As Haileybury Malta prepares to open in September this year, the head Louise Salmond Smith reflects what it has been like to lead the project:
I remember with absolute clarity the day I first visited the Royal Naval Hospital in Mtarfa, currently being restored to its former glory as it transforms into the home of Haileybury Malta, a British international school 800 day and boarding pupils aged 3 to18.
Situated across the valley from the ancient city of Mdina, the hospital is an unmistakeable presence on the skyline. I was mesmerised by the beauty and grandeur of this behemoth of a building. The apprehension of making a success of such a project was surpassed only be the excitement and exhilaration of imagining just what is possible with such a tremendous campus. To have in my hands the responsibility for its transformation into a very special place of learning is such a privilege.
“The hospital is an unmistakeable presence on the skyline.”
There are a number of stone carvings above the main door. One of these is the symbol of the Royal Army Medical Corps — a laurel wreath surrounding the Rod of Asclepius. Asclepius was the Greek god of medicine and healing, and the snake represents the shedding of its skin to become renewed. This is a fitting analogy for the project: the transformation of this magnificent edifice into an international school perfectly demonstrates this cycle of renewal and rebirth.
The process of renewal, just as for a snake, is a slow one. Architects and builders have worked together to ensure that the building remains as close to its original state as possible whilst ensuring the spaces are maximised in the way that you would expect in a world-class school.
“The process of renewal, like a snake shedding its skin, is a slow one.”
For a building that has been empty for so long and left to deteriorate, this has been a lengthy process that has required much exploration of creative solutions. With over 700 wooden-framed windows to restore and remains from the Roman Empire discovered during excavation work, this is a project that has required cooperation and collaboration with our local partners every step of the way, in order to ensure the optimal balance between tradition and progression.
So why an international school in Malta? There is rapid economic growth on the island and a growing number of international families putting down roots. There are currently a small number of international schools – very good ones – on the island, but they are oversubscribed. Once the campus is complete, we are looking forward to finding ways to share it with the wider community and, in particular, with the residents of the town of Mtarfa. Once our boarding facilities are completed in 2026, schools from the UK and elsewhere will be able to use them for their own music, sport and cultural tours.
“Remains from the Roman Empire were discovered during excavation work.”
Haileybury is well-versed in setting up schools overseas, with schools already in Kazakhstan and Bangladesh. With the support of our sister schools we will be cultivating the provision of an holistic education that ensures pupils are stretched academically whilst ensuring the development of life skills.
Our curriculum will be just as you would expect in a school of this calibre. With learning focused on the main elements of the British National Curriculum, there will be a strong emphasis on extra- and co-curricular provision ranging from yoga to chess, from sailing to debating.
Pupils in the pre-prep and prep sections of the school will benefit from a collaboration with the Learning Skills Trust, helping them to develop essential life skills such as communication, collaboration, leadership and independence. After all, academic achievement is most useful when underpinned with the knowledge and ability to use it for real world issues.
With just months to go, the countdown has begun. We are very much looking forward to welcoming our new staff and families in September.