Tonbridge was founded in 1553 by Sir Andrew Judd. It has close links with the Worshipful Company of Skinners, one of the oldest London livery companies. It is a public school in the specialised British sense of the term. The school occupies a site of 150 acres (607,000 m²) on the edge of Tonbridge, and is largely self-contained, though the boarding and day houses are spread through the town. The school is one of only a very few of the ancient public schools not to have turned co-educational, and there are no plans for this to happen.The Good Schools Guide described the school as academically "Truly excellent," noting that "In 2008, the average GCSE candidate achieved 4A*s and 6As. 87 per cent got all A*/A and 98 per cent got all A*/A/B."
Almost all boys go on to University, with between thirty and forty every year going to Oxbridge. Tonbridge has been named the top Oxbridge school in the south-east based on admissions to Oxford and Cambridge over the preceding five years. According to a 'Guide to Independent Schools' published in The Spectator on 12 March 2011, Tonbridge is the fourth highest scoring boy's boarding school in the UK by A-Level results. Until 1869, Tonbridge had its own distinctive variant of football, which was played with thirteen players per side, with various eccentric rules, which was described by those who played it as a "ferocious" and "dirty" game.
At age 13, 144 boys may join the school each year. Of these over 80 are boarders, and some 60 are day boys. Most boys entering the school at this stage will have completed a pre-assessment during Year 6, after having been registered with us, and will have subsequently sat either the Common Entrance exam or the Tonbridge Academic Scholarship exam. Modified arrangements are in place for those living overseas and those at schools who do not prepare boys for Common Entrance, so as to ensure that underlying academic potential is recognised and that boys in this category are not disadvantaged. At age 16, up to 20 boys join the Tonbridge sixth form from other schools. Again this entry includes both boarders and day boys. Admission to the Sixth Form is on the basis of a recommendation and report from the candidate’s present school and an examination in the subjects of intended A level study. The main examination sitting takes place in November and applicants are therefore encouraged to register with us by the start of October.