Kellett Kowloon Bay Preparatory School
Prestigious Kellett School (Kowloon Bay Preparatory) is a BSO inspected British international primary school in Hong Kong that teaches boys and girls, ages 4-11, the National Curriculum of England.
- Kellett Kowloon Bay Preparatory School
7 Lam Hing Street
- T +852 3120 0700
- F +852 2305 2292
- E [email protected]
- W www.kellettschool.com
- Lower School Ages: 4-11
- Lower School Sexes: Co-ed
- Lower School Numbers: 151 girls; 172 boys
- Total School Numbers: 320 boys and girls
- Teaching Language: English
- SEN: Mainstream with SEN support
- Boarding: Not available
- Uniform: Yes
- School Year: September - June: 3 terms; Breaks: 3 weeks Christmas; 1 week half term autumn, Chinese New Year
- School Hours: 8.15 am - 3.00 pm
- Fee Currency: HK$ (HKD)
- Fee Details: Annual Tuition Fee: 172,600
- Fee Extras: Annual Association Fee: 500 per family. Bus fees, uniform, extra-curricular activities, overseas educational trips
- Religion: Non-denominational
- Memberships: Federation of British International Schools in Asia (FOBISA)
- State/Independent: Independent: private non-profit
- National Curriculum for England
- BSO (British Schools Overseas inspection programme)
- Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS)
- Penta International (DfE BSO approved)
No school can pay to be in
The Good Schools Guide International. Period.
What The Good Schools Guide International says
Headteacher Mrs. Jo Laufer BA, PGDE
Since 2010; preparatory Headteacher, Mrs Jo Laufer has BA (Social Sciences) and PGCE Primary from Edith Cowan University Perth. Had a wealth of global experience spread over 25 years, ranging from Hong Kong (English Schools Foundation transitioning from National Curriculum to PYP), USA, Canada, and a 5-year co-headship at a C of E Primary School in Westminster, UK, before taking on the headship of Kowloon Bay Prep.
Jo considers herself ‘unbelievably lucky’ to be at the helm of this ‘outstanding school’ that she is justifiably proud of. She frequently apologises for ‘gushing’ about how much she loves the school on our tour. However, having seen her beloved first cohort of reception children reach the top of the prep school, Jo feels now is the time to move on. She will be genuinely missed by staff and teachers alike, but is to be replaced by the hugely experienced Mrs Samantha Steed, former Director of Education for Lower School at Harrow International Schools Ltd and previously the holder of three UK and international headships. She is also by happy coincidence the wife of the CEO and Principal of kellett Schools, Mr Mark Steed! Mark Steed is an education technology innovator of note and has been absolutely the best man for the job of navigating Kellett through the unchartered waters of online leaning in the times of COVID and political unrest causing months, if not years, of school closure in Hong Kong.
British National Curriculum is the framework here but with the flexibility you would expect from a high performing independent day school. Non-selective, all children are catered for to the best of their abilities.
Being a purpose-built campus with two form entry, space is not a barrier to learning and children are subtly streamed in subjects such as Chinese and maths. Parents across both campuses comment that they would like Mandarin to become more of a focus with more room in the timetable for it. We were therefore happy to note that the KS1 Chinese class we observed was being conducted entirely in the target language, so were pleased to see that the quality of teaching is good, even if the hours are relatively few.
Unlike many schools in Hong Kong, Kellett is not a highly pressurised or stressful school. If parents want a hot-house, they should look elsewhere. However, children here are the products of successful, supportive parents, being taught by well-qualified, passionate teachers, so the academic outcome and expectations are still very high.
There's emphasis on each child reaching his or her academic potential rather than encouraging competition between them. It is definitely cool here to work hard and do well, in terms of academic, music, sport and drama. No-one is above joining in and having a go.
Children are assessed at the beginning of the year (INCAS) and at the end of the year (GL tests) with scores used to identify any areas of need or areas for development/further challenge for individual students and to benchmark the school against national/international standards. Parent-teacher meetings take place twice a year and detailed reports are given at the end of the year. In the meantime, the teachers are available on email and are happy to arrange one-on-one meetings with parents at any other time.
Whilst laptops are used in the prep school, there is still an emphasis on handwriting and most work is still done in exercise books (much to the relief of many parents who get nervous about too much computer use). Handwriting should be neat and marking is done clearly and explicitly. Homework is set on Google Classroom in the upper years, preparing the children for senior school levels of independence, which the children deal with better than most parents.
Kellett is non-selective but parents need to be explicit about any special needs a child may have as provision, although excellent, is limited to those who can thrive in a supportive mainstream environment. Helen Trethewey, the Inclusion Co-ordinator, recently spoke on Dyslexia at the Asia-Pacific International Schools Conference, so the children are in expert hands.
English is the language of the classroom and the language of the playground. There is no explicit ESL provision as children are expected to speak English as a first language.
Games, Arts and Options
As with most schools in Hong Kong, outdoor space is an issue and the school days are short; pupils are on the buses home by 3.00. So they don’t do a huge amount of sport during the school day and relatively few matches against other schools (by UK but not Hong Kong standards). Competitive sport is generally done through paid-for ECAs or are arranged by parents out of school (for external sports clubs) unlike UK private schools which have a longer day (up to around 5.30) but do lots of sport/matches within that day.
Despite all of this, Kellett children are a sporty bunch and when they do take part in Hong-Kong wide competitions, they can hold their own. And luckily there are ECA buses, which are a huge plus for the parents (‘would be impossible’ without them).
'Sports Day' becomes more competitive as the children reach the top two years, with a combined Kowloon Bay and Pokfulam competition. Kowloon Bay definitely holds its own, winning the Year 6 trophy this year. Kowloon Bay children are also able to use the spanking new ‘ozone’ (no clorine) on-site swimming pool, so we expect great things from swimmers, too.
Art is run by the fabulous Mrs Spizziri, who enthuses the children to such a level that the output is extraordinary for a primary school. As the campus is very new, modern and perfect, the displayed art work and instillations really give it some personality. An artist-in-residence recently produced an impressive piece which every single child and member of staff collaborated on. Ms Laufer is very proud of her ‘hot-air balloon’ if you can find it.
Background and Atmosphere
This brand-new modern campus was completed and opened in 2013. Jo Laufer spent two years at the Pokfulam campus, both recruiting teachers and also learning how things are done at Kellett in order to establish the ‘Three Cs’ of the three-school institution: (common, contrasting and complementary features).
Whilst most things are done in the same way at the two primary campuses, and a few things that continue on to the senior school (such as the Kellett Learner Profile), others are purposely contrasting in order to ‘combat school fatigue’.
For example, the primary children eat lunch at their desks rather than use the senior school canteen. The two schools are purposefully kept very separate (except for the vast entrance lobby) for this reason. Keeping the primary and senior schools separate also allows the primary school to feel like a small school, where everyone knows everyone, rather than overwhelming the younger children.
School uniform is the same across the primary schools but ‘complementary’ to the senior school’s. All of this gives the impression of a school where every detail has been very well thought out with the children’s well-being at heart, rather than just arbitrary rules for the sake of rules.
The location of the campus caused some raised eye-brows at first as it is relatively inaccessible and in the middle of industrial Kowloon, with very few residential properties near-by. However, the design of the building cleverly mirrors the industrial style (the school wisely ‘refused’ to refurbish an old school, insisting on building from scratch), whilst at the same time being comfortable and exceptionally light.
The classrooms are the best we’ve seen in Hong Kong, both in terms of size and lightness. All the mod-cons are there, as well as year-group colour-coded chairs and tables. All classrooms are spread across two floors (younger years below, older above) around a central atrium with windows across the entire length of two walls. This allows an incredible amount of light in and also allows anyone in the atrium to look into the classroom. Teaching and learning can therefore be continually observed and both teachers and students are fully used to this level of casual observation (they didn't even look up at us).
The school is owned by the parents (all pay a small annual sub to join the Kellett Association) and this is very evident in the involvement level of the parents who make up a high percentage of the school board. These board members appoint the heads of school and have recently appointed a new over-all principal now that Anne MacDonald is retiring (in 2019).
There is no house system in the prep school as this is one area that is ‘contrasting’ with the senior school, although some parents have suggested this might be a way to encourage team spirit and possibly a way to create unity across the two prep campuses. Each class votes for school council representatives (like a prefect) who meet once a week to discuss issues such as sustainability (they have been asked their opinions for the audit) and suggestions for fun, charitable events such as ‘Feel Good Friday’.
Sustainability is big at Kellett, evident by bins collecting plastic bottles (to be made into sports kit) as well as recycling bins everywhere. Although the children and staff seem completely on message with this, Jo has also commissioned a sustainability audit in order to formulate a future action plan.
There is talk about putting in solar panels and a traffic light system in classrooms to let the students know how much power they have left that day (which would mean laptops off, pen and paper out!). We can’t wait to see if ground-breaking initiatives like this are put into place.
Pupils and Parents
Most families are British, followed by Australian, European, and a (very) few local Chinese families. Entry is down at birth, with no passport priority, but English must be the first language, and is the only language spoken in the playground.
There are no nationality cliques here. Despite the numerous British franchise schools opening in Hong Kong, Kellett is still the most popular school for British expats. It has a 40-year track record and is a brand in itself rather than being an import of a British boarding school. There are some alumni who are now sending their children here (they get entry priority).
Families come from all over the territory, but due to the location, generally ‘island families’ stick to the island and go to the Pokufulam campus, whereas those in Clearwater Bay, Sai Kung and Kowloon or New Territories choose Kowloon Bay. There is no catchment area and many parents just prefer one campus over another.
Whilst the location is ‘tricky’, and tunnel traffic from the island can be bad at times, school and ECA buses are available (a bit expensive but again, a Hong Kong rather than school issue). The school points out that there are 800 car parking spaces very nearby, so parking is actually better than at Pokfulam. Another alternative is having a driver and doing car shares, which a lot of families do.
Some also choose Kowloon Bay Prep if they have children in the senior school, making school runs easier. However, no switching is allowed once the choice has been made.
As a lot of the parents live in spacious Sai Kung and Clearwater Bay so there is a sense of Kellett community there, despite being a 30 minute drive away. Those on the island find they have to ferry their children over to Clearwater Bay for so many birthday parties that they end up moving there themselves.
Parents are a mix of bankers, lawyers, pilots and other professionals. As the school has a British ethos, flashiness and ostentation is frowned upon, with wealth being quite understated. Birthday parties are reasonable (not out of control like at other Hong Kong international schools).
There is less of a school gate culture than at the Pokfulam campus as children tend to either take the bus or are picked up by drivers/car shares. However, there is still a huge amount of parent involvement, volunteering and socialising. There are lots of class drinks and coffee mornings for parents and parents are able to use the senior school café - which is like a Starbucks.
Pastoral Care and Discipline
Whilst a lot of families have two working parents and some of the ‘parenting’ is done by domestic helpers, most parents are pretty hands-on (by Hong Kong standards) and are careful not to bring up ‘spoilt expat brats’ (a big problem in Hong Kong!).
The school emphases the importance of giving to those in need, particularly through its Kellett Cares program (run by a committee of parents) which is integrated into almost all school events and School Council initiatives.
Discipline is neither too relaxed or severe. The school rules are clear and known by all of the students, and by all accounts encourage the development of a strong moral code and sense of justice that has been instilled at school and at home.
There is very little bullying and if there were, it would be dealt with swiftly. The school tends to look at the problem holistically, counselling both victim and perpetrator.
Families come and go in Hong Kong all the time, so pupils are well used to students leaving and arriving. As entry to the school is predominantly done on a ‘down at birth’ system, the families who come to Kellett do tend to be fairly committed long-term Hong-Kongers.
So whilst the school is less transient than others, children are exceptionally welcoming to new students and by the next term there will be someone newer arriving.
Wait-list (from birth) or you can buy a debenture. Some companies hold corporate debentures, particularly banks. Those who are not ‘down at birth’ should still put their names down as places come up, particularly further up the school. Recent political upheavals (and the Covid pandemic) may also relieve pressure on school places (as expats need to leave or cannot take up posts in Hong Kong).
There are also a lot of new ‘British’ schools opening in Hong Kong, which has relieved Kellett of some of the pressure. The application forms are less onerous than other schools and the assessment process is very reasonable.
BUT parents must be honest with any special needs or issues. They will try their best to cater for all abilities, within reason, but if any detail is omitted (deliberately hidden rather than undiagnosed needs) the child could be asked to leave. You have been warned!
Transferring into Kellett is non-selective, but from Year 5 onwards students must take a maths and English test. Many move to Kellett from IB schools at this point, especially if they want to move to UK further down the line. Some also move from ‘Chinese’ or ‘bilingual’ schools once they have got their Chinese language skills up to a good level.
Most go to Kellett senior school, a few go to weekly board at Harrow Hong Kong, and most others go to boarding school in UK. The Kellett alumni group is a growing and supportive worldwide association (the OKs!).
Students are well versed in the British National Curriculum, so if they move to UK at any point up to the end of year 6, they shouldn’t have many (academic) transition issues.
However, if the child needs to take any sort of entry test to prep (7/8+) or senior school, either for Year 7 (11+) or year 9 (13+) entry, the school will not prepare them for these tests (which often start in the Autumn term of Year 6). Children will therefore need at least some sort of tutoring in exam technique.
The school will give a special (and we hear ‘very useful’) school report for each potential school, but the exams will have to be taken externally. As Kellett has its own senior school, it would prefer students to stay, but understands that due to relocation and other reasons, families often need to move back to UK, so the school is ‘supportive but not encouraging’ of this move.
School fees are reasonable by Hong Kong standards (the ‘new’ British schools end up being a lot more). Debentures are available if you absolutely cannot wait for your turn on the waiting list.
Kellett Kowloon Bay combines the traditions and track-record of Kellett with a stunning, innovative new campus. Ideal for those who want a well-balanced British education amongst a predominantly British peer group. This impressive building has been designed to enjoy the benefits of a large through-school, whilst remaining small and non-intimidating for young children.