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Spy School

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Homer: Marge, I think that guy's a spy!
Marge: Of course he's a spy! We just saw him go through spy school!

Pretty much any training program for spies, assassins and related Cloak and Dagger types. The primary purpose is to train new spies, but some spy schools might also include further training for experienced agents. Sometimes an experienced agent might retire from the career and become a trainer, or might be invited to be a guest lecturer from time to time.

Most spy schools are for adults, although there is a growing genre of series like CHERUB and Spy High that depict schools with university age, teenage or even preteen students. Such schools may be the origin of the Teen Super Spy.

The exact training program varies greatly, but most include a wide variety of espionage, commando and generally unconventional dirty trick training. Some are Mildly Military, and many programs emphasis martial arts and weapons training to equip their agents to be an Action Hero. However, most give foremost importance to the ability to think outside the box, interact with people, and be a well-rounded Guile Hero. The school might have classes oriented toward being a Master of Disguise and a Cunning Linguist.

If you're looking for the middle grade book series, click here: Spy School


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Princess Principal introduces "The Farm" in a late episode. Only two of the main characters — Dorothy and Ange — have gone through it however. That same episode confirms that Ange has been The Ace from the beginning, being the top student in their class.
  • Spy Classroom Despite the title, this actually averts this trope as the spies are a group of girls who were at the bottom of their respective spy academies and were sent to a special location for hands on training by an accomplished spy.

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Holliday College is not explicitly a spy school, and most of its students just seem to be there to attend college, but there is a whole slew of students, Etta Candy most prominently, who get to brush off classes for espionage missions for the US Army, this group of students gets to go on armed learning expeditions with their professors, and there's an underground base in which Paula von Gunther designs things for the Army and Wonder Woman hidden on campus.
  • In Zero, the titular character and his fellow agent, Mina, went to one run by the Agency. Student deaths were not unusual.

    Fan Works 
  • In All Guardsmen Party, Inquisitor Oak's fleet gathers personnel from throughout the Imperium and trains them to act as low-level Inquisition agents. He then assigns them to Interrogators in need of field experience before their promotion and sends them on missions. Unfortunately, the Interrogators are a collection of dysfunctional idiots and psychopaths who other Inquisitors dumped on Oak to try and salvage.
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, the Assassins' Guild School rounds out the education of students on the Black with practical training in these matters. It is largely administered by Monsieur le Balouard, portrayed as a semi-retired James Bond who is keen to pass his experience in Flamboyant and Energetic Espionage to a new generation. Doctor Perdore, a far more shadowy member of staff, teaches in intelligence gathering and evaluation. In Clowning Is A Serious Business, we see a class of senior students being taught how to conduct an interrogation of an interesting person, whilst avoiding the somewhat inelegant and unproductive physical stuff. Assassin interrogation is rather more psychological.
  • In Red Witch's Galaxy Rangers Fanfic Sins of the Father, Miss Abercrombie's Charm and Finishing School looks like a snobbish prep school, but is really a covert training academy for espionage agents from Earth's wealthiest and most well-placed families. The other three Rangers are surprised to find their team's Badass Normal had initially been assigned as The Mole, but screwed over his bosses to side with them.

  • The Amateur is a 1981 film about a codebreaker who blackmails the CIA into letting him go into Czechoslovakia and kill the terrorists who murdered his fiancée. To buy time while they find the CIA decrypted files he's stolen, they send him to The Farm for training in assassination techniques. At the end of a Training Montage that cuts between the CIA searching everywhere he might have hidden the files and the protagonist training, he tells the CIA to stop screwing around and send him in as he's never going to pass the course anyway.
  • Barely Lethal has Prescott Special School for Orphans, where they teach little girls to become secret agents and assassins.
  • Carry On Spying was set, at least initially, in a spy school.
  • Carve Her Name with Pride is a movie about a female SOE agent being trained and deployed.
  • D.E.B.S.: The heroes attend a secret academy for the title organization, a government agency.
  • From Russia with Love opens with a scene in the SPECTRE training academy: a spy school for bad guy spies.
  • Get Smart: CONTROL had a training school.
  • The 1993 Russian comedy Gun With A Silencer has two American spies, apparently, being trained in a mental hospital to infiltrate Russia and locate nuclear missile silos in order to prove that all those talks about nuclear disarmament are bullshit. The movie makes it ambiguous as to whether they really are spies or are merely escaped mental patients who think they're spies. On one hand, one of them clearly has a split personality and their "training" is woefully inadequate (one of them learns the wrong language); on the other, they are provided everything they need to actually get into Russia to do the mission. The ending even features a typical Prisoner Exchange on a bridge, except the two prisoners are in straightjackets and, possibly, lobotomized, and the vehicles are ambulances.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service: The stately manor that is Kingsman HQ is also a fully equipped training facility for new recruits.
  • The Recruit: The majority of the plot takes place in one of these.
  • School For Danger (a.k.a.: Now It Can Be Told) is a 1947 docudrama that follows a pair of SOE recruits through training and on their first mission. The two protagonists were played by former SOE agents.
  • Used for exposition in The Soldier, which opens with the Heroes "R" Us foiling an assassination, then cuts to a KGB spy school in Minsk where the KGB spymaster is asking his students to analyze what went wrong, and warning them about the Soldier and his operatives.
  • Spies Like Us. The protagonists are meant to be expendable decoys for the real CIA agents, so they're rushed through spy training and the entire thing is Played for Laughs.
  • In the Action Prologue of Where the Spies Are (1966) KGB agents abduct and kill a British agent. We then cut to a lecturer at a KGB school (implied to be Double Agent Kim Philby) discussing British Intelligence techniques and spy gadgets, some of which were recovered from the dead man.

  • A large part of Viktor Suvorov's novel AQUARIUM (and the subsequent Polish-Russian TV miniseries) focuses on the training of new GRU operatives in the secret facilities. Also counts as a Real Life example.
  • Played with in Belisarius Series. There is no spy school as such. However the princess was trained by her body-guard and tutor in Indian, Ninja-like martial arts.
  • Novgorod from the The Bourne Series.
  • In Nelson DeMille's The Charm School, the titular school is an immersive training center run by the KGB for deep cover agents who will be sent to the United States. In a twist, the school is staffed largely by American POWs from the Vietnam War, in the thought that the best way to learn how to act like an American would be from actual Americans.
  • CHERUB Campus is the training ground of the Teen Super Spy James Adams in Robert Muchamore's books.
  • The Dale Brown novel Day of the Cheetah opens in a KGB school for deep cover agents. Unusually, the students are not only being trained to blend in to American society in general, but also to perform a Dead Person Impersonation of specific American citizens following a Kill and Replace scheme.
  • Discworld has the Assassins' Guild School, although it plays with the trope. Not all students actually become assassins; the school was where nobles sent their children on the principle that you had to think like an assassin if you wanted to avoid being killed by them, and then, because so many nobles were invested in it, it became the most prestigious school in Ankh-Morpork and now has graduates who "probably had a note from their mother saying they were excused from stabbing."
  • Emily the Strange: Stranger and Stranger: Not an official school, but Venus Fang Fang agrees to train Emily in covert operations.
  • One of the B-plots from Tom Clancy's Executive Orders has veteran field agent (and resident paramilitary badass spook extraordinare) John Clark training a new batch of agents at The Farm to rebuild the CIA's HUMINTnote  assets (read: agents) after years of downsizing in favor of Spy Satellites and other technical intelligence gathering methods. Other books in the series explicitly state that this is his regular job: While he may be the CIA's go-to guy for 007-type missions, ops like that are not done very often.
  • In The Invisible Library, the first chapter opens with Irene cleaning the floors of a boy's boarding school that is implied to be this. She states that she doesn't think the students need any protection, as they are probably the most dangerous thing there. Since Irene is undercover as a servant in order to steal a book from that school, things get dangerous pretty soon. Irene also mentions that this school reminds her somewhat of the school she herself went to, and throughout the book it is hinted that the curriculum at her old school involved more self-defense than girls tend to be taught at regular schools.
  • Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women in I'd Tell You I Love You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You.
  • The Red Room in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Tie-In Novel series, Black Widow.
  • The Quest for Karla. The Circus has a combination interrogation centre/training ground at Sarratt.
  • In Bequin, the Maze Undue is a secret institute that trains teenaged untouchables to become agents of the Inquisition. Pupils are regularly sent out on “functions” where they pass themselves off as other people in order to test their disguise and infiltration skills. Unbeknownst to the pupils, the Maze Undue is actually run by the Cognitae, a heretical secret society opposed to the Inquisition.
  • The Alien Investigation and Removal Agency school in Gena Showalter's Red Handed.
  • There is a grotesque scene, of the protagonists walking through a Medieval spy training camp, in one of Andrzej Sapkowski's non-Witcher novels. Among the highlights are propaganda shills HONING THEIR VOICES, and an old spy teaching young ones what to do if you're uncovered. Cry that the Jews have poisoned the wells and leave when everyone's gone to do some pogrom.
  • The temple of the Many-Faced God in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.
  • The book Spy School by Stuart Gibbs is set in one, obviously. It follows middle-school aged kids being trained spies and is very much Played for Laughs.
  • A large part of the Star Trek Expanded Universe novel A Stitch in Time is about Garak remembering his days in an elite school for future government officials, military officers, and Obsidian Order operatives. Guess which one he becomes, considering his father is the head of the Order. Much of the curriculum involves infiltration and hiding.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alias: In the backstory, Sydney went to a training school run by the SD-6.
  • The Americans: The Center, the KGBC origin of operations, operates at least one, teaching everything from combat to seduction. Turns out the administration also lets the teachers rape the students. And the students are coerced into sex with complete strangers as part of their seduction training. Both Philip and Elizabeth go through this, and are equally traumatized, though in different ways. Later Elizabeth starts homeschooling Paige with this in mind.
  • Marcie Ross from the early Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Out of Mind, Out of Sight" gets sent to one of these by The Men in Black after she turns invisible and goes Axe-Crazy. This doesn't seem to bother her much.
  • Churchill's Secret Agents: The New Recruits is a Historical Re-Creation involving a group of contemporary civilians being given the same training as members of Special Operations Executive during WW2. As in the real school, the trainees could be washed out if they didn't make the grade.
  • Covert Affairs starts with the female protagonist being transferred from the training center known only as the Farm to the CIA earlier than her peers thanks to her linguistic skills. In another episode, she meets an experienced foreign operative who quickly figures out that she's too young and inexperienced to have completed full training and also deduces her skill in languages.
    • In a later episode she goes back to training, officially to receive proper weapons training, but in reality because someone was leaking names of potential agents to foreign intelligence agencies.
  • Parodied on Friends. When Sean Penn's character realizes he has been deceived: "There's no such thing as the top secret school for the children of spies!"
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. went to the "Survival School."
  • M.I. High is about a spy school underneath a Good Old British Comp.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: Joel once claimed that all spies attend a special spy school, where they learn (among other things) post-kill puns.
  • I Spy: The Department has a training school on a military base in the San Francisco Bay Area, featured in the episodes "Anyplace I Hang Myself Is Home" and "Tag, You're It".
  • The Sandbaggers are trained at the "Field School."
  • Several Reality Show-style programs have been based on the premise of putting contestants through mock spy training, typically with former spies and/or special operations personnel acting as trainers and judges. They follow the usual reality show format, with the contestant pool becoming increasingly smaller as some flunk out of training or are otherwise deemed as unsuitable candidates. The few who remain will then generally face a "real world" exercise in the final episode. Some examples:
    • Spymaster (2002), with former MI6 officers as the judges.
    • Spymaster USA (2003), hosted by a former Delta Force operator, and with former SEALs and intelligence operatives as trainers and judges.
    • Spy (2004), a follow-up series to Spymaster.
    • Churchill's Secret Agents: The New Recruits (2017), which put its contestants through World War II-era spy training, and included an SOE historian among its judges.

    Video Games 
  • Alpha Protocol's headquarters features one of these, though it is rather abbreviated as compared to a proper training program. It also has the effect of starting with a drugged recruit awakening. It primarily exists to serve as a tutorial, thought the same path will again be repeated in the final mission.
  • Assassin's Creed:
    • It is stated that Desmond grew up in such a place in South Dakota and it was the training/lifestyle that caused him to leave in the first place (leading to the Templars finding him in the first game). It was called the Farm.
    • In Assassins Creed II, Desmond uses the Animus machine to relive his ancestor Ezio's training to be an assassin, and learn the same techniques himself through the "bleeding effect". Ezio, in turn, is trained in swordfighting by his uncle, inconspicuous travel from the courtesans, etc.
  • Perfect Dark has the Carrington Institute, where Joanna Dark learns and trains her spy skills, and practice her accuracy with the weapons. It serves as a tutorial.

    Tabletop Games 

    Web Animation 

  • Sara goes to one of these in Errant Story.
  • In Girl Genius all of the Smoke Knights as well as Tarvek and Martellus were "trained in the ways of the smoke" in lessons and classes, the proper Smoke Knights had to attend more lessons than the Storm Knight hopefuls though.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: Haley was shown to have been sent to a spy training school in her younger years. It is also implied that Steve was also in one.

    Real Life 
  • The Farm: An alleged CIA training school at Camp Peary, Virginia, depicted in such works as Tom Clancy's books.
  • SIS (aka MI6) has a school at Fort Monckton in Hampshire
  • The British World War II era Special Operations Executive trained at a variety of locations, including Aston House, Wanborough Manor, Beaulieu in Hampshire, and the commando training at Arisaig in Scotland.
  • FSB Academy in Moscow.
  • The National Intelligence University in the United States, which is run by the Department of Defense and provides a graduate education in intelligence collection. To be fair, most of their students are already employed as analysts by federal government agencies, but they also offer scholarships for non-government employees looking to work for U.S. intelligence agencies.
  • Several schools have begun offering degree programs or concentrations in Intelligence and Security Studies, the goal of which is to familiarize students with the workings of intelligence analysis, typically with the goal of working for their country's diplomatic corps or spy agency.