Founded by a group of parents in 1976, Kellett School is one of only three schools in Hong Kong to offer the UK National Curriculum. As well as being rated outstanding by British inspectors, it has a long wait list that is testament to its popularity with parents.
With plenty of all through schools in Hong Kong it can be hard to stand out from the crowd – but Kellett School manages to. For two reasons at least. As well as being founded, owned and governed by parents, this dual-campus school is the most British of schools in the city. There are plenty of schools claiming to have a family atmosphere but few manage to capture it quite as well as Kellett School, where the tradition of parent partnership is deeply rooted within the campuses and its ‘small school’ ethos shines through. And, in a region where the IB curriculum dominates the international school scene, Kellett School is a solid alternative for any parents looking for a very British style of education.
Kellett School was founded in 1976, the Chinese Year of the Fire Dragon. Despite being a very British school, its use of the dragon symbol in everything from the school logo to its Kellett Dragon termly magazine gives you an idea of its international perspective. Today, the school has expanded to two campuses: preparatory and secondary schools for students aged four to 18 years on the Kowloon Bay Campus (KLB), and a prep school for students aged four to 11 years on the Pok Fu Lam Campus (PFL). Although there’s a watery divide between the two campuses, it operates very much as one school with one principal overseeing a total of 1,300 students.
This non-profit school is essentially non-selective, although most children must be fluent in English. Kellett School was rated as an “outstanding school” in a 2016 inspection report by the British Schools Overseas (BSO), and demand for places is high here; parents are known to apply from a child’s birth.
A very British education
The campus in Wah Fu is home to Pok Fu Lam Prep, a three-form school with roughly 400 students and classes from Reception through to Year 6. Kellett PFL follows a modified UK National Curriculum (Foundation Stage, Key Stage 1 & Key Stage 2) with an international slant. It’s a curriculum that attracts a largely British student population (69%), followed by Americans.
“Kellett’s preparatory classes place a strong emphasis on high levels of attainment in literacy, numeracy, science and ICT.”
As well as focusing on the above subjects, children study Mandarin from Reception, have the option of learning French from Year 3, and are taken on regular local and residential trips. This is a school that calls primary education an “adventure in learning”, an ideal that it sets out to achieve through the creative arts, concerts, excursions and sport.
Kellett PFL has its own art, music and multi-purpose PE and performance venue, and art, drama and music classes are all taught by specialist teachers. There are music lessons from Reception onwards, recorder tuition, and studies as varied as garage, ukulele, Chinese music and African drumming. After school, students have the opportunity to join one of many school choirs, an iBand or a string or percussion ensemble, or Chinese drumming group; individual music lessons are offered in the flute and many more. While the focus seems to be much more on music here, there are plenty of amateur dramatics ranging from the annual school musical to class assemblies.
The school is also hugely committed to sport, from PE lessons through to age-appropriate extra-curricular activities including swimming, ballet and kung fu. Annual sports days and swimming galas are a highlight on the school calendar, and you can feel a huge sense of pride in the school’s successes in inter-school competitions.
Kellett PFL seems dedicated to raising leaders, decision-makers and team players from a young age. Students from every class are invited to represent their peers on the Preparatory School Council, Year 5 and 6 students produce a termly school newspaper called Kellett Tell It, and the school showcases its talents in the Federation of British Schools in Asia’s (FOBISIA) sporting competitions and music festivals. It also takes learning beyond the classroom with a programme of residential trips that starts with a one-night camp in Sai Kung Country Park in Year 3 and builds up to a five-day trip to Beijing in Year 5.
Like any British school, Kellett PFL is wired for technology. All classrooms have an interactive whiteboard and laptops, notebooks, Macbooks and PCs are used extensively during lesson time. Students have access to the latest gadgets and devices, including handheld video cameras, computer aided design (CAD) software, floor robots and handheld data logging devices. The school also fosters a love for reading; as well as having a well-stocked library, it hosts author visits, book clubs, inter-school book competitions, an annual Book Week, and visits to various Hong Kong literary festivals.
The school’s website boasts of small classes and a low student-teacher ratio, but there are no figures listed to back this up. The academic year at Kellett School runs from August to June with three terms.
Kellett School was rated an “outstanding school” in its 2016 British Schools Overseas report. While inspectors reported that academic standards were outstanding from Key Stage 4 onwards, the prep school was praised for giving students many opportunities “to direct their own learning, to work collaboratively and to be challenged”. The secondary school received a glowing report, with inspectors noting that standards in KS4, KS5 and Year 6 reading and maths are all “well above average”. They also found that students who are entered for IGCSE maths a year early are consistently getting A*. The school’s high standards in extra-curricular activities were also recognised.
The school’s strengths included instilling in students a love of learning and a confident approach to life in school, and beyond. Inspectors praised teachers’ strong subject knowledge, the high-quality support for students with individual learning needs, a real sense of community, and the school’s “outstanding facilities to support students’ learning”. Other comments included “students’ behaviour is excellent and their attitude to learning is exemplary”, and “ the school enables and supports personal development of a very high standard, leading to students who are enthusiastic, thoughtful and confident.
Areas for improvement focused on improving the quality of middle years leadership, developing the whole school assessment framework, and setting high but appropriate challenges for all students.
Founded as a small British primary school in 1976 by a group of parents, Kellett School is still owned and governed by parents. Principal Ann McDonald reports to an elected board of 12 parents, and all families at the school are members of the Kellett School Association Limited. McDonald will be retiring at the end of the 201819 academic, with Mark Steed taking over as principal; Steed has more than 30 years of experience in the education sector and is currently director of Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS) in Dubai.
Parental involvement is integral to the running of the school. The Parents’ Committee’s responsibilities include coordinating sports days, the yearbook, fundraising events and the Kellett Cares community initiative. It also helps to uphold the traditions that bring this school together, such as publishing the Kellett Cookbook with recipes from parents past and present.
As McDonald explains on the website,
“The tradition of parent partnership is deeply rooted within our school and is one of which we are very proud."
It’s a school of two halves: the 10-year-old Mountain Wing houses a large multiuse auditorium, library and classrooms, and the recently refurbished Ocean Wing has a fully equipped science lab, dance and drama studio, ICT suite, language lab, SEN learning centre, gymnasium, music rooms, art studio and a children’s bookshop. For outdoor play and learning, there’s an AstroTurf playground, adventure playground and garden. Its glass walls between classrooms give the school a very open feel.
As noted by the BSO inspectors,
“The specialist teaching areas in both prep schools include dual purpose science laboratories, art rooms, food technology areas, drama and performance areas, an IT suite and a well-stocked library; all which enhance the students’ learning experience. The art rooms are particularly creative havens for the students.”
Annual fees at Kellett School are among the highest in Hong Kong at HKD 157,000. Parents are charged an annual association fee of HKD 500 per family, but there is no mention on the school website of any annual capital levy.
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