An Update on the Redevelopment of Island School for Parents January 2013

Dear Parents

The aim of this report is to provide an up-to-date picture for parents of where Island School is with its planned redevelopment.

You will know that the Technical Viability Study (TVS) contract was awarded to Ronald Lu and Partners in November 2011, after a detailed procurement exercise supported by members of the Island School community. The broad aims of this study were to …..

  • Make decisions about what size the new school should be taking into account changing needs;
  • To consider and arrive at some early decisions about adjacencies of spaces and a preferred way of organizing the new school layout;
  • To give a full understanding of all the technical and engineering issues for both the Borrett Road and the Mount Parker site. These included geotechnical, environmental, traffic and access issues for both sites;
  • To work up a vision for the new school by an in depth analysis of current needs, intended future curriculum developments and by consulting all stakeholder groups within the school community;
  • To plan an initial strategy for stakeholder engagement in the immediate vicinity of the Mount Parker site;
  • To begin planning the logistics of decanting the school in the eventuality that IS is redeveloped on the current Borrett Road site.

The draft report was completed on schedule by September of last year and following some consultation with the school and students, the final report is now complete.
Staff, parents and students have had the chance to be involved in each of the phases of the study and all stakeholder groups have had at least some representation in each of the workshops (more details of these workshops can be found here). As we move on to all stages of the redevelopment beyond the TVS there are growing numbers of people who are willing to work with us to secure a success.

The school community is pleased with the emerging concept brief and design. After the workshop on Monday 10th September which involved 18 staff from a cross-section of roles and positions, it was felt that we were very much on track to conceive of a school that best meets the needs and wants of the whole school community. This workshop was also successful in that it helped us to collect a whole range of inputs from those who attended. All these have subsequently supported the development of further thinking and a refining of the vision for the new school.

The draft vision statement for the new school is here. The one aspect we need to develop further is about ensuring that the new design supports the optimal use of all its facilities by the wider local community. Furthermore we are very interested to consider ways in which the school design itself can engender our commitment to serving the local community in Hong Kong.

Whilst the school welcomes the inclusion of a dedicated SEN centre for up to 60 students, we need to ensure that the part of the concept brief concerning this facility is worked up adequately. At present we have not developed a full vision for how the SEN centre might form part of the whole school campus.

The school has been impressed by the willingness of ESF to support the notional growth of the new school. Currently the size of the school requested is much bigger than the area of the current building. This takes full account of the fact that we need to build in much more common areas and breakout spaces, that traditional sized classrooms are just not big enough and that we need a range of extra dedicated spaces.

Sustainability has been a focus in the second half of the TVS. RL&P commissioned a report from Umow Lai a leading Building Services Engineering and Sustainability (ESD) consultancy from Australia. A representative from the company led a thorough workshop into building sustainability issues with our staff and student environmental group (WANBO) in June. There was a second workshop on Wednesday 19th September that allowed our staff and students to work up the vision for how the new school might be made more fully sustainable.

The facilities department and the school have been working closely together on trying to plan for a possible decant and to foresee any issues that might arise in the process. The school has moved to a phase leadership model in order to prepare for this eventuality. Currently we have phase leadership teams comprising senior heads of house, curriculum leaders and two members of the senior leadership team leading Years 7 and 8, years 9, 10 and 11 and Years 12 and 13 respectively. It is hoped that this will make any possibly decant smoother.

Whilst there is no certainty about the sites in which we may decant into, we have been negotiating with the EDB and have considered some sites they have suggested already. This has even involved detailed planning on how we would fit our current timetable into the buildings proposed. Although these exercises really just proved that it is feasible to decant into a number of smaller premises, it has not got us to a point where we are any more certain about which sites we could use and where they may be. It is important to restate that we may not have to undergo this temporary move, as we may be successful in procuring a new and bigger site. It is vital, however, that we begin to plan contingencies in case we have to rebuild at Borrett Road. We are still of the mind that we have to both plan for a possible decant and for the best way to move forward with the Mount Parker site, because to aim for just one of these options may leave us disadvantaged if we inevitably have to make do with the one we desire less.

Predictably there is some anxiety amongst staff and parents of what the consequences of a decant may be. There are concerns about the continuity of the house ethos if we split the school by year (horizontally), rather than vertically. Of course there are positives and negatives of both redevelopment options. If we redevelop on Borrett Road, we get to hang on to our prestigious, convenient and central location. However the cost is that we will have to split the school and move to other vacant government school buildings for three to four years. This will be complex to plan, involve more strenuous travel arrangements for some students and would involve the added cost of refurbishing the proposed decant sites. One thing is for sure and that is that, in the event of a decant, we will ensure that we find ways to continue to ‘add value’ to our students’ education and staff’s working lives in order to compensate for the disruption the process will inevitably entail.

Conversely if we were to obtain the Mount Parker, or an alternative green field site, it would mean we would have more opportunities to extend the size of the campus. The Mount Parker site is significantly larger than the current one. It would also mean we would not have to endure the disruption of decanting the school.

At the time of writing we seem to be no nearer finding out which way we are going to go on these two options. The redevelopment of Island School is inextricably tied up with the issue of government subvention. The ESF board is currently in discussion with the HK government on the future of their relationship. The ESF is proposing that any decisions around ‘wrapping up’ or modifying the subvention arrangements should include some decisions to do with government support for the redevelopment of Island School. The ESF has implemented the capital levy and the nomination rights scheme to support the redevelopment and modernization of all its school buildings and has had to do this as a result of the subvention having been frozen by the HK government 12 years ago. Whilst the HK government gave significant financial support for the building of its schools in the early years of the ESF and prior to 1997, that same commitment has diminished and the ESF has done what it has had to do to ensure that the accommodation and resources for its students continue to be of the highest quality. It is reassuring for us that the ESF board have put their support behind the process of school redevelopment and have really begun to act to tackle the financial difficulties. Similarly whilst we worry about continued government support for the project, we are also aware that the HK government has supported the recent rebuild of Kowloon Junior School.

District Council/ Planning Liaison with the Kornhill area in which the Mount Parker site is situated

Part of the TVS has been to start the process of ascertaining community views about the possible use of the Mount Parker site. Further to this we have also found out about the process of submitting a site application for this site. Since we have engaged with district councillors and other community leaders in the Mount Parker area there has been some oppositional views expressed directly to the EDB and in the local press. We are very concerned about this and are meeting with community, council and LegCo representatives at LegCo in the next few weeks so that we can really listen to their views and to ask them about ways in which we can bring additional resources to the area and contribute to the locality of the Kornhill Estate. I think it is to be expected that people that live in the area around the proposed site will, at first, consider what the negative impacts of a school being built on a site adjacent to them will be. We need to consider these perceptions seriously and do what we can to lead the discussion so that we discuss all the positive consequences of having Island School within a community could be.

Special Educational Needs Provision at IS

Currently the Jockey Club Sarah Roe school is massively oversubscribed and the waiting list is long. There is a genuine need to extend the numbers of SEN school places in Hong Kong, particularly on the Island. Whilst the ESF are continuing to explore ways of meeting this growing need separately to the Island School redevelopment process, we are still considering the inclusion of a dedicated SEN facility in the new design. There have been several meetings at school to ascertain the parameters of any possible SEN provision as part of the redevelopment. In order to assist with these discussions, members of the senior management team at ESFC met on 23 March 2012 to set out some baseline assumptions. These are set out as follows: –

  • There would be a standard Learning Support Centre (LSC) provision for up to 24 students.
  • The SEN facility would accommodate up to 60 secondary students only for need level 5 & 6.
  • The SEN facility model will be tested spatially for the Borrett Road site once the SOA is established to see if the additional space can be accommodated.
  • The SEN facility would be purpose built, articulating to the rest of the campus design with the concept being one of inclusion and the potential for partial integration as appropriate.

We are very excited about this aspect of the redevelopment. We are convinced it will add value to the educational experience of all our students and that it wholly aligns with our values and the fact that we are an inclusive school. Having said that we have talked at length about the challenges it will afford us and feel confident that we can proceed with this part of the brief.
All parents are invited to an open parent meeting about the redevelopment project at Island School at 6.30pm on Thursday 21st February. At this meeting there will be a chance to hear any updates and to see a small exhibition of outcomes form the Technical Viability Study.

Gareth Stevens – Vice Principal

A welcome to the Island School Redevelopment Website

The aim of this site is to provide everyone in the Island School community (and beyond) with regular updates into how the process of school redevelopment is going. The site has a variety of sub functions …

  • To be a collection point for case studies, research and resources concerning school design from around the world;
  • To stimulate thinking and imagining about what our new school could be like amongst the whole school community;
  • To record and communicate news as the process moves forward;
  • To provide a forum for dialogue about a range of issues;

It is a great feeling now that the school redevelopment process has actually become a reality. Whilst there is still a great deal of uncertainty about timeline and on what site we will eventually redevelop Island School – the process is definitely underway. We know that by the end of August 2012 we will have a detailed concept brief for the next design stage and we will have a full technical feasibility study for both the existing and the alternative site at North Point.

Whilst we may have our own personal views on which route would best benefit the community, it is essential that we explore both as ultimately the decision as to which one we take will not be in our hands.

It is such an exciting time as we are now developing a clearer idea of how our curriculum will develop over the next 2-3 years; the timing of the redevelopment process has helped us here. Imagining what bricks and mortar need to exist in order to support our vision for teaching and learning has literally helped to make our thinking more ‘concrete’!

We are asking ourselves fundamental questions about how the new campus can best reflect our core educational aims. We are agreed that we need to identify what it is about our existing building that we might need to ‘take with us’ and what essential elements of the Island School spirit need to be embodied and made explicit in the new design. Clearly we need to ensure that all that is great about Island School is held onto and cherished by the new design, but at the same time we need to ensure we are more outward looking and take the best features from cutting edge designs from around the world.

A conversation about school design does not get very far without focusing on the need for flexible and agile learning spaces. Future buildings need to be able to adapt to accommodate changing educational trends and the emergence of new technologies. They need to be able to support different modes of learning and yet still allow for specialism by subject. Of course it is very difficult to have a dependable ‘crystal ball’ with regard to these issues, but we do know that standard classrooms with one teaching focus area are just not good enough for our students anymore.

We are fortunate enough to be working alongside the architects Ronald Lu & Partners who really value stakeholder input and want to ensure that whatever design we develop reflects the real needs of all groups within our school community. To that end there will be opportunities to be involved in developing the vision for the new school.

Gareth Stevens – Vice Principal


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s