As part of the HKSAR Government's strategy to provide parents with greater choice for their children's schooling, the Private Independent School initiative was introduced. A total of 10 sites were chosen for this initiative with the sites being allocated to providers following a competitive process. ESF was allocated two sites one of which is located at Yi Pak Bay in Discovery Bay, Lantau Island.
For the Private Independent Schools, the HKSAR Government provides a capital grant for construction costs equivalent to the cost of a new, local standard school. In addition to this, ESF has added to the capital grant to provide a higher standard of accommodation and provide additional specialist facilities.
There is no recurrent annual grant being provided to the new school by the HKSAR Government, i.e. student places are not 'sub-vented' in the way that other ESF schools are. As a result, Discovery College is operated by ESF Educational Services Limited, a part of ESF.
Discovery College commenced operation in August 2007 from temporary premises in Lai King for one year. Full school operation at the new campus in Discovery Bay commenced from August 2008.
Discovery College combines a primary school and a secondary school which, in Hong Kong is called a "through train" school. There are 540 places for 5 to 11 year old students in the primary school - that is Years 1 - 6 in the ESF system. There are another 600 places in the Middle School for 11 to 16 year olds (Years 7 - 11) and 240 places in the Senior School for 16 to 18 year olds (Years 12 and 13).
The different year levels will have their own accommodation with the primary students having access to specialist facilities, such as the laboratories and workshops and to other major amenities like the information resource center/library, gymnasium, swimming pool, performing arts center and the cafeteria. This highlights one major benefit of the 'through train' approach in that younger students can have regular access to facilities normally only provided in secondary schools.