Can’t decide which Hong Kong school might be best for your child? Struggling with long wait lists or worried about interviews? We asked British expat RUTH BENNY, “Head Girl” at 100% success rated education school placement company, Top Schools HK, for some insights.
Why did you start Top Schools HK?
Having been a teacher and a teacher-trainer, I was interested in education, particularly in school choice. When I had my own kids, I looked at the city’s schools with new eyes and realised that navigating the school system is not that easy! I felt I had the experience and the interest, so I made it my business to become an expert on Hong Kong schools. I started that process in 2010, and by 2012 I was ready to take on a paying client. I quit my job in September 2012 and haven’t looked back.
What are your tips for parents starting out in the school system here?
Start early, don’t stress and get expert help. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is putting in too few applications, too late – or applying to the “wrong” schools (schools that aren’t a good fit). Another mistake is showing up to assessments and interviews unprepared.
How do you help parents get their children into their first-choice school?
With careful planning, thorough preparation and personalised support. We act as expert guide, counsellor, liaison, coach, friend all rolled into one. There’s no magic formula, to be honest – it’s an art, not a science!
If a family is relocated to Hong Kong at short notice, will they still be able to get into a top international school?
It depends on how old their children are, their location, budget and preferences, and their expectations. We have no real definition or measurement of a “top” school in Hong Kong, so it’s personal choice.
If waiting lists are extremely long, is there really any point in applying?
Waiting lists are very much misunderstood. Yes, it’s often worth applying – they can change from day to day. We will discuss with parents their chances, the costs and risks, and advise them to apply or not.
What alternatives are there if you don’t get your chosen school place?
Two choices: accept an offer in a less preferred school or wait. The family may accept an offer with a view to switching schools the following year. Or, they may stay in their home country and relocate only when the school place is available. In this scenario, the working parent will usually relocate first.
What are your success rates in placing families in their chosen school?
100 percent! Honestly, in two years we’ve had only one child not accepted in time for the family’s relocation; he is special needs and the family waited six months, and he was in education for that period. Otherwise, we are able to support the family to generate at least one offer. The more common problem is a ‘happy problem’, when multiple offers come at different times. An offer from the second-choice school often comes before the first and we need to keep a few balls in the air to ensure the most favourable outcome.
You also run a very popular Facebook group, Hong Kong Schools. Tell us a bit about that.
I love Facebook. I started the Hong Kong Schools group about 18 months ago and we have over 6,000 members. I love the support network that parents provide for each other. We have an increasing number of official school representatives active there too, so it’s a great channel to get accurate information quickly.
Top Schools HK is at Suite D, Floor 12A, Enterprise Building, 228 Queen’s Road Central. 8120 3712 | topschools.hk