1. Why do we need to redevelop Island school?
  2. Why doesn’t the ESF just reduce the intake quota so that the existing buildings can be flexible enough to provide an optimal environment for learning?
  3. What options for redevelopment open to us?
  4. Why doesn’t the school decide which is the best of the two options and put all its energy into that one?
  5. What will be involved in the decanting process if we end up redeveloping on the Borrett Road site?
  6. Is there any way we can learn from other schools who have gone through the decanting process during major construction work?
  7. Is there any way that the other ESF secondary schools can take our students in the interim if we have to decant?
  8. When will we know which option we will be taking?
  9. If we have to decant to the Kowloon side or move to a new school in Quarry bay this will surely disadvantage our student population who mostly come from Mid-Levels?
  10. What do you say to parents who may well not want to send their children to Island School if it has to face the disruption of a decant for a number of years?
  11. What is a Technical Viability Study?
  12. What happens at the end of the Technical Viability Study Period?
  13. What is the timeline for the new build?
  14. How can we ensure that the new school reflects the needs and wants of the Island School community?
  15. How can I ensure that I am kept up to date with news?
  16. How can the wider school community get involved in the redevelopment process?
  17. What is the vision for the new school?

1) Why do we need to redevelop Island school?

The current campus was constructed between 1967 and 1974. Over the last four decades, the school has grown to a capacity of over 1,200 students aged from 11 to 18 years old. The buildings have served the school community well and have helped to facilitate the academic, personal and social standards achieved by the school over that time.

Over the last 5 years ESF has undertaken extensive investigation as to the state of the current buildings, and found several major problems. These include operational and technical deficiencies as well as issues to do more directly with teaching and learning.

Educational/ Teaching

  • Individual teaching spaces are generally too small.
  • Overcrowded campus (originally designed for 800 students, currently 1250 students)
  • Room usage rates very high, leading to greater teacher movement and lack of classroom base.
  • No breakout spaces for study/ learning – students using corridors and playground.
  • Lack of project / self-study areas for students.
  • Inadequate eating / social space, library, PE and hall spaces.

Our sports facilities are very poor.  We can do very little on campus and so we bus our students all over Hong Kong to fight for pitches in an increasingly competitive situation. It has been harder than ever this year to get any pitches for our sports programme, and that will get worse as more and more local schools start to see the value of sports and to use these shared resources more.

Our Creative Arts facilities are severely limited and we have virtually no spaces for students to pursue independent study or group work outside of classrooms.

We are the only ESF school without a learning support unit to provide support for students with special educational needs. We desperately need one, and the demand from ESF primary students coming into secondary will demand it, but we have nowhere to put it in our current buildings.

More importantly, we have a classroom structure that serves very well a particular type of learner; one who can sit still in a class and work independently by listening, by reading and who is well enough organised to study at home and on their own. Students who benefit by working in groups, by moving their focus as they work, who need to be able to study at school because home is not conducive, are not well supported by our current accommodation.

No departments have the space for breakout groups for the very able or for those needing individual support. We just have to try and squeeze them into small overcrowded classrooms. Modern schools have areas outside the classrooms where this can happen. These areas are resourced so that the really able can push on with their learning.

The current school building really constrains the way we can teach and does not provide us with the necessary flexibility.  Sometimes we would like to present to large groups, and then break up into small groups. This is an efficient way of teaching that addresses different learning styles.

There are other technical and operational issues

  • Campus access in terms of safe student/ staff access (transportation issues associated with Borrett Road) and disabled access (no lifts on campus);
  • Constrained site not utilising full potential (based on original need and design) and with insufficient parking, loading/ unloading and emergency services vehicle access.
  • Ageing buildings;
  • Inadequate infrastructure with insufficient toilets and limited circulation space;
  • Structural degradation with aggressive carbonation and chloride attack.

In conclusion in all aspects we need to rethink and modernise our campus through extensive redevelopment.

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2) Why doesn’t the ESF just reduce the intake quota so that the existing buildings can be flexible enough to provide an optimal environment for learning?

The intake quota is already well below our demand. Were we to reduce the numbers to a level the buildings can support, then we would have no secondary places for some students in ESF primary schools.

Even if we could do this, the above constraints would not be removed without serious and invasive structural renovation, which would involve gutting the current buildings one by one. Such work would be as disruptive if not more so, than a complete rebuild and the decant that that would require. Given the current department structure of buildings, it means we would be without space for an entire faculty (on a rolling programme) for the duration of the renovation, which would probably be for most of a year in each case.

So for at least 7 years, the full time of a student at school, the school would be a building site with all its risks and limitations. Given that we use all the rooms to an average occupancy of well over 90%, we would still need extra space, off campus, to teach the programmes. Decanting would perhaps be on a smaller scale, but would still be necessary, and since it is piecemeal would probably involve students changing sites during the day.

On top of that it would put our students health and well-being at risk to have major construction work going on around them on the same site for a protracted period.

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3) What options for redevelopment open to us?

There are currently two options.

1. Complete redevelopment of the existing campus at the Borrett Road site and ….
2. Building a new campus at another site (located at Mount Parker, Quarry Bay).

More details on the alternative new site and the Borrett site can be seen here

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4) Why doesn’t the school decide which is the best of the two options and put all its energy into that one?

Whilst we may have our own personal views on which route would best benefit the community, it is essential that we explore both thoroughly as ultimately the decision as to which one we take will not be in our hands (the allocation of land resources rests with the Education Bureau in this case). Besides that there are so many pluses and minuses for both options that whose to say which is the best? People from different stakeholder groups within our community will be motivated in different ways and are bound to have different and sometimes opposing views.

We need to plan for both options with equal enthusiasm and forethought if we are not to be left disadvantaged if the Education Bureau decide we have to pursue an option that we have not prepared ourselves for.

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5) What will be involved in the decanting process if we end up redeveloping on the Borrett Road site?

If we end up redeveloping the Borrett Road site, it will be necessary to relocate all students and staff away from the site for the entire period of construction. In order to secure adequate accommodation from the HKSAR Government, it is necessary to formulate a detailed decanting plan. A critical part of the Borrett Road redevelopment plan, the decanting plan will establish: –

  • How to best split the existing school (vertically or horizontally).
  • The necessary spatial requirements for decanting.
  • The impact of the location of the decanting premises on student and staff logistics.
  • The baseline schedule of accommodation for the decanting premises.
  • Additional staffing needs during the decanting period.
  • A master program outlining the period for delivery of the decanting premises, ready for use and the various activities (including statutory approvals).
  • An estimated cost for providing the decanting premises.

The decanting plan will form the basis for pursuing the provision of suitable premises from the HKSAR Education Bureau to enable the redevelopment of the Borrett Road site. As such it is a critical activity.

The school is well aware of the implications that a complete decant has for the school. That is one of the reasons why two staff have been seconded to work on the redevelopment process. Matt and Gareth will work with RLP and the EDB to secure a well planned approach if the decant becomes inevitable. As well as the listed considerations above, we will do all that we can to secure a continuity of school ethos, more resources to enable us to provide ongoing ‘world class’ education and the usual excellent academic results for our students.

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6) Is there any way we can learn from other schools who have gone through the decanting process during major construction work?

Yes. Matt and Gareth have already met with staff at GSIS who have planned a major decant of 300 students scheduled for the summer of this year and are due to meet those who were involved in the total decant of Kowloon Junior School. Of course the ESF facilities department are there to share their considerable experiences of this and will be supporting us all the way.

7) Is there any way that the other ESF secondary schools can take our students in the interim if we have to decant?

To do this they would have to expand and financial and land constraints just do not support this idea. Building extra accommodation to hold students for only 2-3 years is not viable. Second to that, this solution would see the school virtually disappear during construction. There would be little continuity in the ethos and identity of Island School even if we were able to pursue this idea.

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8) When will we know which option we will be taking?

We can not be sure about this at present although we are hoping to find out by the end of this calendar year (2012).

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9) If we have to decant to the Kowloon side or move to a new school in Quarry bay this will surely disadvantage our student population who mostly come from Mid-Levels?

The clientele base of Island School has changed and continues to do so over time. The Peak, Mid Levels, Central and West of Central constitute less than half of our families’ locations now. The growth area is on the Kowloon side, from where over a quarter of our children commute each day. Beacon Hill was our largest contributing primary school last year.

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10) What do you say to parents who may well not want to send their children to Island School if it has to face the disruption of a decant for a number of years?

We have to accept that this may well happen. We need to remember though, that there are also parents who have not sent their children to Island School because our buildings and facilities do not match up with their current expectations!  Recently the school heard from a  representative of one of the  consulates, who took new families around schools in Hong Kong, that she had tremendous difficulty selling Island School to parents because of the poor buildings and facilities. However positive she was about our spirit and our academic record, people just walked away after a visit

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11) What is a Technical Viability Study?

Ronald Lu & Partners will  produce a report outlining the viability of both options to sustain 1200 and a 1600 student school size. This process will take from January to August 2012.

Review the Schedule of Accommodation of the existing school buidlings
As part of the previous design work, a schedule of accommodation was devised. Since that time the school’s curriculum has developed and continues to develop. We have introduced the IB Diploma and implemented new course and styles of learning in the 11-16 curriculum. These developments have created different needs in terms of rooming and layout. In order to confirm the spatial needs of the redevelopment, it is necessary to review the schedule of accommodation in detail with the school, revise if necessary, and establish the overall square footage and building volume required. This will need to be done for 1200 students and 1600 students.

Establish strategy for District Council Engagement
A critical part of the possible redevelopment at Mount Parker is to secure Eastern District Council support. A clear strategy for engagement and an understanding of the process and timing involved in liaising with the District Council needs to be formed.

RLP (Ronald Lu & Partners) will be working with ESF to establish this strategy, providing advice and support.

Establish a detailed Decanting Plan
The consultant will work closely with the school community to establish the decanting plan.

Establish the Environmental/ Sustainability Scope
At this stage of the planning process, it is desirable to set out the objectives for the project in terms of building environmental performance and sustainability of operations. Defining this aspect of the project clearly will inform the concept design stage of the design development. The scope should include passive and active elements as well as outline the benchmarking to be adopted (HKBEAM, LEED or others).

The environmental and sustainability performance specification must cover the following: –

  • Energy Use (HVAC efficiency and renewable energy)
  • Material Use (recycled/ recyclable materials, minimizing materials)
  • Impact on the surrounding environment
  • Building placement
  • Waste management

The consultant will work with the school community and ESF to identify the overall project objectives and produce a project environmental sustainability performance specification for inclusion in the concept design brief.

Review Traffic Conditions
At both Mount Parker and Borrett Road, it will be necessary to review the impact on the existing traffic/ road infrastructure for the following: –

  • The construction stage of the projects
  • The operation of the new school for 1200 students
  • The operation of the new school for 1600 students

Technical review of road and junction capacity as well as swept path analysis will be necessary. The review shall provide advice as to possible issues related to vehicular access to the sites, advice on any possible statutory of Transport/ Highways Department approval challenges and provide suggestions on optimal routings for students coming to school from the existing Island School catchment zone.

The consultant will undertake this technical study and produce a detailed report that outlines the impact to local traffic conditions for both options.

Review of Land Conditions
The land at Mount Parker currently part of the HKSAR Education Bureau land bank. The land which ESF wants to secure is comprised of three separate lots. It will be necessary to review any possible land lease conditions for reasonableness as well as review the status of the land to ascertain and advise if any land issues exist that will affect the project.

The consultant will ascertain the land conditions and potential issues, as well as confirm if any other parties have expressed interest in the lots, and produce a report outlining the viability of the Mount Parker option.

Feasibility of the Access Bridge
Part of the Mount Parker project is the need to provide proper road access to the site. Initially, ESF has completed a feasibility study on the provision of such access via an access bridge.

The consultant will review the previous work done and provide any further details needed to secure the technical and cost recommendations.

Establish Master Programs
It is critical that the timing associated with both options is clearly defined and understood by all parties. The Master Program for each option shall include all statutory processes and project milestones, as well as commentary on the risks associated with the timing.

The consultant will establish and produce the master programs in collaboration with ESF and the school community.

Establish Project Cost Estimates
The consultant will undertake to establish overall project estimates for both options and for 1200 and 1600 students. The cost estimates will be based on the most up to date pricing information available to the consultant and, as much as possible, reflect the prevailing market cost for similar works.

Project Funding
A critical part of the redevelopment project is to establish the various forms of funding that will be needed to secure the next steps of the project (concept designs and detailed design). The consultant will provide advice and support to ESF on matters of HKSAR Government funding opportunities and other ways in which project funding may be raised.

Island School Stakeholder Engagement
From time to time during the technical viability study it will be necessary to seek out the views of the Island School community on the various challenges (and possible solutions) associated with each option.

Topics might be: the decanting plan; the size of the school; traffic issues; impact on student catchment areas. The consultant will capture output and records from such engagement.

Once the topics have been decided, the consultant will take a lead role to facilitate such engagement (alongside senior leaders from within the school and ESF). This engagement will take the form of open town hall style meetings, focus group workshops and/ or stakeholder surveys/ questionnaire.

Establish the Concept Design Brief
The consultant will, during the evolution of the technical viability study, undertake to produce a detailed concept design study brief, capturing the knowledge development of the work done to inform the next phase of project development and planning.

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12) What happens at the end of the Technical Viability Study Period?

Once we have the technical report and the initial concept brief for the new school, then begins a more intense period of negotiations with the HK government and the EDB. Once we know which of the two options we will pursue, we will then start the process of engaging another Architect to carry the project forward to completion.

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13) What is the timeline for the new build?

It is hard to say with any certainty. There are mitigating political circumstances that mean we can not be too sure. We can roughly section the next three years of the process into the following three phases …

Phase 1 – Technical Viability Study (schedule to complete by August 2012)
Phase 2 – Conceptual Design and Feasibility Study (once full project funding confirmed, 12 to 18-month duration)
Phase 3 – Schematic and Detailed Design (being 12-month duration)

Beyond that and if all goes well, construction would take 2-3 years. This means that the whole redevelopment could be complete in between 6 – 8 years.

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14) How can we ensure that the new school reflects the needs and wants of the Island school community?


The ESF have taken the unprecedented step of appointing two “project liaison officers” – these are Matt Smith, the current head of the design & Technology and Gareth Stevens a Vice Principal.

Some of the core duties of this role  are: –

  • To represent the views of and be advocates for Island School students, parents, teachers, support staff and all stakeholders
  • To ensure that the new development embodies traditional Island School values and is a flagship 21st century school for the ESF;
  • To attend planning meetings with the technical project team;
  • To establish lines of communication within the School community to allow collaboration and discussion on matters of design and planning;
  • To establish and advise the technical project team on the Island School teaching and learning needs. For example, the use of technology, room layouts, furniture, specialist area and other operational needs as the design is developed;
  • Research other school development projects around the world to look for creative and exciting solutions to the questions of building a school in the 21st century.
  • To manage any contingencies that need to be planned whilst redevelopment is in process.
  • Assist with the preparation and presentation of information to the wider Island School community at the various stakeholder engagement forums (such as town hall meetings, workshops and focus groups).

Ultimately by having Gareth and Matt focussing on the redevelopment process we ensure that the result is a bespoke solution and not an ‘off the peg’ design.

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15) How can I ensure that I am kept up to date with news?

We will publish regular redevelopment updates as progress is made on our e-newsletter. We will also ensure that all aspects of the process are reported on this website. It is still underdevelopment and so keep coming back! Please take time to look at some of the collected research and school case studies that are here as they can give a real insight into all the criteria and considerations that we face in designing an effective school for this millennium. They also give a clear idea of what is possible and what we should be aiming for. As well as this we will be holding future parent briefing events and meetings and so look out on the newsletter, school calender and Parents’ Notices Page for these.

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16) How can the wider school community get involved in the redevelopment process?

The school is looking to set up a number of ‘champion’ groups that can represent and work with all subgroups of our community’s stakeholders.

Parent Focus Group
If you are a parent who is prepared to work with the school and contribute to safeguarding the interests of our students as we develop our new school then please get in touch. The parents group would be expected to go beyond merely giving their views. The idea is that they would offer expertise, be advocates for the IS parent body, pursue the interests of the school with other agencies involved in the redevelopment process and work with teachers to develop a vision for the new school.

If you wish to commit to the responsibility of being on the parents group please email us using the address below and put “Parents’ Group” in the subject line.
On reading this website if you wish to add another question to the FAQ section please use the same email and put “FAQ” in the subject line.


As a school we are committed to doing all we can to make the redevelopment process as positive as possible. Our two prime aims are to ensure the best quality outcome for our students and to safeguard their entitlement to a world class education along the way. Please work with us so that together we can secure these two goals.

Teacher Focus Group
Although all teachers have been involved in discussions at faculty level, about defining the concept brief for the new school already. They will have many opportunities to work together and air their views over the coming months. The teachers focus group will work in a similar way to the parent group. We are aiming to ensure that each faculty area, the house staff and Individual Needs departments are represented on this group.

Students Focus Group
We have been working with students from years 7 to 10 over the last year on issues to do with school design. From time to time when colleagues have been running school trips we have run sessions on school design with bigger combined groups in the school hall. From these we have a list of around 30 students who have expressed an interest in contributing to the redevelopment process. In the near future we will be holding our first meeting and calling for more volunteers. From this group we will recruit a smaller focus group whose job it will be to collect, collate and report back on the views of the wider student body.

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17) What is the ‘vision’ for the new school?

Whilst it is early days for this, there is certainly some consensus forming within meetings that have been held already. Lots of similar ideas are emerging from faculty teams, guidance meetings and from the views of students and others. It is too early to publish anything concrete at the moment as there are crucial meetings to discuss this scheduled for the rest of February and into March. Once we are confident that the draft vision statement reflects a reasonable level of consensus and once everyone within the school has had a chance to contribute this will be published on the here in draft form.

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3 thoughts on “FAQ

  1. I would be interested to see a map outlining the potential site at Mt Parker, Quarry Bay.

    I guess others may also be interested? -is it possible to share that with us?

    • Thanks Nick. We will be including details very soon. I have a meeting with ESF facilities department tomorrow and one key question is the extent to which we can release the details of the potential site. Please watch this space and thanks for your interest.

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