a 'schools within a school' model, and each of the infant, junior, and senior/sixth form schools have their own head of school, uniform, house system, timetable etc.
When it comes to student leadership, it offers a very wide variety of roles of responsibility from Infant up to Senior School. (And all of the younger student leaders wear colourful school caps bearing their leadership role with pride.) There are roles as varied as Sun Monitors, Planet Protectors, Playtime Buddies, Wellbeing Warriors, Song Leaders and Tech Leaders, Junior Listeners, Student Librarians, and Junior Photographers and Reporters.
It is more than evident that this is an extremely well-run school, with young, passionate students that want to succeed. That kind of environment, in general, brings out the best in all students. This is in part due to very healthy teacher to student ratios, which allow a focus on the child:
3 – 4 years: 1:6
4 – 5 years: 1:8
5 – 7 years: 1:12
8 – 13 years: 1:24
14 – 16 years: 1:20
16 – 18 years: 1:15
We find it interesting, and see the wisdom, in teacher:student ratios tightening and improving in pre-examination years.
Tanglin has an extensive programme of extra-curricular activities, competes in a wide range of competitive and non-competitive sporting events, organises overseas trips for senior students, and hosts a variety of student music and drama performances and art exhibitions.
Outdoor learning has become part of the daily timetable, as Martin Foakes (Head of Outdoor Education at Tanglin Trust School) explains.
“Outdoor Education happens across several different levels in our formal curriculum, and we are working hard to integrate it better into the whole school experience. We have definitely moved away from seeing it as a bolt on enrichment activity – so it isn’t just about the trips – although that is perhaps still the most iconic and visible part of what we do.
“At Tanglin you will also see Outdoor Education taking place in some of the senior school science lessons, where students head out into the local neighbourhood to identify local wildlife such as birds and butterflies. Geography field trips to our neighbourhood study local land use for exam classes, and the art department regularly organises excursions to exciting exhibitions and events.
"In PE lessons, we include rock climbing and life-saving lessons, and there are a lot of student groups across different age groups who are actively involved in caring for the environment through clubs and CCAs.”
Tanglin offers no less than 300 different co-curricular activities across its three schools (Infant, Junior and Senior), many of which are included in the tuition fees. These are as varied as encryption and coding, talking politics, astronomy, swimming, dance, cryptic crosswords and TEDx. There is rock climbing, computer game design and Junior Model United Nations, as well as a Children’s University and the most recent addition of meditation, e-sports, archery, enterpreneurship, podcasting and upcycling.
For three to four year-olds, CCA-style activities are integrated into the framework of Tanglin’s school day through sport, swimming, nature lessons, our forest school and our outdoor kitchen. “We don’t want to make the school day any longer for them at this young age.”
In the Junior school alone, there are 125 different activities running every week; over 90% of Junior children take part in at least one weekly co-curricular activity, from masterchef, robotics and podcasting through to archery, invasion games and music. Every Junior teacher at Tanglin must lead an hour-long CCA every week to promote different and new activities.
There's an active parent community within the school, and a ParentWise programme that includes a series of events and workshops covering issues as varied as bullying, mindfulness, physical development in the early years, reading, and digital citizenship. Parents are also welcome to use the cafe-style canteen in the Nixon Building, and the PTA has its own office on-campus.
Tanglin offers a strong pastoral programme, which includes a house system, Personal, Social, Health, and Citizenship Education (PSHCE) classes, leadership opportunities, and community service activities. British Schools Overseas (BSO) inspectors described the pastoral care as "outstanding" and "a never before seen model."
The school has been awarded the Wellbeing Award for Schools (WAS) by the National Children’s Bureau in the UK for its commitment to promoting positive mental health and wellbeing across the school community. It is also the first non-UK school to receive the Gold Rights Respecting Schools Award (RRSA), run by UNICEF to raise awareness of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. While both awards are well-known in the UK, they are less well-known internationally – but they have both guided Tanglin’s six-year journey to embed positive education principles across its curricula through age-appropriate wellbeing initiatives.
Tanglin’s focus on promoting wellbeing as part of day-to-day school life has included developing its own version of the UK's Personal, Social, and Health and Economic (PSHE) education – called the Lifeskills curriculum. It has also expanded its ParentWise programme and hosted more than 60 live and online courses, information sessions and workshops covering four main themes: Educational and Curriculum Support, Parent and Student Wellbeing, Hot Button Topics and Inspirational Speakers.
Each school within the campus has a dedicated health centre with full-time nurse, and there are security barriers at every entrance to the school.
Every year group has its own philanthropic cause, and the school has developed some strong relationships with local Singaporean charities over several decades.
The school says:
“We have a big focus on giving back, and each year group has a charity that they support and raise money for. We also have an enterprise programme in the junior school where students come up with a product, sell it and then lend the money raised through Lendwithcare – like a micro loan – and then it gets paid back.”
The school occupies a generous plot in Singapore’s Central region. Facilities at Tanglin are as you would expect given the fees – first class. The school offers air-conditioned classrooms, 25m swimming pool, sports field, gymnasium, climbing wall, play areas/playground, sports courts, theatre facilities, soundproof music rooms, recording studio, art studio, media suite, design and technology suite, science lab, libraries, cafeteria, ICT suites, drama studios, dance studios, exams hall, health centres, professional development centre, and a fitness suite.
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 (there are also 393 toilets across the campus!).
There are separate buildings for the infant, junior, and senior/sixth form schools, and it expanded in 2017 with the Nixon Building, which is home to an impressive film and media department. In September 2022, the school will open its new Centenary Building.
This new, 11-storey state-of-the-art building will have a gymnasium, athletic development gym, infant dining hall, parent cafe, music recital hall, 18 additional pianos and more. A highlight of the Centenary Building is an Olympic-sized, 50m swimming pool, which has a bulkhead that can be used to split the pool into two. The pool will be covered and has diving blocks, split-screen scoreboards and cameras, which the school’s Director of Aquatics Andrew Hailey says, “will separate us from other facilities on the island by a long way”.
Tanglin Trust’s annual tuition fees range from $28,794 in Nursery to $46,965 in Year 13. Due to the school’s popularity and strong academic record, Tanglin has waitlists “for most year groups”. The school offers siblings priority places and also operates a “priority placement” scheme, whereby a child can be given a place in return for charges of S$85,000 – S$165,000 (£42,243 – £82,002). These bills are usually paid by companies wanting to secure places for children of their employees.
Tanglin Trust School 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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