Adele Brunner visits the IB through-school’s state-of-the- art Sai Kung campus.
Hong Kong Academy (HKA) in Sai Kung is the epitome of a modern international school. With soaring ceilings, acres of glass, stylish décor and state-of-the-art facilities, it is a far cry from the typical schools of yesteryear with their narrow corridors, cramped classrooms and murky colour schemes.
Designed initially by GHD and completed by LDAsia (Llewelyn Davies Hong Kong), the 23,000-square-metre, purpose-built campus opened in August 2013 and is a model for sustainable school design. It is one of the only schools in Hong Kong to be accredited as a BEAM platinum-rated building, with key green features including rainwater harvesting, low-E glazing on windows to reduce the amount of heating and cooling required and energy-efficient air-conditioning. Bold graphics announce the various departments and areas, and spacious, open-plan classrooms are equipped with Scandinavian-style furniture and Apple Macs.
Facilities include an awe-inspiring 350- seat theatre with a recessed orchestra pit that can be covered to provide extra floor space, plus professional lighting and sound systems, and dressing rooms. Add to the mix an enormous sports hall, all-weather sky pitches and well-stocked music rooms and you get an idea of how high HKA has set the bar.
Founded in 2000 and previously located on Stubbs Road and in Kennedy Town, HKA is a private, independent, non-profit, international school. It can accommodate about 650-700 students but currently has 563, ranging from three-year-olds in the pre-kindergarten classes to 18-year-olds about to graduate from Grade 12.
“We are seeing the most growth in the secondary school as the primary school, which was established before we moved to Sai Kung, is full,” says Head of School Stephen Dare. “Since coming to this new campus the interest in secondary school places has been considerable and we anticipate the secondary school will be full in the next three to five years. The maximum class size is 22. One reason we are keen to stay a middle-sized school is that we think it is good for learning. The teachers get to know the kids well and nobody slips through the cracks.”
HKA operates on a grade system similar to that in the US and Australia, and is a fully authorised International Baccalaureate school, offering the Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP) and IB Diploma. It operates a debenture system requiring only one debenture a family regardless of the number of children attending the school.
The school embraces diversity and is committed to being inclusive with regard to both learning ability and culture, with students of more than 45 nationalities. New students are assessed purely to see what stage they are at rather than for the school to select the crème de la crème. Gifted students and those with ADHD, autism, dyslexia and other learning needs all work in mainstream classrooms with individual support when required. There is also a full- time occupational therapist and speech and language pathologist.
After almost a whole school year in the new campus, Dare feels HKA is going from strength to strength. About half the students are based in Sai Kung and Clearwater Bay, but there is still a sizeable Island community and a growing contingent from Kowloon. The bus system, which was a concern for parents before relocation, is apparently working very well.
“There’s a great feeling of optimism about the school. It’s a really nice community to be part of and we have also felt a huge sense of goodwill from the local neighbourhood,” Dare says. “It’s like a family: there are some fantastic things and things you have to keep working at. And the HKA family is no different. On the whole, I’m very happy with where we are. We are committed to fulfilling our mission statement, to growing and getting better and to providing a first-class education for our students. It’s really very simple.”