Meet The Head: HKCA Po Leung Kuk (PLK)

David Priest, the founding principal at HKCA Po Leung Kuk (PLK) School, talks about how and why this small standalone primary school is able to offer more than just low fees.
Meet The Head: HKCA Po Leung Kuk (PLK)
By Carli Allan
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Since opening in 2017, HKCA Po Leung Kuk (PLK) School  has grown into a Grade 1-4 primary school that has become popular with parents looking for an affordable education. Owned by Po Leung Kuk, which operates over 120 local curriculum schools and educational institutions, HKCA currently enrols just 180 international and local children aged six to eight years. With fees of HKD 89,800 a year and no annual levy, no debenture and no hidden costs, HKCA is certainly cheaper than many international schools in Hong Kong. But is the quality of education compromised?

The UK-born founding principal David Priest spoke to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com about the school’s goal to offer an IB primary education in a small school environment. And, as well as offering the advantages of being a standalone primary school, Priest explains why this centrally located school will appeal to expat parents and families living in the Causeway Bay area alike.

Read our review of HKCA Po Leung Kuk (PLK) School here.

Although your students are currently being taught the IB’s Primary Years Programme, HKCA is yet to be accredited as an IB school. How long until you hope to get formal accreditation from the IB?

In order to ensure that our authorization is as quick as possible, we ensured that all our homeroom teachers had prior PYP experience. As a result, we were allowed to ‘fast-track’ our IB PYP authorisation journey and so we will have our verification visit in September 2019. This is a process that normally takes three to five years.

What do you feel are the school’s strengths so far?

Many people who visit the school comment on how happy the children are at the school, which is something we are very proud of as we have tried very hard to create a school culture that is happy, safe and caring. They also comment on how confident and articulate the children are when asked questions.

Another strength is the high level of transdisciplinary learning that regularly takes place between the homeroom Unit of Inquiry themes and specialist subject areas of Chinese, performing arts, PE and visual arts.

Your campus has been fully renovated to create a very welcoming learning environment in a green location that’s just a short walk from Causeway Bay. Is there room for the school to expand on its existing offering of Grades 1-4?

Yes, the school will add Grade 5 in 2019-2020 as all current classes will move up one grade level and, eventually, the school intends to have four classes at each Grade level, 1-5. There are also plans to open a Kindergarten section on the lower ground floor, which has a separate outdoor play area.



Your fees for primary education are among the lowest for an international school in Hong Kong. How are you able to deliver a quality education 'for less'?

We are working towards becoming an international school. As we are a non-profit making school (owned by Po Leung Kuk, a long-established charitable body in Hong Kong), we are often blessed with the generosity of donors who help support the school. Therefore, we are able to focus on providing quality education without certain constraints that other schools may face.

Why is it so important to promote yourself as an affordable school in the current climate?

Po Leung Kuk was established in 1880 for ‘the protection of the young and innocent’, and has been providing education and other social services in Hong Kong for over 140 years. The decision to open an international school was made because there were many families who wanted an alternative to the local education system, but could not afford the high costs associated with most international schools in Hong Kong.

Apart from cost, what makes HKCA an appealing choice for expat parents?

Firstly, we are just 300m from Tin Hau Temple Road MTR station and surrounded by residential apartments where, at the moment, expat children are seen taking a bus to school every morning. They can just walk here!

Secondly, we are an international school that gives expat children more of a local cultural experience than they would have at an international school that is very Western. Thirdly, the school is a very happy place to which the children want to come every day, and if they are happy at school they will learn!

Po Leung Kuk has experience of establishing and operating private independent and Direct Subsidy Schools. How is HKCA different to other schools in this group?

This is a private school running a non-local primary curriculum with English as the main medium of instruction. In order to fulfil the requirement to be registered as an international school, the school is required to enrol a certain number of non-local passport holders.

What are the benefits of HKCA being a standalone primary school?

One of the benefits of being a standalone primary school is that the children in the upper grades get to take on leadership responsibilities that those who attend a through-train school do not get. This makes a huge difference in terms of their maturity and sense of self-efficacy. Another benefit is that they are shielded from some of the less desirable behaviours that adolescents can often exhibit.

How are you helping families with the transition to secondary schools in Hong Kong?

We are visiting different secondary schools and trying to make connections with those that we feel would be good options for our graduates. I believe with the expertise and experience within the school, as well as that of Po Leung Kuk, the students are in safe hands during their transition to secondary school.

And finally! What do you enjoy doing in your spare time when not working as a principal at the school?

Hmm, I don’t feel that I have much spare time as establishing a new school is draining and very time-consuming. But I do like to cook, so unwind each evening by going home and preparing dinner. I also try to stay healthy by walking a lot, and occasionally playing tennis – until my knees tell me to stop – and travelling abroad during school holidays.

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