2020-21: A Year-End Reflection and Message for Summer

Jun 4, 2021

With the arrival of hot weather, high humidity, and storm warnings, we are all keenly aware of the changing of the seasons and the imminent conclusion of the 2020-21 Academic Year. The prospect of a short break from formal education over the summer can perhaps allow us to spare a moment for reflection on this year now ending.

Much has already been written about the far-reaching impact of COVID-19 on our school community during the school year. We commenced the year in a suspended state and moved through various phases of opening and closing, as the public health situation in Hong Kong waxed and waned. It was a year marked by rapidly changing circumstances, mercurial policy shifts, hastily drafted late night messages, and constantly evolving educational plans. We learned patience in the face of official caution, endured long waits hoping for positive signs, and extracted the very best from each situation, no matter how bleak it seemed. More recently, with the arrival of spring, a season of renewal, we moved incrementally towards full learning days without meal breaks, and finally returned to a near-normal timetable in the final weeks of the year.

Building on their initial encounter with an extended school closure in the final months of last academic year, our amazingly resilient children adapted once again to master online platforms and tools, thrive in e-learning, pivot with evolving schedules, embrace modified assessments, and sustain independent study at home. They adapted their own patterns of social interaction, adopting social media with practiced ease to maintain contact with their friends. Sleep and study patterns were also disturbed frequently throughout the year. Secondary School students found the later start to the modified school ‘half-day’ in recent months particularly agreeable. Our younger learners in Primary School stoically embraced the early start to their day and learned to endure the long wait for lunch; the creativity exercised when planning their ‘snacks’ during the breaks between classes was impressive.

Our dedicated faculty and staff, with consummate professionalism, worked with the evolving dynamic of the year, modifying, developing, innovating, adapting to ensure our students continued to thrive in their learning. Most memorably, each member of the ISF professional family embraced regular COVID testing to ensure that our school remained a true ‘sanctuary’ of safe, healthy learning. Their commitment to pursuing excellence on our own terms has been inspiring indeed.

Our governors, founders, gatekeepers of our vision and values, yet largely unseen and unheralded, have played their key role with wisdom born of rich experience and finely honed judgement. As passionate volunteers, our governors have gifted us their time and expertise with a generosity of spirit to lend their support and counsel many times during the year now ending.

And let us not forget our wonderful parent community! They have endured with courage and unshakable faith in times of high anxiety and crushing disappointment. The warm smiles and sincere expressions of encouragement offered during encounters at the front gate have sustained me and others during some dark times this year. Our parents have not wavered in their own quiet, but resolute commitment to do the best for our children in troubled times. Always mindful of the future, our parents cherish the hope that these challenging experiences will, in their own inexplicable way, positively shape the character and values of our children to ensure they will have the tools needed to face whatever comes in the years ahead.

It is stating the obvious that none of us would ever wish for the ‘worst of times’, yet amidst such global turmoil and uncertainty, I find myself reflecting not so much on the things that I wish might be have been better, but rather on those things that have endured, encouraged, and inspired. It is perhaps in the nature of things to cycle through good times and bad, seasons of want and seasons of plenty. We should not be surprised by these changes, but find joy in our capacity to rise up, adapt, and overcome in an age of challenge. This is deeply experiential learning. While we could ‘do better’ I am sure, our ISF 2020-21 Academic Year ‘report card’ still reads well!

Rest well and play hard over the summer. Stay healthy, well hydrated, and safe at all times. The time will pass quickly for many, but for those who travel and find themselves quarantined at some point, time may not pass quickly enough!

I do hope for a better year to come, but I look forward with genuine anticipation to greeting you at the commencement of the new academic year in August.


Dr. Malcolm Pritchard

Head of School