To this day, the spirit of Queen Emma, founder of St Andrew’s Schools in Honolulu, Hawaii, remains a significant presence in the life of its students and staff. Described by a biographer as Hawaii’s first renaissance queen, Queen Emma became a friend of Queen Victoria, who spoke of her “fine features and splendid soft eyes”, and said of her that “nothing could be nicer or more dignified than her manner”.

“Queen Emma felt a deep sense of responsibility for her people and for future generations,” says Dr Ruth Fletcher, Head of School. “She founded St Andrew’s Priory School, as well as Queen’s Hospital and the Anglican Cathedral of St Andrew.”

In the ensuing 150 years, her school – originally established to provide a classical education for girls at a time when that was the preserve of boys – has expanded into the St Andrew’s Schools. These now include the Queen Emma Preschool (for boys and girls aged two to four); The Priory (which takes girls through to Grade 12); and The Prep (for boys up to Grade 5).


A broad church

“We are a diocesan school, with strong ties to the church, and we are inclusive of all faiths,” says Dr Fletcher. “In celebrating our 150th anniversary in 2017, our mantra has been: ‘We honour tradition and we embrace innovation’.”

“Hawaii’s heritage and “aloha” spirit are ever-present in the life of St Andrew’s. “Aloha is a beautiful word,” says Dr Fletcher. “It can mean so many things – it’s how you say hello and goodbye, and it’s about showing love and deep respect for all humanity. We also talk about Pono, which means to have the wisdom to know the right thing and the confidence to do it. And Malama, which is about stewardship – of humanity and of the earth.”

St Andrew’s embraces the diversity that characterises the islands, while recognising that the school exists within a host culture, closely tied to the land and the sea. “We educate our students in English, but Hawaiian language and culture are woven into everything we do,” says Dr Fletcher. “Our girls and boys love Hawaiian music, singing and dance that are such a part of life here.”


Coordinated approach

In response to a number of studies demonstrating variations in the ways that girls and boys learn, and their differing development rates, St Andrew’s Schools operates a “single-gender coordinate” education. In practice, this means that they are separated in the classrooms, but intersect socially, as the cafeteria and play areas are all coeducational. Although the system has been popular for half a century in the US, St Andrew’s is Hawaii’s only coordinate school.

All classes are of mixed ability, graded by age. Its independent status affords the school the freedom to work to personalised curricula – nurturing each child’s areas of interest, while maintaining a firm grounding in skill-based competencies, such as reading, writing, computation and communication.

“We believe that every student is capable of doing innovative and purposeful work, and whatever their age, they can all take some action to make the world a better place,” says Dr Fletcher. “Our curriculum aims to dissolve the boundary between school and the real world.”

A long list of successful alumni in Hawaii and around the world – up to and including a US congresswomen in Washington – are shining testament that the school’s mission and vision are having their intended effect.