How To Apply To An ESF Primary And Secondary

Planning to apply to an ESF school? answers all your questions on the new ‘one form’ application process, which starts on September 1.
How To Apply To An ESF Primary And Secondary
By Carli Allan
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There are more than 80 international schools in Hong Kong and every year hundreds of parents choose to apply to one of 22 kindergartens and schools run by the English Schools Foundation (ESF). The ESF, which is the largest provider of English language education in Hong Kong, has 16 primary, secondary and all through schools plus five kindergartens and one special school.

There are limited places available and long waitlists at most ESF schools, just as you’ll find at many of the top-tier international schools in Hong Kong. Last year, ESF received a total of 3,011 applications for Year 1 and 397 applications for Year 7 during the application period.

That said, ESF does offer parents some hope:

“Yes, the waiting lists for ESF schools are long on the Kowloon side schools. They are relatively shorter and hence more opportunities on Hong Kong Island side schools. As of June 2018, there were about 2,000 on the waiting list across all ESF primary and secondary schools.”

ESF has always had a reputation for being considerably cheaper than most international schools in Hong Kong, although this is set to change. Until 2016, ESF schools received a government subsidy, which meant that fees were lower compared to other international schools. However, this annual HKD 283 million subsidy from the government is being phased out over the next 13 years; subsidies have already stopped for Years 1-3.

To help secure your school place for the 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 academic years, read on to find out more about the ESF application process.

How do I apply?

Effective from academic year 2018/19, ESF has introduced a new ‘one form’ application system for ESF primary and secondary schools including Discovery College (DC) and Renaissance College (RCHK). Parents can only submit one online application per child with their selected preference of schools; you can choose up to three selected schools including the ESF school in your zone, DC and/or RCHK. 

Starting this year, if a parent chooses the ESF school of zone as a selected school, there will be a fourth option available for parents to select an alternative ESF out of zone school.

When is the application period?

All applications for K1, Year 1 and Year 7 must be received during ESF’s Central Application Period, which runs from September 1-30. It doesn’t matter when you apply during this month as all applications are processed in random order from October 1.

If my child is attending an ESF kindergarten, do I still need to apply to a primary school?

Yes, there is no automatic allocation of a place.

Can I apply to any ESF school?

Except for the kindergartens, Discovery College (DC) and Renaissance College (RCHK), ESF schools only accept students living within their catchment zone. Proof of a Hong Kong residential address is required as part of the application process. Renaissance College and Discovery College do not have catchment zones.

Parents can only submit one online application per child with their selected preference of school.

Which ESF schools have places available?

• K1: Vacancies at ESF Tung Chung International Kindergarten

• Year 3: There are no vacancies, but waitlists are shorter at Peak School, Bradbury School and Kennedy School

• Years 4 and 5: There are no vacancies, but waitlists are shorter at Glenealy School and Peak School

• Year 6: There are no vacancies, but waitlists are shorter at Peak School, Bradbury School and Glenealy School

• Years 7 and 8: There are no vacancies, but waitlists are shorter at Renaissance College (RCHK)

• Year 9: Vacancies at Discovery College (DC) and Island School; shorter waiting list at Renaissance College (RCHK)

• Year 10: Vacancies at Discovery College (DC), Island School, Sha Tin College, West Island School and Renaissance College (RCHK)

• Year 11: Vacancies at Discovery College (DC) and Renaissance College (RCHK)

• Year 12: Vacancies at all ESF schools, including Discovery College (DC) and Renaissance College (RCHK)

What happens after I apply?

Successful applicants will be invited for an assessment, either for a guaranteed place or a reserve list place. Alternatively, you will receive a letter/email confirming that your application has not been successful. The key dates of the application process are outlined below:

What are the tuition fees?

All ESF schools have the same fee structure, with the exception of the two PIS schools. Tuition fees are HKD 111,200 in Years 1 and 2; HKD 111,200 in Year 3; HKD 93,900 in Years 4-6; HKD 128,400 in Years 7-11; and HKD 135,000 in Years 12 and 13. Fees range from HKD 118,100-159,900 at RCHK and HKD 122,600-165,800 at Discovery College.

All new students starting from August 2015 have had to pay a non-refundable capital levy (NCL), which starts at HKD 38,000 in Year 1 and decreases to HKD 3,800 by Year 13.

What curriculum does the ESF group teach?

All five of its secondary schools offer IGCSEs and the IBDP; there are currently five ESF schools offering the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (IBCP), including West Island School. All secondary schools are currently phasing in the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) for Years 7 to 9 to replace the previously bespoke curricula offered by each school.

How are Discovery College and Renaissance College different to the other ESF schools?

These two all-through schools are Private Independent Schools (PIS). They have received government assistance – land on a 10-year lease and a grant to construct a school building – and at least 70% of their student population must be Hong Kong permanent residents. Although both schools are run by the ESF, they differ from other ESF schools as they do not have a catchment area, do not offer IGCSEs (instead they offer the full IB programme), and tuition fees are slightly higher.

Can I get priority for admission?

Yes, ESF has Individual and Corporate Nomination Rights Schemes, which gives families priority for admission; these families can apply to a school outside of their catchment zone.

To apply online, click here:

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