Angela is mother of two children studying at Wycombe Abbey School Hong Kong. Spencer in Year 2 and Serena in Year 5. She shares with us how her children have been positively transformed after joining the school.
Like many other local parents, to us choosing a primary school is a big decision. We were really excited and counted ourselves very lucky when Serena and Spencer were both accepted by top local primary schools. Our long-term plan is to send children abroad at a later stage, so it was a “wait and see” approach with regards to how long we should keep them at local schools.
The trigger for our decision to switch schools actually came from our younger son Spencer. He is naturally curious and can be naughty sometimes. He is not the type that can sit tight and listen through a 40mins lesson without asking any questions.
It did not take long for us to realise he did not fit into his school.
His start to school life also coincided with COVID-19 and lots of remote learning. I was able to witness how Spencer’s teachers interacted with him and I thought it wasn’t what I want for him. The stress level was very high from both sides and I knew he wasn’t motivated. Teachers were very traditional and adopted a top down approach to teaching.
The defining moment came one day when I found a Lego Minifigure in his uniform pocket. I asked him about this and his answer broke my heart.
He said he dreaded going to school and the only way he could seek comfort at school was to touch the Minifigure in his pocket without being seen and think about the joy of playing Lego at home!
My immediate response was equally shocking in hindsight. I told him to make sure teachers don’t find out about this, or you could be penalized. Later that day I realized I have already become a victim of the system, instead of protecting my son’s emotional wellbeing I was actually standing against him.
We started looking for a school for Spencer that he would enjoy.
My sister knew of Wycombe Abbey’s renowned reputation in the UK and with her suggestion we toured their campus in Hong Kong. We really liked the cozy and friendly feel of the place, plus the British curriculum and teaching team we met, and after receiving an offer for the following academic year we thought long and hard whether to switch Spencer over immediately or wait until September.
We thought of letting him complete a year before changing school, it was the more “proper” way, but my husband and I knew in our hearts the right thing to do was to switch immediately, and thank goodness we did.
Returning from his first day at WASHK, he came home and declared to me “Okay, I am happy”. His class teacher also gave us much reassurance after the first day, she told us “If no one told me it was his first day I would not have suspected that was the case”.
After two months, I observed dramatic changes in his behaviours. He started talking to me about things he learnt at school, he often began speaking to me with “Did you know that…” and I saw him trying to find answers to questions by conducting research online by himself, one day he even spoke with impressive depth of knowledge about the differences between a crocodile and an alligator.
Most importantly though, we knew he was happier.
Other family members also noticed these changes with Spencer; he speaks freely during dinner times which are now very interactive, we discuss things that he could try at school’s ECA sessions.
Recently, he asked if he can join the badminton ECA, I asked him why this sudden interest in badminton, he shrugged and gave me a response I would never have expected from the previous Spencer we knew.
“I just want to give it a try”.
I feel WASHK has helped Spencer re-ignite his sense of adventure and curiosity, elements I feel that are essential for a sustainable, lifelong learning journey.
After the successful transition of Spencer, our attention turned towards our elder daughter Serena, who has been quietly going to school and trying her best to stay out of trouble in a strict, high pressure all-girls school.
She is naturally quiet, reserved and enjoys staying in the background of things, an introvert in other words. She also holds high standards for herself and does not like it when things are not perfect.
She also saw what was happening to Spencer and wanted to follow suit. We let her try a summer camp programme at WASHK, after which she was sure she wanted to change too.
After joining WASHK, I can see her changing as well. One day she came home and said in a casual but surprising manner that “Actually mom, Maths could be fun”.
I realized then that Serena’s previous view on studying is that it could not be fun, and I thought to myself “How sad was that?”
She is much more at ease with herself now and regularly speaks her mind. In the past, Serena was always trying her best to stay out of sight, don’t make mistakes, don’t get scolded.
Now at Wycombe Abbey, thanks to the small class size and amazing teacher to student ratio, she receives a lot of attention from teachers, there is literally nowhere to hide, and Serena has to speak in class, and with just that, her self-confidence starting growing.
At her previous school, speaking quietly in class meant receiving a low score. Here, speaking quietly means getting more attention from teachers!
I don’t think my children’s transformation could have taken place at a 1,000 plus student campus, where individuals rarely get the attentions they need. Here, everyone knows each other (the campus’ capacity is approx. 600).
The other day, Spencer dropped his school bus pass somewhere in the campus on his way home (as kids do), and without any fuss, questions of any sort, the pass was handed back to him by a caring staff the following day, just like how it works in a family.
We are really happy we made the decisions we did and I hope our children will continue to excel here, we look forward to, and support the school’s application for Year 9-13 going forward.