• Large, modern campus
• 'Schools within a school' model creates smaller communities
• Quiet and well-maintained
As you’d expect from an all-through school with over 2,000 students, Tanglin Trust School has a sprawling campus. Everything here is on a grand scale: the full-size rugby and football pitches, two large performance halls, and several modern glass-fronted buildings. While Tanglin could feel a little bit daunting or overwhelming when you first turn up, it does start to feel smaller once you start exploring it.
Read our review of Tanglin Trust School here.
Each school has its own community within the campus and dedicated facilities such as a library, sports hall and play areas. In fact, you soon discover that this is in fact four schools on one campus: an infant school for nursery to Year 2; junior school is Years 3 to 6; senior school for Years 7 to 11; and a sixth form college. All four schools are built around the central playing fields.
Tanglin says: “We do run them all quite separately with different uniforms, timetables, heads of school because we’re a big school of around 2,300. This means that we can create that smaller school feel with the benefit of big school’s facilities. There’s still quite a bit of interaction between the different schools though."
Tanglin is located at the heart of One North, a research and development hub in Buona Vista that’s just 10 minutes' drive to Singapore's CBD. There’s an MRT station just an eight-minute walk away, which is used by many senior students, an easily accessible drop-off zone, and plenty of parking.
As we arrived at the school, we found it welcoming, friendly and safe, with security at every entrance. Surrounded by greenery, the campus feels modern, clean and very well-maintained.
• Stand-out facilities for film studies
• Well-equipped specialist facilities
• New D&T workshop
Our tour of Tanglin Trust starts on a very positive note. The school has been granted a government lease until 2038, which is a huge advantage as there’s no risk of having to move campuses for the next 20 years. To secure this lease Tanglin “had to increase its use of space on the land”, and the school responded by opening the new Nixon Building in 2016. This is an impressive addition to the school that features a second theatre, senior canteen, and some standout facilities for film studies.
One of the most impressive features on the campus is the film studies facility. There’s a Foley pit where students can design sound effects and soundtracks; a visual effects studio where students can also add motion graphics; a Google-style Think Tank pre-production room; two film studios (one green and one black) with lighting rigs and professional cameras; and a 40-seat screening room where they can watch and analyse films. It's all very impressive and new.
Tanglin says: “Film studies is one of our more popular courses from Year 10 up, and it’s the first class to fill up at IGCSE. Our equipment is industry standard and used by students to shoot their own films. These facilities can also be used after school for activities such as film club.”
Another new addition to the school is the design and technology department, which has well-equipped workshops. D&T now offers an IGCSE course, and classes are already really popular with both male and female students.
Tanglin teacher Mr Bleach says: “We’re trying to encourage design, computer-aided design and manufacturing here. We start by teaching the basic skills such as cutting, shaping and drilling, and then we let them turn it into something like a jewellery stand or headphone stand.
“I don’t ask them all to make picture frames. I’d much rather show them how to make wooden joints, for example, and then let them be as creative as possible.”
We were impressed by the ongoing development at the school, which not only indicates investment in state-of-the-art facilities but also the school’s readiness to change and improve.
There are two canteens on the campus and, while we didn’t get to see the food on the menu, we were impressed to hear about the school’s online food ordering service, which follows a traffic light system. We also liked the Masterchef-style kitchen that’s used for after-school activities (there’s no elimination though!), as well as modern language classes in senior school.
Tanglin says: “We might give them a recipe in French or Spanish and ask them to cook it. We also teach cooking as part of life skills here.
“We make really good use of the space we have. Compared to some other schools in Singapore, we have a relatively small land footprint of around 4.5 hectares. A lot of the spaces here are very flexible; for example, our two theatres are black box-style so that they can be set up for different uses.”
There’s definitely a sporty side to Tanglin, which has more than 100 competitive sports teams. Existing sports facilities include a dedicated sports hall for each school, gym, 25m pool and paddling pool for nursery to Year 11, but we were interested to hear about plans to build a 50m pool and other sports additions by 2020. Testament to the quality of the school’s playing fields, the Welsh and Fujian Rugby 7s teams trained there ahead of the 2018 Singapore Rugby 7s.
We saw several examples of Tanglin’s adaptable use of space. The school’s newest theatre has retractable seating for an assembly or performance, which means the floor space can also be used for an exhibition or table-style seating at an awards ceremony. Each year group has a shared area that’s used for lessons. Even the play areas are used for lessons, performances and house events.
We walked between school buildings at break time, when we could quickly identify the different year groups by their uniforms; we also saw several students wearing badges for student council, wellbeing warriors and other posts with huge amounts of pride.
Each school is very age appropriate. For example, the senior library has a presentation area, quiet zone and ideas hub whereas the junior library has board games, floor cushions, puppet shows, brightly decorated walls – and higher noise levels!
Tanglin says: “Each school has its own house system with a friendly competitive spirit. In the infant school, we’ve borrowed from Harry Potter and we draw names from a house-sorting hat.”
The infant school is designed to meet the needs of the EYFS curriculum, which devoted to learning through play. There’s a free-flow approach and all classrooms open out to a central area and an outside area. Every room was themed, colourful, engaging and filled with different learning and play stations; the central area was lovingly filled with creative displays from a rainforest for little explorers to a giant rocket. There’s a library complete with a creation station filled with Lego, straws and craft materials, reading corners and a cosy performance area. Outside, there’s a music shed and a mud kitchen – both simple ideas that give students plenty of space to be creative
In the junior school, each year group is on a different level and there are specialist rooms for music, drama, art, Mandarin and PE. Outdoors, there is a play area with climbing equipment and a climbing wall that’s all used as much for break times as it is for PE lessons, orienteering, and open mic sessions on the outdoor stage.
The sixth form college has its own library, careers advice centre, and a hub that gives the school’s oldest students a ‘private’ area to study and socialise. During our visit, students were about to leave the school for study leave, and we saw several groups getting ready for the annual Muck Up day. It’s traditions like this that reflect a close-knit school community.
Tanglin says: “There’s also lots of opportunity for parent involvement, from attending talks by inspirational leaders and parenting workshops to sessions to try out our virtual reality sets and guided reading sessions.”
The School’s TTS Foundation organises various visits from inspirational speakers from Winne the Witch illustrator Korky Paul – who painted a section of the junior library – to world explorer Robert Swan whose photos can be seen around the campus.
Tanglin says “We’re lucky with our foundation as its very active and its mission is to enable extraordinary opportunities – and I think they really do. It’s so inspirational for the students.”
• Equipped for collaborative learning
• Student work exhibited throughout the school
• Adaptable spaces for different styles of learning
The classrooms throughout the school are set up with round desks so that “students aren’t all just facing forward”. Clusters of eight classrooms typically open out onto a shared area that is designed for collaborative learning, as well as year group assemblies and events such as student elections.
Tanglin says: “They make really good use of the space, and each floor is normally themed.”
We saw students in Year 5 working in small groups; some on floor cushions, others around a table, and one class having an IT lesson outside the classroom. There was a positive atmosphere as we walked around, plenty of space for students to spread out in groups or individually, and an impressive display of Greek-themed student work on the walls and ground – from writing and art to sculptures and photography. It was an inspirational, colourful and visually interesting learning space.
Walls can speak volumes about a lot about a school, and at Tanglin these were covered with student work, posters for TED Talks and plenty of photos of the school’s many outdoor education trips and awards.
Tanglin says: “We have lots of award and recognition throughout the school. It’s awards season at the moment, and we have the young musician awards, awards for music, sports, academics, endeavour and more.”
In the film studies department, we saw a small group of senior students filming in front of the green screen and getting very hands-on with cameras and lighting equipment. In the junior school, we heard students in the instrumental music programme, and in the senior school we saw IB students have a Spanish lesson the kitchen.
There was plenty of work on show in the D&T department, including some 3D printed prosthetic hands
designed as part of a global project called Enabling the Future. We saw examples of wooden puzzles that had been cut, shaped and drilled by senior students. And the centrepiece was a life-size racing cardboard car (built by sculptor Batholomew Ting) decorated by Year 4 students as part of a 'Fast and Furious' design project.
Tanglin says: “This unit is a fantastic example of the school’s cross-curricular and collaborative approach to learning. There’s the art of painting the car, they print smaller cars in 3D, and they race cars on a Hot Wheels track to learn about forces.”
Read our Q&A with Tanglin Trust’s head of senior school, Allan Forbes, here.
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