Last year we bid fond farewells to long standing Co Heads of School Ms Leonie Drew and Mr Phillip Waugh. In 2016 we welcome new Head of School Mr Bruce Simons, who reunites the Primary and Secondary Head of School roles. We sat down with Mr Simons to learn about where he comes from, where he sees AISHK going, and why he chose Hong Kong as his new home.
Tell us a little but about your background? Where are you from etc?
I’m a Melbourne boy, born and bred. My parents were born in the UK and moved to Australia after World War II. I went to school at Haileybury College, a boys’ school. I loved my sport, particularly football and swimming, and played some games with South Melbourne/Sydney Swans in their Seconds and Under 19s teams in the late 70s and early 80s, mostly as a forward. Injuries curtailed a possible football career, though I think I may have been too slow to go all the way! That I will never know, but I still dream I am playing. My body is thankful that I do not!
After doing my teaching degree, I travelled for a year, met my wife Julie in the UK and we married 10 months later! Now there’s a story in itself!
We have two children, Jessica (living in the UK and is a journalist) and Jarrod (a Victorian Police candidate), both of whom are in their 20s and on life’s journeys. We are very proud of them and miss them.
In 1984, I started teaching at my old school Haileybury, where I taught Mathematics for 15 years. I held positions of Head of House, Year 12 and VCE Coordinator. I coached the First Eighteen (AFL), and also coached swimming, cricket and water-polo.
In 1999, we moved to Hamilton, in Victoria’s beautiful Western District, where I was to become Principal of The Hamilton and Alexandra College, a school which opened in 1871. We loved working there (Julie worked as a Primary teacher until she retired a year ago). In many ways, we rebuilt the school over 16 years, and had a wonderful team around us, just as I do now at AISHK.
Three years ago I embarked on climbing mountains of high altitude, including Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (5890m) in 2013, and Mt Everest’s Base Camp (5450m) in 2014 and 2015. Moving to Hong Kong is exciting because there are many mountains to metaphorically and physically climb!
What attracted you to Hong Kong?
Julie and I have always liked Hong Kong and we have visited here many times. We like the busy city, the stunning scenery, the people, the food and the lifestyle. We also love AISHK!
What were your first impressions when visiting Hong Kong and how did it compare with what you had expected?
I first visited Hong Kong in 2000 on business. Julie visited here when the old airport was here in 1984! I have been here 30 times before moving here. Our visits were mostly on business, some for leisure, and none for more than 10 days.
Hong Kong is a dynamic, global, friendly, safe and fascinating city. It is located in the centre of the world!
What has struck you first and foremost about the school and its community?
I was thrilled mostly to meet our students, who are friendly, engaging, interesting and interested. I have been more impressed by the students here than any group that I have met in Australian schools. Students are academically driven, keen and willing to explore opportunities in sports, music, drama, public speaking and service. Their opportunities here are second to none, and we are increasing these opportunities even more in the coming months and years.
Activity Week is a unique programme unmatched in any Australian school. Hong Kong’s location allows us to do this more than any school in any other location other than HK!
I’ve enjoyed meeting the many parents, many of whom are understandably curious. I like that about people, as I am a curious person myself.
I am very proud to work alongside a truly united and professional team of teachers and other staff, who clearly love the school. The recent Mission Survey sent to teachers and some parents showed a love and a high regard for the school, a respect and admiration of colleagues and high praise and pride in the learning culture of the school, which nurtures personality and character, allowing each child to flourish and succeed in a safe, caring and yet dynamic culture like no other.
What do you think you bring to the Head of School role?
This question is best answered by others, but you have asked me so I will tell you what I believe I bring to the role!
I am a naturally energetic person, so my nature is to enthuse, empower and energise others. My experience is schools allow me to bring a plethora of ideas, and my profile allows me to adapt these thoughts to the context of Hong Kong and AISHK. I have always been a person for action, so people are seeing plenty of change; change is good, though not when just for the sake of change. It is true however that, if we stand still while others improve, in relative terms, we would move backwards. I aim to move AISHK forward in a profound way and, with the support of a highly skilled Board, dynamic and professional teachers and staff, amazing and talented students, and supportive and involved parents, I am confident we can produce not only a very good school in Hong Kong, but a great world class school, the envy of others.
What is your number one priority in taking on the role at AISHK?
There are many priorities, and let me say that we have a very good school at AISHK now. I aim to enhance AISHK’s standing as a school of first choice for current and prospective families. Unashamedly having been a Principal of a boarding school for the last 16 years, I believe that we educate our children best at home. Sending my children to board was never an option as long as their home school was providing well for their needs. I firmly believe that nothing replaces the love affection and shared values that is provided in the home in partnership with the school. Of course, people make choices for their own reasons and I entirely respect this, but I will never agree with sending children off to board.
We have our children at home for a short time in our lives. Once they leave home, even if it is to board, the relationship at home amongst siblings and as parents is never quite the same. I would bring every minute of my children’s childhood back if only I could.
What are some of the strengths of the School you see that sets it apart from other schools in Hong Kong or around the world?
AISHK is a dynamic, forward thinking and successful school providing a plethora of opportunities to thrive, succeed and flourish in every facet of their development. Providing the Australian curriculum and the NSW HSC in Hong Kong makes us unique, along with the values that we espouse.
The school has an excellent reputation in the Hong Kong community, with outstanding academic results and high university placement, and it is renowned for the Australian and global values it espouses, and the personality, character and well-rounded makeup exhibited by students who attend it and who serve their community. AISHK provides considerable opportunities to students for local and international travel and cultural learning through its annual Activity Week and other exchange programmes; such programmes are unmatched in Australia.