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In Fine Form! ADVOCATE FOR STUDENT VOICE

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Nick Moore, Discovery Bay International School’s new Head of Year 12, is about to be busier than ever, empowered by the school’s new Sixth Form focus.
Elizabeth Kerr reports
PHOTOS BY Richard Gordon – www.richardgordonphotography.com

School grades are like shoe sizes. Meaning, as the chat with Discovery Bay International School (DBIS) physics teacher, Head of Year 12 and Sixth Form guru Nick Moore turns to education in general, it becomes clear that the labelling the UK native, this Canadian-born writer, and what we all grew up watching people on television use are very, very different.

“What do Americans call it?” Nick asks, genuinely curious. “Junior year,” I say, referring to the second last academic year of secondary school currently up for debate. I personally just called it grade 12 I tell him – which is not quite the same as Year 12. To him it’s a form; to DBIS as well. It depends on when you start counting. We think. It’s all very baffling. Almost as baffling as the sheer variety of shoe size options around the world. Hence the plea for a universal standard – for both. “I couldn’t agree more,” Nick cracks.

Whatever you want to call it, as of this month Nick is DBIS’s Head of Year 12 and Assistant Head of Sixth Form, following numerous years teaching science and four years as Head of Year 11. The Bournemouth native is looking forward to mentoring Sixth Form, and his for thcoming duties as a guide for graduating students. “I’m not just academics focused,” he explains. “I’m really interested in pastoral care and making sure students are doing well everywhere else.”

THE PATH TO DB

Nick initially studied physics and found his way to teaching in part due to the UK’s teacher shortage. He explored university programmes designed to prepare potential teachers with school placement and special lectures, and found himself inspired. “Those programmes were almost a way to put people off so that they wouldn’t commit to something they weren’t going to like. For me it was backwards; I enjoyed those so I pursued teaching. I know I’m supposed to say it was a calling but in reality, there are a million reasons people go into teaching.”

He landed in Hong Kong after working for five years in the UK and another five in Belgium, applying to DBIS from overseas when he got bitten by the urge to try something new. “I really liked what [former DBIS Principal] Paul Tough had to say,” he recalls of his online interview, and so he took the leap. He arrived in 2018, just in time to “enjoy all the lovely events of the last four years,” but he’s not leaving any time soon. The mix of urban and wild, and so much nature surrounding the busy city has won him over.

“I’m very much a small-town guy. I lived in Brussels but that’s a small city. Hong Kong wasn’t a huge culture shock but it was a lot different than what I’m used to, and so much more densely packed. But Hong Kong is a very easy place in Asia to move to and I was quite taken with it quickly.”

As anathema as it may be to most DB readers, the spouse-, child-, and pet-free Nick lives in Central, at least for the time being. “I like being in the mix,” he continues. “I like the disconnect of not living where you work. You want some kind of distance between your work life and your personal life. DB is a small community and I might see my students, and… teachers look very weird to students outside the classroom.”

PASTORAL CARE AND ACADEMICS

For work, however, the mix at DBIS will pivot on getting soon-to-be grads ready for the next stages of life, whatever they may be, as well as making it clear there’s more to DBIS than its renowned, and ahead of the curve, holistic learning. With enrolment creeping up once again, DBIS wants to highlight the comprehensive education its students receive, and as such has made six scholarships available to Year 12 students this year. “The scholarships show that the direction we’re heading is towards an even greater focus on academic rigour,” Nick explains.

“In addition to our outstanding pastoral care and the opportunities we provide around the curriculum, we’re all about getting students into university. In my time here I’ve never seen a student not get to where they wanted to go next,” states Nick. He admits DBIS has the image of a community school, one that’s welcoming to a diverse range of students, but it’s as committed to scholastics as any other school in Hong Kong. DB families and the ones eventually moving into its four new developments need to know that.

The Sixth Form focus was less a response to demand from parents as it was to Sixth Form students’ suggestions, many of whom expressed a wish to strengthen the connection between Years 12 and 13 and the rest of the DBIS community, given that many Sixth Form classes take place in a separate building to the main campus. Nick and the new Sixth Form Leadership Team want students to feel involved and connected to school life, even while travelling back and forth. “The idea is to look after the students and try and improve every element of Sixth Form and make it an exciting place to be,” he says.

True to DBIS’ forward-thinking ethos, the plan is to start actioning student voice and offering students more agency. “They’re young adults, and I want to utilise their ideas in the school, and give them opportunities to run things alongside other adults in the main school,” says Nick, who sees value in this encompassing every corner of the school – from marketing to janitorial services.

Beyond that Nick and the team will be helping students with realistic experiences and achieving tangible goals, taking advantage of leadership opportunities, embracing their autonomy, learning to respect deadlines, and getting a grasp on how the world actually works, all while maintaining a focus on transitioning to university. From this year, Sixth Form students will have a dedicated guidance counsellor for post-secondary advice.

Nick clearly has his work cut out for him, so it’s a good thing he’s heading back to school in fine form. He spent the summer in the UK visiting family, with a stop in Portugal for some surfing. There was time to ponder how he’s going to engage his Sixth Formers, and step beyond just his Head of Year 12 role. Advising future leaders is a serious business, as Nick says: “It never ceases to amaze me just how influential your words can be.”

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