By: Melissa Stevens
Beata Martisek knew from the moment she walked in the door of this international school in Hong Kong that she’d found the right place for her children. The Harbour School specialises in customised learning, with a progressive approach, a high teacher-pupil ratio, and a warm and inclusive school community. For Beata, that has resulted in an experience for her children where school is their ‘second family’.
Tell us about your family?
Both Peter and I come from the city of Bratislava in Slovakia. We’ve both always wanted to travel, and we spent some time living in the US before moving to Hong Kong. We moved here in 2008 when Peter got a job transfer offer. It was supposed to be a two-year adventure, but it has now lasted 10 years and counting!
Peter works in finance, but I gave up my professional career to take care of our family (we have no helper) and engage in community work. We first lived on Star Street, but after we had kids, we moved first to Pok Fu Lam and then to Clearwater Bay. We love having a house in beautiful surroundings, close to beaches and hiking trails, with a garden where children can play and we can grow veggies. We love Hong Kong with its unique mix of East and West, city buzz and quiet countryside.
You have three children at The Harbour School? What grades are they in?
All three of our children were born in HK, all in the same delivery room at Matilda Hospital. Oliver (9) attends Grade 4, Lea (7) goes to Grade 2 and our youngest Mia (4) has just started Prep.
Why did you choose this school?
When Oliver was little, those were the days when all the mothers around me were panicking about long waitlists and shortage of international school places. So, we started doing our own research, signing up for school tours and informative sessions and sending applications. I still remember when I first entered what was called the main campus of the school in Kennedy Town. I could immediately feel the good vibe and warmth of the place. There was a small group of parents, no formal presentations, but a very genuine and warm personal welcome by principal and founder Dr Jadis Blurton who showed us around and passionately talked about education and her visions. The school looked and felt like a happy place, where children could develop a love for learning and feel good about themselves.
What are the biggest benefits you see for your children?
The school really turned out to be the second family for us and our kids have thrived in the warm nurturing environment! All the teachers are very dedicated and many of them go way beyond to deliver the best. With small classes and study groups, the teachers get to know each student’s personality, strengths and weaknesses. Kids get a lot of individual attention, encouragement and challenge, and are allowed to study at their own level, which we find as one of the biggest benefits. The school is very progressive, always trying to adopt the latest trends in education, tailoring the curriculum with loads of hands-on activities and real-life experiences. Of course, the school now has a brand new campus with open-floor classrooms and features such as the Wetlab with touch tanks and a big library with a slide that the kids absolutely love.
We couldn’t have found a better fit for our children – they have grown so much both academically and personally in the past few years, while having fun, making friends and happily going to school every morning. We also really appreciate how responsive the teachers and admin are, and open to communication and feedback, giving it the feeling of one big community.
What have been the biggest surprises about the school?
One of the surprises at The Harbour School, as an inclusive school, was how many neurodiversities there are and how wonderful it is that all the kids, no matter if gifted, neurotypical or not can create such an amazing community and how much they can learn from each other.
What’s the student community like?
With two to three classes per grade, the school is still small enough for most of the students to know each other, even across grades. The small mixed study groups also help, and there are also activities such as Kids-Teaching-Kids Day when older students take initiative to mentor the little ones. Older kids can also get involved in the Student Council, and high school kids are a pretty close-knit community.
What is the parent community like?
We’ve met so many amazing and inspiring parents! The school has a very active PTA with a lot of dedicated and energetic parent volunteers. We organise a variety of events throughout the year, so new families generally find it easy to fit right in.
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