Rebecca Simpson takes a tour.
Before I was somebody’s mother, I was much cooler. In that previous life working at record labels, I took many celebrities to TV and radio interviews. Humans are drawn to celebrities, those with golden souls that give something intangible back to their fans – it’s a positive energy exchange and it really does inspire good things.
As the Principal at Bradbury School, Sandra Webster, kindly showed me around the grounds, I got a little flashback to my days babysitting pop stars with golden hearts. Bradbury kids adore her, they come running to tell her about their day with bright eyes bursting with important stories.
Bradbury School is led by a woman the students love – and who loves her students. “I love my job. Can you see why I love my job?” remarks Webster, in the role for over ten years since moving from New Zealand.
While on our tour of the school, one student even shares her disbelief – her friend goes to another school and the principal there is a boy. A boy! Webster bends down and reassures her – boy principals can be pretty good too.
“Bradbury School is the led by a woman the students love”
As Webster and I walk around the school and interact with the student body and visiting parents, she shares with me her belief that children learn best when they feel happy, safe and want to come to school. “Even though we are a large school, we are fostering a strong sense of community”, she says. “This is what sets us apart from other schools. We have a great staff who have been here a long time”.
Employing a teaching body of about 50 passionate educators, the ESF primary school is dedicated to creating an enjoyable learning environment for all young minds. Currently the school supports over 20 children with moderate learning difficulties who need significant support to access the mainstream curriculum. The school supports these students to remain with the mainstream curriculum as much as possible with the help of specialist staff members.
Webster is clearly known to the students and parents alike and talks with great fondness about Bradbury families, delighting in getting to know them personally over time. “We have a fantastic parent body here, I really enjoy meeting the parents”, says Webster. “We have parents who enroll their first child when they’re five years old and then subsequently enroll their younger children. I remember when I first started we had one family who had been here for over 20 years after putting all their children through Bradbury”. Every day, every student gets visibility with the school’s leader as Webster stands at the school gate to greet each student in the morning. Including her farewells as they leave in the afternoon that’s 1,500 hellos and goodbyes a day. Her status as one of Happy Valley’s mostloved celebrities is certainly well earned.
A creative and green campus
The Bradbury School campus is not significant in size and the facilities are by no means state of- the-art, but the school has created beautiful spaces and resources for its students. The school grounds are steeped in student expression from artwork on the walls to student-styled and maintained landscaping. “Facilities fall into insignificance when you consider the emotional health of your child”, says Webster. “If they have beautiful classrooms but are miserable, then the school doesn’t work. Just because a school has a rugby field, it doesn’t mean it’s inspiring incredible rugby athletes. We go down to Happy Valley for rugby and use South Island School’s swimming pool. Facilities don’t make the school, a community makes the school.”
One facility that the school is proud of – and which budding bookworms adore – is the school’s library. The space is an inviting, colourful, winding, seemingly endless cavern of books. It’s a beautiful library loved by the children and proudly maintained.
In the concrete jungle of Hong Kong, Bradbury School is breath of fresh air. Literally. The school is consistently adding green elements, including NASA-recommended air purifying plants across the campus, and green walls in outdoor spaces. Add on-site composting initiatives run by the Year 6’s and the school has 750 little green thumbs ready to make a difference to the environmental future of our city.
The Hong Kong government has acknowledged the school’s green efforts as the Cultural Department recently awarded a $600,000 grant to develop a green space on the school roof. This new initiative will allow students to increase their green efforts and grow even more plants.
Bradbury students are a bright and busy bunch. They’re rightfully very proud of the work they do. Each class is offered the chance to showcase their work to parents and guardians throughout the year. These showcases allow parents to visit the school and see the students’ recent work on display. It’s a chance for students to shine in front of their parents and for parents to see their child within the campus context and to explore their hard work. These events also provide opportunities for the teaching staff and parent body to connect with each other.
Navigating Hong Kong’s school choices
Webster is clear with her advice for parents seeking input on the right school path for their child. “Choose the school that you feel comfortable with, when you walk in the door you feel welcomed, you’re comfortable with the staff and you have a good vibe about it”, says Webster. “It’s a relationship that goes on for six years. So, you need to feel confident your voice is going to be heard, you are going to be listened to as a parent and your child will be looked after and nurtured. Don’t worry about what you hear from other people. Choose the school that in your heart feels right, the one that you have a good gut feeling about”.