Hong Kong / Hong Kong Island / Central & Western / ESF Island School

ESF Island School Review

This learning path at this Hong Kong Island secondary school combines IGCSEs and the IBDP with an innovative and unique curriculum that gives students a huge degree of choice.
At a glance
School phase
Secondary
Inspection rating
No rating
Curricula taught
Availability 2022/23
No data
Availability 2023/24
No data
Annual fee average
HKD 142,500
Annual fees
HKD 137,600–159,300
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
1967
School year
Aug to Jun
Principal
Stephen Loggie
Owner
English Schools Foundation (ESF)

Nearby nurseries

1.7km • Bespoke Curriculum curriculum
2.1km • Montessori curriculum
3km • EYFS curriculum
Does your child attend this school? Take our survey and help other parents.
WhichSchoolAdvisor's annual school survey.
LET'S GO
favorite favorite_border Save
ESF Island School
School phase
Secondary
Inspection rating
No rating
Curricula taught
Availability 2022/23
No data
Availability 2023/24
No data
Annual fee average
HKD 142,500
Annual fees
HKD 137,600–159,300
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
1967
School year
Aug to Jun
Principal
Stephen Loggie
Owner
English Schools Foundation (ESF)
MORE arrow_drop_down

This learning path at this Hong Kong Island secondary school combines IGCSEs and the IBDP with an innovative and unique curriculum that gives students a huge degree of choice.

An education at Island School goes beyond traditional sit-down lessons and end of year exams. As well as offering IGCSEs, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, and BTEC courses, this English Schools Foundation (ESF) secondary school has developed its own flexible curriculum. Students are given a choice of more than 50 courses, the opportunity to personalise the curriculum, and the freedom to plan their own timetable. While all ESF schools have made changes since switching from the National Curriculum for England to the IB programme in 2001, Island School is certainly leading the way in innovation. 

Established in 1967, Island School was the founding school of the ESF. Today, this popular school in Hong Kong’s Mid-Levels teaches roughly 1,200 students across 33 nationalities. The school’s tired-looking 45-year-old campus on Borrett Road, Hong Kong Island has recently been redeveloped. 

Built over a total of eight floors, the new ESF Island School campus has 42 state-of-the-art classrooms and 13 laboratories, a four-storey outdoor climbing wall, a double-court sports hall, a dedicated performance space and an eight-lane indoor swimming pool.

Island Time
Island School’s fresh approach to education starts in Years 7 and 8 with Island Time. Nearly one day every week is given over to Island Time, which the school describes as “an island of activities in the centre of the curriculum”. As well as teaching the core subjects, humanities, music, drama, visual arts, design, textiles, food technology, and PE, the school focuses on practical learning experiences that involve plenty of group work, outside speakers, and field trips. The idea is to make learning “joyful” and to let children be children; students even wear a more relaxed Island Time tracksuit on this day. Judging by the feedback from students on the school’s website, Island Time is the most popular day on the timetable.

Island Futures
Years 9 to 11 move onto the Island Futures programme. Introduced in 2011, this unique curriculum focuses on four key areas. The bulk of the curriculum is devoted to Entrance courses, which follow the IGCSE curricula and lead to qualifications in each subject. That all sounds pretty standard; however, whereas in previous years students might have studied 10 to 13 IGCSEs, they are now encouraged to do just 8 or 9. The school argues that “the qualifications are not particularly valuable, although the experience may well be”. This is true for anyone going on to study the IBDP, but less so for students planning to take A Levels, so consider your options carefully.

Less time spent on IGCSEs means more time for the rest of the Island Futures programme. Perhaps the most interesting and popular part is Elements. Around a quarter of the timetable is dedicated to these courses that are designed to “ignite passion” in students. It comes across as a far more relaxed style of education with no exams at the end.

More than 50 courses cover a wide range of areas such as architecture, marine biology, robotics, Morse code, debating, law, and acting. Examples include History – Film, Food, and Fashion, where students go from making dishes influenced by British Rule to designing Roman weapons for battle re-enactments and visiting museums. Fish are Friends involves learning to scuba dive and taking surveys of marine life, and Community Theatre invites students to write, produce, and perform a piece of community theatre.

What’s really appealing about these Elements courses is that they are written by the teachers themselves, based on their particular passions and fields of expertise. It suggests that these courses will be taught with an enormous degree of enthusiasm. Also, in the words of one student, “by choosing what we want to learn, we are interested and involved in learning”.

Island Futures also includes Explorations, a compulsory course that leads to the IGCSE in Global Perspectives and the IE Award in ICT. Last but not least, the Escape element gets students moving with a range of sports, including yoga, zumba, cross fit, spinning, Thai boxing, and Outward Bound activities.

Senior Phase Learning
In Years 12 and 13 students choose to study the IBDP or the Applied Learning Pathway, with a mixture of IB and BTEC subjects. Once again, the education at Island School is focused on much more than academia. As part of the Senior Phase Learning programme, students take on various leadership roles and community projects. They hone their leadership skills as a school prefect, on the student union, or as a member of the Student Learning Advisory team. They organise and manage sporting, humanitarian, creative, and environmental events, and they lead school events such as the Year 7 and 8 camps.

While it is wonderful to see senior students acting as role models for the rest of the school, are they achieving results on paper as well? According to the most recent IBDP results, yes. In 2019, the average IB score was 35.8 points, with 28% of students achieving more than 40 points; these are both way above the global average. 

• Average score: 35.8
• Pass rate: 98%
• Top score: 45
• No. students scored 40 points and above: 28%
• No. students scored 35 points and above: 57%
• No. students scored 30 points and above: 89%

The Islanders’ way
You get the feeling that there’s a wonderful sense of belonging to this school and, long after leaving, students are known to still fondly call themselves Islanders. This is largely thanks to the house system at Island School, which is referred to as the spirit of the school. The houses seem to become an important friendship group from the early years, when students are taught in house groups for Island Time and other sessions. Houses also meet for various sporting, artistic, and academic activities throughout the year, and each house supports its own charity and organises an annual community event such as Einstein’s Valentine’s Week and Da Vinci Day.

There’s a strong focus on teamwork within the school, from its programme of varied extra-curricular activities to The Typhoons, which fields competitive teams in 18 sports ranging from athletics to volleyball, fencing to rowing. Non-sporting activities include the Model United Nations, Wanbo environmental club, and a social justice group. Every October the school runs Quest Week, which takes learning beyond the classroom and into residential camps, 3D game development, bike rides, and hands-on work with abandoned pets.

The campus
The new Borrett Road campus features an eight-storey building with classrooms, a performing arts centre, an indoor swimming pool, a sports hall, basketball courts, modern labs, sky gardens, a cafe, innovative learning environments, and creative studios. 

Admission and fees
To apply for admission to Island School, parents should live in Hong Kong Island Mid-Levels (including Kennedy Road west of the Hopewell Centre), Old Peak Road, Conduit Road and Robinson Road as far as Castle Road, some of Central District served by Glenealy School and the Peak; Discovery Bay (shared with West Island School); Tsing Yi Island; West Kowloon bordered by Ferry Street and Tong Mi Road to Lai Chi Kok Road; North of Boundary Street and west of Tai Po Road, extending west to Tuen Mun except for the area of Tsuen Wan that is part of Sha Tin College zone.

As with all ESF schools, there is a waitlist for many year groups, but Island School does have more places available than most in Years 8, 9, 10, and 12.

The ESF sets standard fees for all its secondary schools, which is HKD 128,400 for Years 7 to 11 and HKD 135,000 for Years 12 to 13. There is also a one-off non-refundable capital levy (NCL) which starts at HKD 26,000 in Year 7 and reduces to HKD 3,800 in Year 13. While ESF schools are not as cheap as they used to be, they still offer a more affordable education when compared to most international schools in Hong Kong.

If you are the owner or the principal of the school and note any inaccuracies, or would like to update data, you can now open an account with us. You will also be able to add admissions availability per year group, and advertise current job vacancies. This is a free service. Please help us keep prospective parents up to date with your latest information.

Are you looking for a place for your child, and want help from our school consultants? If so, click on the link below, and we will forward your request for information to the school or schools of the same type that we are confident have availability. This is a free service for our readers. Request Information

Comments
Latest Hong Kong articles
Choosing A School

Why Choose the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP)?

MYP students at Dubai International Academy - Al Barsha As your child races through their …

Courses & Curricula

UK Summer Schools 2023

A summer school programme at a UK boarding school is a great opportunity to get a taste of…

University

UK Uni Applications: Major Changes to Format

The UK’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has announced its plan …

Interviews

Interview: Brian Rogove, CEO, XCL Education

International school groups are growing in size and number worldwide – and among the…

New Schools

New Campus: ESF Island School

The new ESF Island School is now open after nine years in the making. The opening ceremony…

Exam Preparation

GCSEs and iGCSEs: A Guide Map

Wondering exactly how GCSEs and iGCSEs work, as well as what you can expect from the key e…

School Fees

Fees Increase at Hong Kong Schools

Tuition fees at some international schools in Hong Kong will increase by an average of 4.2…

Courses & Curricula

A Levels & GCSEs 2022: What You Need to Know

This year marks the first year post Covid-19 that full GCSE and A Level exams have taken p…

0 Schools Selected
keyboard_arrow_down keyboard_arrow_up
Your selection Clear All