A standalone primary school in the north east, offering the Cambridge primary curriculum, a focus on creativity and outdoor learning, and fees of less than $17,000 per year.
With fees that are nearly half of that charged by other international schools in Singapore, The Grange Institution is certainly going to appeal to families looking for a cheaper primary education for their child. Located in the north east, this standalone primary will eventually offer early years to Primary 6 (four to 11 years), although it is currently only open up to Primary 2.
Describing itself as a “small school with big aspirations”, The Grange promises to offer “a broadly-British style of education for children of primary school age”. There’s a strong creative focus in The Grange curriculum, and it offers a more relaxed alternative to the very rigorous academic nature of some international and local schools in Singapore.
Since opening in August 2018, the school has grown very slowly to a small community of just 16 students. Some families may be put off by the lack of facilities, small campus, north-east location, and non-IB curriculum. Others, however, will see the appeal of a school that follows a January to December academic year, has a close-knit community, and all the characteristics of a village school.
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While you shouldn’t expect extensive or state-of-the art facilities – there’s no swimming pool, makerspace, or 1:1 iPad programme for example – you can look forward to a school that focuses on developing creative talent. Here’s a school that also promises to take full advantage of its natural surroundings and focus on outdoor education.
It also has a very international outlook, and the school talks a lot about focusing on UN Sustainable Development Goals to raise "globally aware" students.
The Grange is owned by Crestar Education Group, the parent company of Kinderland, which has a large network of pre-schools in Singapore; this is the group's first international primary school. Crestar explained the decision to open a new school, saying:
"We have had countless enquiries from parents over the years about pathways beyond our pre-school service. Many of them have expressed a desire to see the culture and creative philosophy in Kinderland continue into the next learning phase of their children.”
The Grange follows the Cambridge international primary curriculum. The school’s international team of teachers, predominantly recruited from the UK and Australia, focuses on three learning frameworks. These include proficiency in the core subjects of English, maths and science; thematic, inquiry-based learning; and a creative approach to the visual arts and music. The school also works in partnership with external sports group JACPA to teach health and PE.
Although the school does not follow the IB programme, many of its teachers and the principal are IB-trained.
"We offer what we call The Grange Advantage. We have six units of inquiry that are self-developed by our teachers. These draw on the philosophy of the IB, but then we follow the IPC to offer a more guided approach to learning.
"We don’t swing towards either a total play-based approach to learning or to just subject-based learning. We try to bring in the best of both worlds."
These self-developed units of inquiry include studying celebrations by different cultures, which helps to build a strong community where the students are from different parts of the world, and threats to the environment such as ocean pollution.
"Students are currently experimenting by trying to grow different fruits and vegetables, which they sell at a market in the school. We are raising awareness of sustainable goals like these."
Two standout features of the curriculum are the Creators in Residence, which focuses on creating works of art in the school's art room and multi-purpose hall, and the Garden to Table project, which “teaches essential life skills in a fun, engaging and hands-on way”. The school has a team of ‘Creators’ working alongside specialist teachers in music, the visual arts, PE and languages.
The academic year runs from January to December, which puts the school in line with local Singaporean schools and the Australian International School; the school day is slightly different to the norm as it runs from 10am to 4.30pm. Rather than this being a conscious decision by the school, it is a requirement by the government to help manage the heavy flow of traffic during rush hour.
"The majority of our families are coming from pre-schools in the local system, so this academic year matches that."
The school currently only has three year groups – early years, Primary 1 and Primary 2 – but there are plans to open up to Primary 6 in the future. It will always remain a small school with a maximum of two classes per year, and class sizes will be capped at 24.
At the helm of the school is director Ronald Stones, a British educator with more than 30 years' teaching experience in South East Asia; his previous roles include principal at Tanglin Trust School. The founding head teacher is Jennifer Worthington, an Australian with past leadership roles in schools across Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Philippines and Switzerland. Read our interview with Jennifer here.
The Grange has a three-acre campus along Yio Chu Kang Road, between Serangoon and Ang Mo Kio. Located away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, the school is in a quieter, residential corner of Singapore – and close to other international schools including AIS and SAIS.
The school shares its campus with the existing Kinderland pre-school. Facilities at the low-rise campus include six classrooms, a library, multi-purpose hall, sustainable garden, and two music and art studios.
What does the school feel like? Get The Grange Experience here.
This small campus may feel understated compared to some other larger international schools, but it feels cosy, welcoming and authentic. Also, with its vegetable plots, butterfly garden and natural wildlife, the school is able to offer plenty of rich outdoor experiences. There is no school nurse on site.
There’s no room for expansion for secondary years at this site, but that’s not to say that the school won’t open a secondary school on another location in the future.
Admission and fees
Annual tuition fees are among the lowest in Singapore at $16,983. There are no hidden extras, apart from an enrolment fee of $3,080, but students do have to bring in their own packed lunch.
The school does suggest that the above is an introductory fee that is only applicable for a limited period, and there are plans to increase fees to $28,283. When and if this will happen is unknown, but while the school still only has 16 students it does not appear to be in a position to charge parents more.
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