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Kellett School (Pok Fu Lam Preparatory School)

With 40 years of tradition, Kellett (Pok Fu Lam) uses the British National Curriculum to teach children aged 4-11, preparing them for Kellett senior school or a UK transition.

  • Kellett School (Pok Fu Lam Preparatory School)
    2 Wah Lok Path
    Wah Fu
    Pok Fu Lam
    Hong Kong
    Hong Kong
  • Mailing address:
    Kellett School (Pok Fu Lam Preparatory School)

  • T (852) 3120 0700
  • F Primary: (852) 2875 - 0262
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.kellettschool.com
  • Lower School Ages: 4-11
  • Lower School Sexes: Co-ed
  • Lower School Numbers: 474 pupils in Reception through Primary Six: 218 girls; 256 boys
  • Middle School Sexes: Co-ed
  • Senior School Sexes: Co-ed
  • Teaching Language: English
  • SEN: SEN considered case by case
  • Boarding: Not available
  • Uniform: Yes
  • School Year: School year September-June; half term weeks in autumn and spring; three week Christmas holidays
  • School Hours: Primary 8:30am-2:30pm/3:15pm
  • Fee Currency: HK dollar
  • Fee Details: Annual fees: Reception HK $110,900 Preparatory: HK$143,300
  • Fee Extras: Registration fee: Primary- HK$2000 per application (annual waiting list fee of HK$100 to stay on the list) Corporate debenture: HK$50,000.00 (transferrable between children) Individual debenture: HK$80,000 Fee Deposit: $15,000 (non-refundable but deducted from the first term's fees)
  • Religion: Non-denominational
  • State/Independent: Independent: private non-profit

Curricula:

  • National Curriculum for England

Accreditations/Inspections:

  • BSO (British Schools Overseas inspection programme)
  • Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS)
  • Penta International (DfE BSO approved)

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What The Good Schools Guide International says

Head

Head teacher Mr Ben Dixon B Ed (Hons), NPQH, Dip SEN

Age

Fifty

Description

We can confidently state the age of the PFL Prep head, Ben Dixon, because the staff and pupils put on several 50th birthday events for him this year, testament to the esteem in which he's held by the whole school community.

His wife, Suzanne, teaches at the Kowloon Bay Senior school, where his daughters are also pupils. ‘Ben’ has that rare talent of commanding respect from teachers, students and parents alike, yet is never short of a joke (usually at his own expense) and a lovely twinkle in his eye.

His door is always open, and any tricky issues between staff, students and parents will always be moderated by him, handled in a diplomatic manner akin to a high ranking member of the diplomatic corps. Despite his genial nature, he is no ‘walkover’, which is fortunate as Kellett parents are a strong-minded bunch, usually coming from exceptionally high-powered professional backgrounds (CEOs, Taipans and banking upper-echelons).

Whilst hailing from the UK (Headship of a state primary in the South of England) he was previously Deputy Head at the British International School in Ho Chi Min, giving him experience in dealing with expatriate families as well as solid English National Curriculum experience.

At the end of the 2019 academic year, after 23 years at the helm, Ann McDonald has stepped down as overall School Principal of Kellett School. The reins have been handed to Mark Steed, who has been a housemaster at Oundle School, headmaster at Berkhamsted School and principal of the Jumeirah English Speaking School in Dubai. He is reputed to be an innovator, both in the field of IT and ‘future learning’, as well as a track record of helping expatriate children become more capable and independent members of society. His wish is to put Kellett on the world map as a through-school rather than as a stepping stone to UK boarding schools.

Academic

Whilst Kellett (Pokfulam) is a ‘Preparatory’ School following the English National Curriculum, if you were to compare it to a UK preparatory school there would be some significant differences (as well as similarities). The core subjects follow the National Curriculum framework and Maths and English are pretty solid (maths is particularly 'well taught' we hear from subsequent schools).

Subjects such as history are primarily studied from a UK standpoint (WWII, the Blitz, evacuees, Victorian Britain etc) but often have an Asian twist (such as the occupation of Hong Kong by the Japanese in WWII). Field trips include visiting the wonderful Hong Kong Maritime museum and excellent Hong Kong Museum of History, giving children a firm understanding of the history of Hong Kong and its place in the world.

Starting from Reception, students have 90 minutes of (unstreamed) Mandarin in a week. This later goes up to 135 minutes (streamed). There's an option to change to French in Year 3. This is very popular with pupils as they get to eat croissants, baguettes and brie!

The Mandarin expectations are perhaps not as high as at most other international schools in Hong Kong, but we wonder if this will become more of a focus with the change of guard this year and in response to Hong Kong’s changing (tightening) relationship with the Chinese Mainland.

Science is universally popular, with lots of emphasis on healthy living, backed up with visits from the Leap Van every year (Life Education Centres delivering preventative education programmes). The school’s ‘Ocean Wing’ has a fully equipped science lab although most science is integrated into the classroom teaching, particularly in younger years.

The older years have a specialist science technician. Year 5s dissected a cow’s heart last term, which caused great excitement from these city kids. There are also regular visits from the Astro Dome, which teaches all things related to space, and was developed by an ex-Kellett teacher. This is also a popular (though rather expensive) extracurricular activity.

One-on-one ipads are being phased in from the end of year three, raising eye-brows and ruffling feathers amongst some parents but the children are universally thrilled.

The classrooms are visually appealing, with high-tech whiteboards and well-displayed art work. Posters of previous school concerts and musicals are professionally framed and proudly display an impressive back catalogue of performances. The front lobby is a warm and welcoming spot, often with children popping in and out and parents dropping off forgotten items and birthday cakes.

The library is a firm favourite with the pupils, with many children bringing home their bodyweight in books each week. The full-time librarian is backed up by an army of keen parent volunteers (volunteering is a big thing here). Battle of the Books is a strong extracurricular activity which has helped many children develop a love for reading (the annual book list is excellent).

School trips are both local and international. The year 3s and 4s have annual youth hostel trips to Lantau and Cheung Cha, supported by hero parent volunteers (despite the high chance of torrential rain).

The highlight, though, is the year five Beijing trip. One child commented that it was the “best week of his life” and “couldn’t imagine how his life would have turned out” if he hadn’t been to Beijing. High praise indeed. A particular high point was the bargaining for Great Wall souvenirs (all in Chinese) with HK$100. The haul of ‘tat’ was pretty impressive by all accounts.

A marvellous assembly is put on after this trip, showcasing the language and cultural insights gained from the trip. No parents are allowed on the trip and, particularly being a day-school, this trip does a huge amount for children’s independence and parents have remarked how much their children have gained confidence in just one week.

The teaching staff is made up of class teachers and educational assistants, at a ratio of 12:1. There are lots of male teachers across all year groups, almost over-taking female teachers in the upper years. They are hugely popular with both boys and girls alike. Staff turnover is low by international school standards. Only a couple moved on last year.

Parent teacher meetings are held twice a year and reports are also sent out twice a year. Whilst the class teachers reports are very detailed, the specialist teachers reports can be a little generic, according to parents. Most parent-teacher communication is done through the diary or via the class-parents, who handle the burden of the admin, as well as organising student class parties and parent get-togethers.

SEN

Kellett is a non-selective school, and thus has children from both ends of the ability spectrum, within reason. It has a well-run learning support department that offers support both in and outside the classroom and brings in additional help from outside agencies (speech therapy, occupational therapy, educational psychologists etc).

Anything above mainstream provision will be parent-funded. They will also recruit a parent-funded ‘shadow’ assistant for those who require this level of help in order to access the curriculum. Often this is a temporary measure, and children are successfully able to participate independently at a later stage.

Whilst the school is non-selective, it only has a limited number of places available for those who require a differentiated curriculum, and parents need to be upfront with the admissions team as early as possible in the admissions process.

Language Support

Mandarin and French are taught by native speakers, and the language of school is English. There is no EAL language provision or support: language-wise, students must be able to access the curriculum at the appropriate level. 95% are native English speakers, and English is 100% the language of the playground.

Games, Arts and Options

Extracurricular activities are big here, and all the children are encouraged to take part in as many as they can, and make up the bulk of the sports and music on offer.

The assemblies at Kellett are truly impressive, with great dedication on the part of the classroom and music teachers. The costume department is huge and well-managed by a dedicated member of staff and costumes are designed and fitted by the ever-on-hand class parents and their volunteers.

Music is particularly strong at Kellett. Miss McLellan, the music teacher, dedicates herself to getting all children participating in as much music as possible, putting on Eisteddfod competitions and a charming annual concert, with beginners participating as much as superstars. Choir is popular, even with the ‘cool kids’.

The school has a large gym for PE, although ‘Games’ is mainly done off-site, usually at the nearby Stanley Ho Sports Centre (a short bus ride away). By Hong Kong standards, Kellett has quite a bit of outdoor space (playgrounds), although not enough for sports such as football and rugby.

Swimming is done at West Island School, down the road. This is also done as an extracurricular activity. Cross country running, football, cricket and rugby are the main sports for the boys after school, whilst the girls tend to play netball.

Of course the school encourages both genders to do any sport they want, but naturally there tends to be a split. The school participates in a few competitions against other schools; however these are not hugely competitive. A few select children take part in the highly competitive FOBISIA Games held in May/June in different Asian cities. They recently had the GB Women’s gold medal winning team in to talk to the students, who were thrilled to hold the medals.

Some parents feel that sport could be prioritised a bit more, particularly competitive sports within the timetable, but this is a problem for schools in Hong Kong in general.

Background and Atmosphere

Kellet was founded by a group of parents in 1976 and carries with it a legacy of parental involvement. It is a registered company with limited liability that operates as a not-for-profit. All parents are members of the Kellett School ‘Association’. The operations of the school are overseen by a board of fifteen governors (mainly consisting of parents). The Board of Governors oversee the appointment of the principal, bursar and heads of school, as well as compliance and financial oversight.

It is a welcoming school, housing only 470 students, with a real sense of family. The staff know the names of all the children and stop and chat to them in the corridors, at play, or around town (it’s a small place).

As a dedicated primary campus, Kellett Pokfulam may lack the wow factor of its new sister campus in Kowloon, but in a way reminiscent of a lovely English prep school, this most beloved institution envelops its young charges in a cosy, safe environment. The homely reception on Pokfulam Road is welcoming to parents and pupils alike (although the children usually use their own entrance), and all parents and visitors walk past Mr Dixon’s open office door every time they enter the school. Artwork is displayed along with old school musical posters and school photos from years gone by which reveal a school with historical depth.

In fact many of the current pupils had parents who not only went to the school themselves, but were taught by one or two of the current teachers, who "have not changed a bit” 30 years on. Luckily the campus has changed quite a lot though, with a whole new wing built since those nostalgic memories were formed.

The famous red gingham and grey uniform is smart but practical. School bags are loaded with much-loved library books and lunchboxes rather than soul-destroying homework. Playtimes are raucous and chaotic. Whilst the children are outgoing and gregarious on the whole, there is also a huge effort to maintain manners and decorum.

Expatriate children in Hong Kong tend to be happy in the company of adults and Kellett pupils are no exception. When one enters a class, all the students are eager to show off their work and knowledge.

Pupils and Parents

Kellett is a way of life, not just a school. Parents are invested and involved. The mothers (“Kellett Mums”) at the famous Kellett carpark at pick-up are friends, (fashion) rivals, and often a sea of lycra, but all joined in a mutual respect for the institution and what it does for their children. It can initially be an intimidating gang to break into, but by volunteering at the school and getting involved, all parents will be welcomed with open arms.

The Parents Committee is active in organising social events for the parents (new parent drinks and outings) as well as the school ball, fair and quiz nights. All of these events require parent volunteers and parents can be as involved as little or as much as they like. Probably around half of Kellett mothers work, but are still able to be involved with volunteering and social events.

The Parents Committee also overseas Kellett Cares, its charity fundraising arm, which sells second-hand uniform and Kellett-related items ranging from umbrellas to cookbooks. On a day-to-day basis, they run the bookshop (for the children) and the library volunteers. Parents love the Parents Committee bar that pops up at most evening events. Involvement in these activities enhances the school community and is a good way to develop friendships.

Kellett has a reputation for being very white, western, and mainly British. However, in recent years it does seem to be changing. A look at the class list shows that there are a lot more Australian families than in previous years, some Indian children (usually 1-2 per class) and a lot more children with at least one Chinese parent. This is probably due to Kellett’s policy of not having any passport priorities and having a waiting list from birth.

However, if you wish your children to be mixing with other British children, this is still the top school to go to, by a long way. Christmas is celebrated (unlike in most international schools), along with Diwali and other festivals, with the reception children’s nativity being an annual highlight.

Kellett children are indeed privileged, but this school instils good morals, behaviour and social awareness. Although there are some helpers and drivers at pick-up, most parents are very hands on, so there isn’t the usual depressing line of Alphard vans and drivers that other international schools have. Whilst many parents are wealthy, they are quite ‘British’ and low key about it. Conspicuous consumption is frowned upon (again, unlike other HK schools!) so those of less privilege are certainly not going to struggle to fit in. Birthday parties also tend to be midrange by HK standards (high end by any other standards) and far less competitive than the other big name schools.

The school is required by the Hong Kong Education Bureau to maintain a minimum of 70% overseas passport holders. Currently the demographics at the school are 57% British (although many are mixed nationalities) and the rest mainly Australian, followed by USA, European and 7% Hong Kong passports.

There are currently very few mainland Chinese students. English is the only language the children ever use to speak to each other (not even Cantonese is heard. Ever). Most families live in Pokfulam, Repulse Bay or Stanley. Busing is available to most areas although a lot of parents prefer to do the school run themselves (and socialise at the gates).

Parents are generally split into two groups: those who have old school connections with Hong Kong (some are even alumni) and wouldn't even consider another school and put their child's name down the day they are born, and those with corporate debentures who may not realise how lucky they are.

Pastoral Care and Discipline

Kellett tackles any issues in a mature and sensitive manner, and as the school is so small, bullying cannot be hidden for too long before it is noticed and swiftly dealt with. Mr Miller, the vice principal is responsible for ‘discipline’ and has a ‘fearsome’ reputation, thus dissuading problems before they have begun. Those who actually know him, or have been taught by him, report he is kindness itself (but shhhhh, don’t tell the children this!).

Mr Dixon will also be on hand for any matters of discipline that can’t be handled directly by the classroom teacher. Parents will be involved if necessary (actually, usually). A buddy system is in place for new students, who are welcomed by all and immediately made to feel at home, although Kellett tries where possible to admit all students at the beginning of the school year/term. Kellett mums can also relied upon to welcome new mums into the fold, very successfully by all accounts.

Children at Kellett are a very open minded bunch. A boy wearing a skirt to a birthday party would hardly raise an eyebrow. Any negativity to homosexuality or any racism would horrify the children, although they are not exposed to much of this, being quite a white, middle class primary school.

Expat

Reception is a lovely gentle start to school, but there is definitely emphasis on the three Rs. This is identical to the private school reception classes in the UK, so transition issues at this age will be minimal. For other year groups, the admissions process is non-stressful (only having formal assessment for Year 5 upwards) and ‘non-selective’ so any child coming from UK will have no transition issues, except perhaps if they wish to study Mandarin. Even then, children report that it is easy to catch up, at least in the lowest Mandarin set. The only issue will be the waiting list to get in, which starts at birth (details in Entrance, below).

Entrance

The bad news…Kellett entrance is wait list only. Fathers arrive at the Matilda Hospital for the birth of their child with the Kellett form in hand. There are rumours that if your child is not born in September or October (and form is in pronto) then, frankly, you can forget about it.

However, if you are reading this with a potential move to Hong Kong in the pipeline, it is still worth spending the HK$2000 just to get your child's name down, as you have to be ‘in it to win it’.

For younger children you may have to wait two or three years (minimum) but from year 3 onwards, things tend to ease up. You can put your child in a ‘back-up’ school for a year or two and it is definitely not the end of the world. Some families use this opportunity to send their children to a Mandarin or bilingual school for a few years to get a good basis in Mandarin, then move them over to Kellett for National Curriculum later.

There is sibling priority and corporate debenture priority, so it is well worth asking your company if they can assist (or you can self-finance one depending on your level of commitment).

Although the school was only founded in 1976, there is also alumni priority and the first lot of alumni are already back in Hong Kong, sending their own children to Kellett, which gives the school a real sense of history.

The admissions staff are friendly but try to be realistic about prospective parents chances of entry. We say, put your name down anyway.

Exit

Mainly to Kellett Senior School in Kowloon Bay. Lots leave at the end of year 6 for UK boarding schools or else do Kowloon Bay for until 13+ entry. Children go to all the top UK schools, although it will require some effort on behalf of the parents. Kellett’s mission is to educate pupils to the same level as their UK counterparts, enabling a ‘seamless transition’ back if needed.

(British) SATs results show that this is broadly accomplished (PIPS and longitudinal data indicate the majority are in the upper quartile), and pupils will certainly be able to head back to UK having covered most of the required syllabus (rather than being accelerated such as at a UK Prep).

However, the school does not prepare children for either the UK state school 11+ or the private school/public school 11+/13+ assessments and children cannot sit Common Entrance at Kellett.

Students will therefore usually need to be tutored before UK school assessments if you are heading back to UK. This will mainly be exam technique rather than content based, so is not the end of the world. This lack of exam preparation and provision is principally due to Kellett having its own senior school, so they strongly prefer students to stay on rather than move overseas.

However, at least 40% do move to UK boarding schools, either as a result of family relocation or as a parental choice, so the subject of exam preparation is constantly open to debate amongst the parents. On a positive note though, top UK boarding schools (such as Oundle and Marlborough) have commented that they like Kellett children and find Kellett reports very helpful in their assessment process.

Money Matters

Whilst it’s by no stretch accessible to all, Kellett fees are quite reasonable compared to some other international schools in Hong Kong (more than English Schools Foundation schools but less than Harrow and some of the other new ‘British’ schools).

The voluntary annual fund, set up by a group of parents, raises money for extras such as bringing in speakers, extra sports equipment, artists in residence and luxuries new sound systems for the theatre. It also covers the school participating in the Positive Education Scheme, with training for teachers from Geelong Grammar School.

Remarks

Kellett is the most popular school for British expats in Hong Kong by a mile. It has a thriving parent body and produces confident, grounded pupils. The National Curriculum for England is thoroughly taught by professional, well-trained teachers and is enhanced by being a part of the fabric of Hong Kong. The location is enviable on Hong Kong island and convenient for those working in Central and living in the expat enclaves on the southside of the island.


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