Dear Island School Community,
This communication is in response to two things. One is an article that you may have read in the SCMP that presents a distorted and sensationalised view of our impending relocation. The other is the report by the Council of International Schools on the occasion of our 5 year accreditation review.
We are very pleased to report that the preparations for the relocation are going ahead extremely well, as we wait for, what we hope is, an imminent announcement from the Education Bureau of the sites they have allocated to us.
The main issues for the relocation are the curriculum, the facilities and the transport.
We have undertaken to make sure that our exciting and innovative curriculum will not be compromised in any way during this period. In fact the opposite is true as we plan to introduce more IB subjects, in Computing and Food Technology and continually enrich our middle school programme. In common with other ESF schools we will take on the benefits and richness of the IB MYP in the lower school that will make transition from the primary schools even smoother. In order to do this over two sites we will need a small increase in our staffing so that we can cut down on the need for too many staff to be spending time travelling backwards and forwards between the sites. This will enable us to reduce class sizes in the lower school so that almost all courses will have a maximum of around 25 students.
It is important to stress that these two schools are the only ones that we have been offered by the Education Bureau that fit our requirements. They have not been able to find adequate space for us on Hong Kong Island and other sites have either been further away or in a dilapidated state.
While the schools are in good condition, we are aware that our curriculum poses greater demands on specialist classrooms than the one the schools were built for. Thus, we have set aside a significant budget to create more science labs, recording and film studios, technology labs and hubs for the creative arts. The schools currently have classrooms significantly bigger than those at Island School, which also gives us more space for innovative learning environments on both sites. We have been planning the new sites for two years now, and all members of the school staff have been involved in designing the optimum places for teaching their subject in terms of facilities and furniture. The staff are excited about the possibilities that the new sites will offer and their engagement in the project has been excellent.
We are aware that transport is an issue for many parents. We have engaged with consultants and worked with bus companies to make sure that we can provide a range of solutions. Many students now take the school bus from very near their home to school. This option will still be available. The bus company has planned the timing of the journeys and, given that Central to Tai Wai takes only 25 minutes, they can adjust bus times so that the pickup time in the morning will be no more than 10-15 minutes earlier depending on the location. For many, even on HK Island, it will be no earlier than it is now. We will also continue the buses from Central or Admiralty and Pier 3 as we do for many students now. The time from there will be about 25 minutes, and this will be a cheaper option as we hope to use large double decker buses. Finally the additional option, probably more for older students, is the MTR. Both schools are very close to stations, and a recent survey shows that many students would be keen to use this fast, more flexible and cheaper alternative.
Council of International Schools Report
The report on our school visit in February refers directly to the challenge of the relocation and their confidence in our ability to make it a success. They say:
The Visitors have no doubt that, with the experienced school leadership and the expertise and support provided by ESF, the transition to temporary accommodation and the final move back to the redeveloped campus can be achieved successfully.
This is part of a strikingly positive report on what we are doing. The opening sentence of their summing up is as follows:
Island School is a high quality and innovative school and one that is confident of its direction, has a clear Vision for its future, and enjoys a high degree of support from its stakeholders. The school enjoys stable, visionary and thoughtful leadership, a faculty and staff dedicated to the well-being and learning of their students, students who are proud of their school and eager to attend it and strong governance provided through the ESF and the School Council.
This is preceded by a list of commendations on our “ground-breaking curriculum,” “high quality learning,” “a student body fully engaged with learning,” “positive culture” and “high levels of duty of care”. All this is due to “the professional dedication and hard work of the staff” “supported by visionary educational leadership”.
We are very pleased and encouraged that our work is so positively recognised by an international institution such as the Council of International Schools, and that they can see how this reflects on the unique atmosphere that Island School demonstrates. We are entirely committed to maintain this throughout the relocation.
Principal, Chris Binge