Originally founded in 1553, the School moved to its present privileged site in the mid-19th century. At Tonbridge, they take special pride in their renewed chapel and its beauty and calm. Boarding is situated in solid Victorian houses abutting the playing field. Younger boys are accommodated in functional four-bed rooms, whereas older boys have two-bed rooms. The School’s 150 acres, situated next to the town’s main street, are private, secluded, but at the hub of things at the same time.
The School’s results are rather excellent. At A levels 77 per cent of results are A*/A, and at GCSE that number is the unbelievable 91 per cent. Unusual for a boys’ school, modern languages are truly popular (French, German, Italian, Mandarin). At A levels, boys are particularly keen on maths, economics, physics and history.
Students with mild dyslexia and dyspraxia are provided with all the necessary help, including one-to-one help in developing strategies for self-reliance later on. The School has a good library with a quiet, working atmosphere and a satisfying stock of books, although the majority of students prefer typing to turning pages. Sheer enthusiasm for teaching prevails at Tonbridge.
Tonbridge offers a vast choice of sports. Their wonderful sports centre has every imaginable facility for more than twenty sports are on offer. The most popular are cricket, rugby, hockey, soccer, tennis and athletics.
The School is famous for music and has excellent facilities, including two impressive recital rooms and devoted staff. There is a wide range of applied arts and crafts and a theatre with 375 seats. The week-long annual arts festival brings in professional companies and artists. Tonbridge boasts an outstanding programme of visiting speakers, lectures, discussions and debates – to stimulate, challenge and involve.
Structure of students
Ninety per cent of the students are from the UK. Some of the boarders come from overseas, mostly due to the School’s popularity in Hong Kong. The School is careful to separate entrants from the same preps into different houses so that everyone has to make new friends. A Tonbridge boy is usually unpretentious, un-ostentatiously “can do” and a thoroughly good fellow, not necessarily from a boarding family. Parents are sensible, supportive, appreciative and increasingly involved. Some of the notable former students involve Colin Cowdrey, E M Forster, Sir Patrick Mayhew, George Austen and many more.
Pastoral discipline and care
The School does not allow any kind of transgressing and has a clear policy of disciplinary matters. The successful house system is regarded as crucial to overall care and watchfulness. Tutors at Tonbridge insist on nurturing close relationships with all the students.
Entrance and exit
All applicants register at the start of year 6 and a school report is sought. The applicants coming from state primaries are not discriminated against at Tonbridge. Students are also allowed to express a preference for a particular house.
Virtually no one leaves Tonbridge after GCSE, and the School has been ranked third best boys’ boarding school nationally and the best in the South East for getting students into the top two desired universities. The majority of students go on to good universities, such as Durham, Exeter, Bristol, Nottingham to read solid subjects (medicine, engineering, accounting and proper arts / humanities).