Tanglin Trust School: A Legacy of Excellence
Promoted by Tanglin Trust School

Tanglin Trust School: A Legacy of Excellence

Located at the confluence of Singapore’s high technology, heritage and nature clusters, Tanglin Trust School has not only withstood the test of time but has also left an indelible mark on generations of students. Established in 1925, it has come a long way since its humble beginnings as the tiny school with five pupils on the grounds of the Tanglin Club.

Ninety-eight years ago, Tanglin emerged in response to the needs of expatriate families, offering them a much-needed option for their children’s education — at the time, the only alternative was to send them to boarding schools in their home country. A few decades later, Singapore has a much wider range of excellent international schools. Tanglin evolved in stride with these schools to become more than just an option, but the preferred choice.

In a recent interview, Tanglin’s Director of Learning John Ridley explained what are some of the key milestones in the school’s history that have played a significant role in shaping its offering of Generations of Excellence.

From a small school to a leading institution

With more students joining, Tanglin needed to expand its space, so it relocated to its Portsdown Road site. “It’s incredible to think that this was over 40 years ago, back in 1981!” enthuses Mr. Ridley. “This was significant because it was the start of the vision to create one school.”

Apart from a change of address, the move marked the integration of different age ranges under one unified educational umbrella. Prior to this, Tanglin managed two distinct schools — an infant school and a junior school — each with its own unique identity and approach.

The classroom magic where the journey of learning begins with smiles, scribbles, and shared stories. Source: Tanglin Trust School

Expanding into secondary education

After years of focusing solely on students up to the age of 11, it became increasingly apparent that Tanglin families sought more, specifically for a secondary school option that not only leveraged the school’s rigorous British curriculum but also delivered unwavering pastoral care. Thus, the year 1996 saw the inauguration of its Senior School.

“A brave decision but fully consistent with Tanglin’s history and its reason for being,” explains Mr. Ridley. “This was a logical extension of the one school vision that began in the 1980s; more importantly, we were again giving families a Tanglin option.”

“From its inception, the Senior School set out to be different from other secondary schools; with a curriculum that built on our knowledge of the primary curriculum and our high expectations of Junior School students; with a carefully balanced approach to teaching and pastoral care that hits the sweet spot between challenge and support.”

Mr. Ridley joined Tanglin as Head of Science in 1998, just as the Senior School marked its second year. As an educator and as a steadfast advocate for its vision, he has played a fundamental role in shaping the school’s trajectory.

“I am immensely proud to have been part of Tanglin’s ‘3-18 project’ over the past 25 years, and I have witnessed first-hand the attention to detail and the relentless pursuit of excellence that drives the school forward,” he says.

In 2009, Tanglin became an IB World School, delivering programmes that help create a better and more peaceful world through cultural understanding and respect. Source: Tanglin Trust School

Catering to all needs and aspirations

Building upon the foundation laid in its formative years, Tanglin embraced the status of an IB World School in 2009. While continuing to offer the A Level pathway, the introduction of the IB Diploma Programme heralded a new era of opportunity for Sixth Form students. But it wasn’t just about introducing a new qualification.

“In preparation for accreditation, we had to demonstrate that Tanglin’s values align with those of the IB Organisation,” says Mr. Ridley “Since these are all about preparing students to make a positive difference in a global society, it was not difficult to demonstrate alignment.”

This effort inspired the school to further reflect on its values and prompted key changes in its curriculum to give students a wider view of the world. This period also marked the adoption of the Tanglin Learner Profile, once confined to the Sixth Form, across the entire school — which still resides in Portsdown Road.

Tanglin’s campus is nestled within Singapore’s “one-north” high technology cluster of biomedical sciences, ICT and media industries and amongst the heritage and nature areas of Rochester Park and the Wessex Estate. Source: Tanglin Trust School

Tradition meets innovation

While none of the site’s original buildings remain, Tanglin’s sense of unity as one cohesive school has only grown stronger with time. The campus layout, with its central shared playing field, has stayed a consistent feature, ensuring students from various sections of the school cross paths frequently. Other parts of the school’s rich heritage can still be felt across campus too. Its modern facilities might not immediately reveal its history, but a closer look unveils the school’s commitment to excellence that spans nearly a century.

Like the country it’s based in, Tanglin boasts a seamless integration of tradition and innovation. For example, coding is woven into each curriculum offered, beginning with the youngest learners programming BeeBots in the Infant School. “We certainly aim for all our students to be confident users of every kind of modern technology,” says Mr. Ridley. Yet, amidst this embrace of technological progress, the school remains rooted in its founding principles.

“To prepare our students for the future and whatever that brings, the best thing that we can do is to keep doing what we have been doing since 1925; that is to nurture well-rounded, confident and independent young people who are able to engage critically with whatever comes their way,” explains Mr. Ridley.

This approach yields impressive results — evident through examination results that consistently surpass Singapore and global averages. Around 97% of graduates gain admission to their first or second choice university, which is amongst the best in the world.

“Today, ‘Generations of Excellence’ has become our motto and appears on various banners around the school,” says Mr. Ridley. “Three words that sum up so much history!”

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