Part of the ESF family, this IB primary school on the west coast of Hong Kong Island is offering students a bright green future as part of its learning experience.
It may only be a short drive from the urban jungle of Hong Kong Island’s city centre, but Kennedy School scores top marks for its family-friendly feel and close-knit community. Turn up during term time and you can expect to see students walking to school, a regular gathering of parents at the school gate, and a rooftop organic garden in full bloom. This well-established English Schools Foundation (ESF) primary school is located at the heart of the Pok Fu Lam coastal neighbourhood – and it’s become a local talking point for several good reasons.
Principal John Brewster sums it up, saying:
“Most importantly, Kennedy is a community school where families and friends are welcomed with open arms. We hope to be a crucial and important part of your families’ life in Hong Kong.”
Founded in 1961, Kennedy School is an International Baccalaureate primary school for children aged 5 to 10 years. There are currently 30 classes in Years 1 to 6 and a total of 900 students from mix of nationalities. The majority of Year Six students transfer to ESF’s West Island secondary school, which is less than one kilometre away. Thanks to the close relationship between the two schools, parents find that this move from primary to secondary school is well-managed and easy.
An IB education
In line with all ESF primary schools, Kennedy School follows the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP). All subjects – English, maths, social studies, science, and the arts – are taught within the context of the IB Programme of Inquiry. This road map for education looks at Who We Are, Where We Are in Place and Time, How We Express Ourselves, How the World Works, How We Organise Ourselves, and Sharing the Planet. As well as daily Chinese lessons, Kennedy School’s curriculum has a very healthy dose of technology, creative arts, and PE.
This is a school where students are encouraged “to create, to perform, and to engage in physical pursuits” on a weekly basis. As well as focusing on visual and performing arts during lessons, teachers run extra-curricular activities including art clubs, junior choir, senior choir, acapella group, orchestra, Chinese music ensemble, string quartet, and clarinet ensemble. Also after-school, specialist instrumental teachers hold lessons in strings, woodwind, brass, classical and folk guitar, ukelele, and piano.
PE lessons range from swimming and dance through to adventure challenges and team games. Kennedy School students are also lucky enough to have access to sporting facilities at the University of Hong Kong’s Stanley Ho Sports Centre, just across the road.
Technology has been part of school culture for more than a decade. Kennedy School was one of the first schools in Hong Kong to launch a 1:1 laptop electronic devices programme for Year 4 upwards. It continues to stay at the forefront of technology with cutting edge resources including Chromebooks, iPads, MacBook Airs, Lego Mindstorm robots, and Makey Makey kits. Students are taught to use and apply new applications, coding strategies, and technologies from as young as 9-years-old, and lessons vary from shooting and editing movies to building and programming robots.
Kennedy School encourages students to sign up to various extra-curricular activities, ranging from sports clubs, coding, and Minecraft through to choirs and arts groups. It also takes learning outside the classroom with residential camps for Years 4, 5, and 6.
Kennedy School is leading the way in environmental education with its recycling initiatives, renewable energy schemes, and rooftop garden. What better way to learn about the environment than to take part in organic planting workshops; sow, harvest, and eat your own produce; and hold regular organic plant sales for the local community. Its efforts have been recognised nationally: Kennedy School has won a Gold Award in the Hong Kong Green School Awards and the Silver Award for Primary Schools in the Hong Kong Awards for Environmental Excellence.
As you’ll find in most ESF schools, students are given plenty of opportunities to develop their leadership skills. At Kennedy School, primary students can sit on the Student Council, stand as House Captains, and act as Chinese Language Ambassadors, Sports Ambassadors, Student Environmental Protection Ambassadors, and Arts Ambassadors. It’s so inspiring to see students take such an active role in the running of their school – anything from taking part in the interview process for the new principal in 2014 to leading school visits for prospective parents and helping to organise sports days.
Kennedy School is spread across two main blocks – the North Wing and the East Wing – and there is a five-year plan to renovate the campus with a new hall, teaching and specialist areas, and playground. As you’d expect from such a ‘community’ school, the PTA has very active role, with responsibilities including school transport, the uniform shop, newsletters, the school directory, and fundraising.
Admission and fees
There’s always a waitlist for Kennedy School and, as with all ESF schools, parents must live within the catchment area. This includes the area from Caine Road to Aberdeen. Cheung Chau. Babington Path, Oaklands Path, Hospital Road, Des Voeux Road, Connaught Road, Queen’s Road Central (excluding the Central District hotels), Park Road, Breezy Path, Bonham Road, Caine Road and north of the Bonham/Caine Road line, Castle Road, Seymour Road, Mosque Street, Shelly Street, 97 Robinson Road and beyond (odd numbers), 72 Robinson Road and beyond (even numbers), Kotewall Road, Lyttleton Road, University Drive, Oaklands Avenue, Chi Fu Fa Yuen, Baguio Villas, Cyber Port Road, Victoria Road, Kennedy Town, Shum Wan Road, Grantham Hospital, the Police Training School and Aberdeen Marina. Ap Lei Chau excluding South Horizons. Central District and Sheung Wan (excluding hotels); north of Caine and Bonham Roads to the waterfront.
The ESF sets standard fees for all its primary schools, which is HKD 111,200 for Years 1 to 3 and HKD 93,900 for Years 4 to 6. There is also a one-off non-refundable capital levy (NCL) which starts at HKD 38,000 in Year 1 and reduces to HKD 28,000 in Year 6.
While ESF schools are not as cheap as they used to be, following the phase out of government subsidies from 2016, they still offer a more affordable education when compared to most international schools in Hong Kong. The ESF will see the withdrawal of its annual HKD 283 million subsidy from the government over the next 13 years. In 2018-19, all year groups except Years 1 to 3 will continue to be subsidised by the government; this helps to explain why Years 1 to 3 fees are higher than Years 4 to 6.
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