Tonbridge School is one of the top-10 all-boy public schools in the UK offering a mix of day and boarding places and situated on a 150- acre site on the northern edge of Tonbridge in Kent.
In academic league tables Tonbridge consistently scores in the top-5 schools in the United Kingdom and is more expensive to attend than Eton and Harrow. The school is highly selective and adopts the standard Common Entrance route for admission at 13. However, this is balanced with genuine openness to those who have not followed a common entrance curriculum whether in the UK or overseas and provision of an alternative selection procedure that will “not disadvantaging international students.”
The school is resolutely international in outlook. 60% of boys’ board and around 80 students are drawn from overseas; across the school more than 33 nationalities are represented. Notable Old Tonbridgians include the chairmen of Britvic, GKN, Vodafone, Waterstones, Woolwich, Vickers, Candover Investments and BP, authors including EM Forster and Frederick Forsyth CBE and members of the band Keane.
Most pupils enter the school at 13 and 144 places are available. Of these, there are around 85 boarding places.
The school is over-subscribed and registration is required three years prior to entrance. Tests and an interview must be passed on registration in Year 6 and Common Entrance exam or the Tonbridge Academic Scholarship exam passed to finally secure a place.
Overseas students and those not following a Common Entrance curriculum are given an alternative competitive final entry exam in November of the year prior to entry set by Tonbridge School in Mathematics and English only. Exams are held either at Tonbridge or at British Councils around the world or at the Academic Asia offices in Hong Kong. Importantly, Tonbridge looks at the whole child and potential when awarding places. Even in Common Entrance, whilst it requires an average 60% pass, this can be averaged across all papers taken to recognise those gifted in single areas of study. This is a very different, much more open, approach to that of the more strictly academically selective ‘hothouse’ approaches of schools like Westminster and St Paul’s.
Tonbridge accepts pupils to study in the Sixth Form and registration time reduces to one year in advance. Only around 20 places are available and admission is via UKiset assessment tests and passing final entrance exams in the four proposed sixth form subjects.
Tonbridge School is genuinely committed to widening access with the aim that “no boy who could benefit from a Tonbridge education is prevented from doing so because of an inability to pay the fees.” Currently 10% (compare 5% St Paul’s School) of the boys receive some level of means-tested support. 15 boys at the school have full fee remission and a further 15 receive over 80% fee remission. It is currently campaigning for funds to provide a further 24 Foundation Awards of 80-100% means-tested fee-remission. Tonbridge recognizes the benefits of welcoming students from all backgrounds to the student population and this ethos, together with its generous bursary provision, makes Tonbridge the most impressive of the UK’s premier public schools in paying more than lip service to broadening access.
Around 17% of Tonbridge students leave for Oxbridge, but it is indicative of Tonbridge’s whole child approach that students also leave to study subjects as diverse as film production, golf management, popular music and television studies in newer universities and institutions. Tonbridge, rarely in the public school sector, has a dedicated full time Universities and Careers Advisor whose role is to help pupils meet their own potential and ambitions rather than those imposed by the school.
The school has extensive SEN support and it is indicative of its commitment in this area that its Novi dyslexic students are themselves trained as Dyslexic Specialist Mentors to help in local primary schools. Two part time members of staff help students for whom English is an additional language.
Non-academic provision is outstanding and includes the 2008 landmark “School Centre” which led to Tonbridge being recognised as an official training centre for the 2012 Olympics. The £11M facilities includes a 6 lane, 25 metre swimming pool. Extensive music and drama facilities are supported by an outward looking Tonbridge Community Action programme that aims to involve every boy in community-related initiatives at some point in their education.
Tonbridge is a Christian foundation and Chapel plays an important and regular part of school life.
Tonbridge was rated Excellent in its most recently available ISI Educational Quality report (2014).
A’ Level grades secured at A*/A/B: 93.7% (2014)
A’ Level Grades A*/A: 77.4% (2014)
A’ Level Grades A*: 35.6% (2014)
AS Level Grades A/B: Not published
AS Level Grades A: Not published
GCSE Grades A*: 74.8% (2014)
GCSE Grades A*/A: 94.9% (2014)
For parents based outside the UK seeking a premier English boarding school education that focusses not only academics but also the whole child, Tonbridge is hard to beat. Unlike many of its peers it does not pay just lip service to inclusiveness, offers prestige, performs in the top 10 of all UK public schools in examination results, has special entrance routes for international students and scores outstanding across the board in its boarding, academic, leadership and whole child provision. Tonbridge is an exceptional, highly recommended school.
• Whole child approach
• High fees
• Limited sixth form places
• International admissions
• Gifted children in all subject areas
• Bursary provision
• Those seeking a co-educational education
• An academic hot-house
• Boarding number: 462 pupils
• Day number: 340 pupils
• Sixth Form: 331 pupil
• Number of full time teaching staff: 139 (excluding visiting staff)
• OFSTED Boarding (2011): Outstanding
• ISI Rating Boarding (2014: Excellent
• ISI Rating Academics (2014): Exceptional
• ISI Rating Personal Development (2014): Excellent
• ISI Rating Leadership (2014): Excellent
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