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 2,700 students (736 Infants, 768 Juniors and 1,320 Seniors), representing 51 different 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 47% of students are 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.
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, life skills 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.
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). 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.
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 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!"
The results speak for themselves.
|Average score||Pass rate||Highest score||Top scorers||40 points plus||35 points plus||30 points plus||Bilingual diploma|
In 2021, Tanglin, which is typically among the top three international schools in Singapore for the IB, had an average score of 40.7 points out of 45. This is a record-breaking average for the school (last year was 39.1) and well above the world average (32.99 this year).
100% of the cohort achieved 35 points or more. Three students celebrated the top score of 45 points, nine students achieved 44 points, and 26 students scored 42 points or more; 83% of the cohort scored a very high 38 points or more.
Read our roundup of Singapore's 2021 IB results here.
The A Level cohort in 2021 enjoyed a 100% pass rate. A very high 42% of all grades were an A*, more than double the average in England, where 19.1% of all grades were an A*. At Tanglin, 70% of all grades were an A* or A, compared to 44.8% in England. The pass rate was 100%. 47% of students taking the EPQ achieved an A*, with almost two thirds of the A level cohort achieving an A or A*.
In the 2021 IGCSE results, students at Tanglin Trust School performed well above the England average again, with 83% of all grades achieved at either A, A*, or equivalent. In addition, 100% of all grades achieved were A* to C or equivalent, the same as last year.
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.
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 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."
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."
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.
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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