Island School

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This article is about the school in Hong Kong. For the school in The Bahamas, see The Island School. For the school in Hawaii, see Island School (Kauai).
Island School (港島中學)
Island School Badge.png
Island School
20 Borrett Road
Hong Kong
Type Private, secondary, co-educational
Established 1967
Principal Christopher Binge
Faculty approx. 100
Enrollment approx. 1,200 [1]
Colour(s) Red, white and blue
Years Year 7-13
Alumni Old Islanders [2]
Island School
Traditional Chinese 港島中學
Simplified Chinese 港岛中学

Island School is a co-educational non-profit school located on Hong Kong Island, in Hong Kong. It is the founding school of the English Schools Foundation, and remains a member to this date. The school has been accredited by international organisations such as the Council of International Schools[1] and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.[2]

Originally located on 10 Borrett Road of the Hong Kong Mid-Levels district (the site of a former British military hospital), the school moved to its current and only campus on 20 Borrett Road in 1973. It currently houses around 1200 students across 33 nationalities[3] and around 100 members of teaching staff.[4]

Island School is a registered IB World School, and offers the IB diploma program along with an alternative BTEC program. Its students are academically successful, with a high graduation rate and results which are consistently above international averages.[5] It also sports a vibrant community with a large range of student-led organisations and activities, allowing students to pursue responsibilities in a variety of aspects such as the environment,[6] sports,[7] international relations and providing student voice.[8]


The school opened in 1967 to meet increasing demand for schooling for the children of expatriates living in Hong Kong. As there were no secondary schools for English speaking children on Hong Kong Island, the Hong Kong government established the English Schools Foundation (ESF) in 1965 to provide additional schools for expatriate British children. Island School was the first ESF secondary school. It was named 英童中學: 英童 meaning British boy, 中學 means secondary school, so the real meaning of the school's name is "British Boys' secondary school".

The first Principal of Island School was the Reverend Geoffrey Speak who was appointed from St Paul's College in 1967.[9] Speak, a graduate of Selwyn College, Cambridge, combined the principalship with managing the ESF between 1967 and 1971,[9] during a rather inauspicious time. In 1967 the Cultural Revolution was in its throes with bombs detonated in Central, water was rationed to four hours every fourth day and with Prime Minister Wilson's devaluation the prospect of working in Hong Kong became less financially appealing. Speak introduced the "House System" as the basis of pastoral care and for teaching, a system which is still in place today.[9]

In 1971 C. Ronald Rivers-Moore was appointed to succeed Speak as Principal. Rivers-Moore, a Cambridge graduate,[10] continued Rev. Speak's vision both in academic policy and through the continuation of the extracurricular program[9] including the introduction of the Nepal Trek, the School Camp, a school zoo and the Student Union.[9] Chris Forse, former Deputy Head and Island School Historian, referred to Rivers-Moore as a man who combined his "integrity with liberal benevolence in roughly equal proportions".[9]

Succeeding Rivers-Moore in 1978 was Charles Jonathan (Jonty) Driver, a graduate of Trinity College Oxford. Driver extended the Island School curriculum to include drama, photography and computing[11] and a pastoral curriculum. A believer in community education, Driver founded the Island School Evening Institute which provided adult education to parents and friends of the Island School community. It was also during Driver's tenure that Island School's lasting student periodical, "The Islet", was established, succeeding the original student newspaper "The Echo".[11] Jonty left Island School in 1983 to become Headmaster at Berkhamsted School, later moving to Wellington College in Berkshire.

Dr. Colin Niven, a graduate of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and Brasenose College, Oxford, was Principal of Island School between 1983–1988. During his tenure, Niven tripled Oxbridge entries[12] while gaining membership of the Headmasters Conference. There was a major investment in a new library and the school uniform was replaced. After leaving Island School Niven became a fellow at Westminster College, Oxford and later the Principal at Alleyn's School in London.

David James became the school's first internally appointed Principal in 1988. James introduced the new British National Curriculum, vocational education and the International Baccalaureate at 16–18. He enhanced the responsibilities of the Sixth Form enabling "students to become surrogate teachers and leaders of the school".[13] He broadened the profile of Island School's out-reach efforts in both Hong Kong and abroad through the encouragement of student participation in community service programs among them the Summerbridge and School After School program through which Island School students taught English and life skills to less privileged children. In 1990 Island School became the first ESF school to introduce an Interim Week during which the regular timetable was abandoned for a range of alternative challenges in Hong Kong and overseas.

James retired in 2005 and was succeeded by a deputy principal Michelle Hughes. Hughes tenure began in difficult circumstances with a pay dispute between the teachers and the ESF which resulted in some curtailing of the extra curricular program and support for parent run activities like the school fair. Her tenure has been characterised by its attention to meeting the modern imperatives of quality assurance and in increasing role of "student voice" at Island School. Hughes left the position in June 2009, and was replaced by Christopher Binge, previously Secondary Principal at the "La Chataigneraie" campus of the International School of Geneva.


In 1973, Island School relocated from its original campus at 10 Borrett Road to a new, purpose-built campus across the road at 20 Borrett Road – a site which it has occupied since. The original campus is currently used as a campus for another international institution in Hong Kong, Carmel School, along with a number of youth charities and childcare organisations.

The current campus consists of seven blocks ranging from five to seven floors high, with blocks 1 to 6 arranged in a rectangular fashion. Students can travel to adjacent blocks by linked walkways or footbridges. As the campus is situated on mountainous terrain, blocks located closer to the mountain are placed at a higher altitude than their counterparts, and as such the floors between different blocks are often not correlated. (For instance, the 6th floor of Block 1 is equivalent to the 3rd floor of Block 4) Up until 2011, the 7th block was mainly isolated from the rest of the campus and was used for PTA and examination purposes, along with acting as storage for certain gym equipment. The block has since been renovated for greater stability and repainted in white to match the rest of the campus, and its role has been expanded to provide working facilities for staff and a sixth form common room.

The campus also includes a number of facilities to bolster student life, such as three large playgrounds which allow students to engage in sporting activities or as gathering points during emergencies. Block 6 also includes a number of multi-purpose venues, such as a school hall, sports hall and dedicated rooms for drama students. An additional sporting area is located next to Block 6, featuring a triangular-shaped sports ground and an outdoor swimming pool.

Island School also features a number of purpose-built teaching rooms, such as science laboratories, computer rooms, music rooms, art rooms and Home Economics rooms. Specialized rooms are mainly clustered in specific blocks, as with the case of science rooms which are found exclusively on Block 1. General teaching rooms occupy the majority of Blocks 3, 4 and the upper levels of Block 5. Most rooms contain computers, projectors, sound systems and interactive white-boards to aid teaching and learning.

Due to growing demand and an ageing campus, plans for major renovations are currently being developed.[14] Many classrooms were refurbished during summer break of 2010 which offered better lighting and interior design. The possibility of moving to a new campus at Quarry Bay is also being considered by the school and ESF.[15]

Organisation and administration[edit]

Management and departments[edit]

In terms of teaching, the school is divided into several main divisions, each led by a curriculum leader and contains a number of specialised departments.[16]

  • Creative Art
  • Physical Education & Activities
  • Science
  • Languages
  • Technology
  • Individuals & Society
  • Mathematics

The school itself is administered by the Principal, Christopher Binge (as of July 2012), and the Senior Leadership Team.

Students and the house system[edit]

Island School is capable of carrying a maximum capacity of around 1200 students. In reality, due to the popularity of the school, its annual capacity tends to be just below this number. (For instance, the school carried around 1170 students for the 2011–12 academic year) Under normal circumstances, students may undergo a maximum of 7 years of education at the school, starting from Year 7 to Year 13, when they graduate. Students may also enter at any other entry point except from the start of Year 12 due to the start of the IB diploma program.

To facilitate student life, each year group is divided into different houses named after famous and significant people. Since 2009, each house is led by a Senior Head of House and a Head of House, who work to improve the school life of their students, resolve any difficulties and channel house spirit. House competitions take place throughout the year, with points being awarded throughout, leading to the giving of a trophy to the house with the most points at the end of the year.

Currently, there are 6 houses. Their representative colours and their (Senior) Heads of House (as of the 2014–15 academic year) are:

  • Da Vinci – Kevin Lester and Mary Vittachi
  • Einstein – Paul Harries and Sarah Jolly
  • Fleming – Angela Worthington and Phil Tudor
  • Nansen – Pippa Peters and Andrew Couch
  • Rutherford – Russell Scott and Pak Chan
  • Wilberforce – Kate Sommerville and Laura Hjelmeland

The sixth form[edit]

Students in the Sixth Form are exempt from wearing uniform and are expected to organise activities for the younger students. They also have much more freedom than lower years and have free periods implemented into their school timetables. The school prefect body is also solely made up of Sixth Form students. The former Sixth Form director was Daniel Trump. The current Sixth Form Director is Mr Lester.


The school, having been admitted as an International Baccalaureate World School in 2006, began providing the IB program as well as the ESF Diploma to its students in August 2007, while the class of '08 finished the final year of A-Levels. The school follows its curriculum, which is noted in some documents handed out to students, very tightly.[neutrality is disputed]

Student life[edit]

Student union[edit]

The Student Union has traditionally been active in the school community. The Union executive is democratically elected each November. Normally a few major parties as well as "joke" parties participate.

The Student Union run activities, including "Timeout", a youth club for Year 7 to Year 9 students, and fundraising. Notable efforts include a sponsored walk, raising over half a million Hong Kong dollars for the South Asian Tsunami Disaster by the VIP (Vox In Populi) party along with the school's Community Service Committee. Students were rallied by Pulse through social media and school communications to help amass care packaged supplies that would go out in aid of the Typhoon Haiyan relief. The union attempts to regularly challenge the school management on health and safety issues like the state of the toilets, and the school uniform. Occasionally Union elections are ruled out of order. In 1989 a party bearing a Neo-fascist name was disqualified.[citation needed] In 2012, a party bearing the name of the popular online onomatopoetic representation of FAP was given permission to proceed with the name, but after a split school on the name the group voluntarily withdrew from the race.[17] The Student Union has been criticised for inefficiency as it has not been able to fix a hole in the female changing room window after many years. The Student Union election process has also been criticised for turning into a popularity contest. In recent years, parties have given out candy, stickers, and free T-shirts in order to gain votes. The current Student Union as of 2015 is SOAR.

Ethnicity and denomination[edit]

The school originally served mainly British expatriate families but since the end of British rule in 1997, about half the student body are ethnic Chinese. About ten percent of the school population has its origins in the Indian subcontinent, a figure consistent through the history of the school. The school is run on secular lines.


Island School offers a wide range of both sporting and non-sporting activities. Apart from inter-house sporting events such as swimming, athletics and volleyball, the school participates in most inter-school events in Hong Kong, including basketball, swimming, water polo, rugby, golf, debate and association football. The school has won the award as the top co-educational sporting school in Hong Kong 18 times.

Students may choose to do as many activities as they want and can manage to do. The school offers about 100 activities each week, run by teaching staff and students, especially those in the Sixth Form. The school expects every student to take part in the program.

Students take part in the Hong Kong Award for Young People programme (which succeeded the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme in 1997), offering the Gold, Bronze and Silver level awards to students who successfully finish the program. The students produce a yearbook throughout the year called the 'Islander'. In 2007 an extra section was added to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the school.[citation needed]

Apart from sporting activities, the school also offers non sporting activities such as an annual inter-house quiz, debating activities and chess. One of the most popular non-sporting activities is Model United Nations[citation needed] – where students come together to act as delegates to the United Nations and debate a world issues. Island School is a permanent member of the annual Hong Kong Model United Nations. In December 2006, a team of Island School students also travelled to the United States of America to attend Princeton Model United Nations Conference (PMUNC) 2006.[citation needed] In addition they will also be sending a team to the Beijing International Model United Nations in March 2011. Just two of many overseas competitions that the school has taken part in.

Island School also prides itself for the student publications, such as the annual Year Book -the Islander, and the monthly Islet.

Island school also have a student Environmental group, called Wanbo. Island School students also established the ESF student union and also the ESF Environmental Action Group.

Rugby has very strong foundations at Island School with the school always being regarded as particularly strong in this area. On 14 December 2006 Island School won the Hong Kong Schools Rugby Championship (Division 1) by beating South Island School 24-0 in the final at the Hong Kong Football Club.[18]

Notable alumni[edit]

Ex-students have in the past kept in touch and organised alumni events through volunteers and staff. The ISHK web site was a focal point of alumni activity for many years. In March 2005 the outgoing principal, David James, revitalised the Island School Alumni Association with the backing of the school, Island School PTA and the English Schools Foundation.

List of principals[edit]

OFSTED inspection[edit]

In December 2002, OFSTED issued a report on the school. This is a small excerpt from the report:

'Island School is very effective and has many outstanding qualities. It is a school to which parents want to send their children and to which students want to come. The very strong and vibrant ethos pervades everything the school does whether it is in the classroom, examinations or working with the community. The very effective leadership of the principal and senior managers motivates everyone to strive for and achieve the best. The good teaching and excellent relationships ensure that students achieve very high examination results and that they develop excellent personal skills.'

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "School Information Page". Retrieved 16 July 2012. 
  2. ^ "WASC Accrediting Commission for Schools". Retrieved 16 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "Our history". Island School. Retrieved 2012-07-16. 
  4. ^ "Teaching staff". Island School. Retrieved 2012-07-16. 
  5. ^ "IB Diploma and BTEC Provisional Results: May 2012 – Island School". Island School. Retrieved 2012-07-16. 
  6. ^ "Island School – WANBO". Island School. Retrieved 2012-07-16. 
  7. ^ "Island School – Co-curricular Activities". 
  8. ^ "ISSU". Island School. Retrieved 2012-07-16. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f [1][dead link]
  10. ^ Tiverton Grammar School Magazine November 1954 Teaching Staff, p1.
  11. ^ a b [2][dead link]
  12. ^ [3][dead link]
  13. ^ [4][dead link]
  14. ^ "Why do we need to redevelop Island school? – FAQ". Island School Redevelopment (Blog). Island School. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  15. ^ "Where". Island School Redevelopment (Blog). Island School. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  16. ^ Leader "Curriculum Leader" Check |url= scheme (help). Island School. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ [5][dead link]
  19. ^

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 22°16′25″N 114°09′49″E / 22.27364°N 114.16354°E / 22.27364; 114.16354