We work with parents to develop a strategic, realistic and flexible approach to choosing a school…and having that school choose your child!

Finding the right school for your child and then having that school choose your child is a process often typified by stress, stress and more stress!  Many schools are able to pick and choose which children they accept, and which they don’t.

Services For Families

  Our comprehensive School Placements Service offers expert, independent advice to help you navigate through the complexity of the information and help you place your child(ren) aged 2-18.

If You Are:

  • Expectant parents
  • Hong Kong Parents of children aged up to 16/17
  • Parents relocating to Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong Chinese, Mainland Chinese, Expats and everything in between!

Or

  • Applying late

  • Frustrated/confused/stuck/stressed
  • Concerned about Chinese proficiency

  • Keen on a “local” school…
  • On a budget
  • In need of English support

Apply From Birth

Some schools in Hong Kong accept applications from birth. As soon as you have the birth certificate, you can apply. And, in the majority of cases, the date of receipt is important in determining your place in the queue – strictly chronological.

The Admissions Consulting Services 2016/2017 booklet includes a list of primary schools that you can apply to from birth. Where they have preschools attached, you’d normally apply for the lowest grade available, but not necessarily.

Other schools will accept applications only within a prescribed period – usually one or two years before intended entry.

Schools Strong in Chinese

If you’d like your child to be bilingual (Chinese/English) AND biliterate, the obvious choice is a ‘local’ school. However, local schools use “Cantonese”. It’s used as the medium of instruction, as the playground language and forms the basis of the culture. Also, the Putonghua and English is often taught mainly by non-native speakers.

Many parents are more keen on Putonghua (Mandarin). Perhaps they are not Chinese, they are from the Mainland, or they feel that Cantonese is easy to pick up anyway.

They also prefer a more international style of teaching, perhaps according to an international curriculum too. The bad news is the very few schools are offering this!

A quick and easy way to assess if your child is receiving sufficient exposure in English

Are you hoping to raise a native English speaking child in a home where English is a minority language? Here’s a very common scenario: Your first language is not English; it may be Cantonese, Mandarin, Hindi, Japanese or any other langauge. You do speak English – perhaps almost to native level – and you want your… View Article

Play now and thrive later – Yew Chung International School’s early learning philosophy underpins sought after skills for the 21st century

Committed to providing a nurturing, holistic, dual English and Chinese language environment, Yew Chung International School (YCIS) Early Childhood Education Section (ECE) believes its defining early learning proposition is its play-based activities that inspire inquisitiveness and creativity that can help children to thrive in the future. “So often we hear about the importance of allowing children… View Article

Dalton: A Plan for Hong Kong

Sponsored Post: The ultimate approach to education is a hotly contested topic worldwide and Hong Kong is no different. However, ‘the Dalton Plan’ – the city’s latest choice for discerning parents – may sound like a fad, but it’s actually nearly a century old. Originating in Dalton, USA, in the 1920s, the Dalton Plan is… View Article

Successful Placements 2017/18

164 students

placed for 2017/18 in: ESF, Harrow School, Hong Kong Academy, Chinese International School, Independent Schools Foundation Academy, American School Hong Kong, Yew Chung International School, Renaissance College, International Montessori School, Victoria Shanghai Academy, Canadian International School, Hong Kong International School, Island Christian Academy, Nord Anglia International School and more.

Fewer than 10 of these placements required a priority debenture.

Want to work with us?

Searching for a top school doesn’t need to be stressful!

Top Schools is for you if you are a parent in Hong Kong wanting the best education for your children, yet find the process of searching for information confusing, frustrating and stressful.

Where schools own websites often lack consistency and transparency, we make it easy to search, compare and share accurate, up-to-date information on schools and save a lot of time and worry.

Top Schools is unique in HK in that we provide extensive, solid factual information to balance our opinions and those of our members.

Our school profiles are based on our research, visits to the schools and parent, teacher and student interviews. Many school profiles are verified by the schools directly and they have the authority to edit and update all content, except the initial description which remains impartial and is written by Top Schools staff.

The Topschools Difference

  • Our services are entirely personalised fully flexible to accommodate each client’s unique requirements
  • We have verifiable, in-depth knowledge of the Hong Kong education system (local and international); we make recommendations based on fact, not hearsay or personal opinion!
  • We maintain good relationships with schools, parents and other stakeholders and regarded as influencers in the industry
  • We are focused, and small enough to deliver a personal service
  • We have a 100% success rate for school placements
  • We are completely independent education experts
  • Our small team collectively boasts 70 years’ of Hong Kong-specific education experience.
  • We work with parents and clients to develop a strategic, realistic and flexible approach to choosing a school and having that school choose your child!
  • Our consultants speak English, Cantonese, Putonghua and Tagalog

What We Do

We guide parents through a confusing array of opinions, providing honest, unbiased advice on the probability of acceptance for immediate arrival and the following years. Planning viable alternative options, including an interim placement, local school or a school providing additional support for ESL, or other individual learning needs is at the core of what we do.

See our Plans

Strategise

We understand that the “perfect school” doesn’t exist, so we look to match family and school, based on their priorities. If a compromise is necessary, we advise on where, when and how this should happen with the family’s best interests and mid, or even, long-term goals in mind.

Customise

We get to know each of our families well and understand their preferences as well as their child’s academic, emotional and social needs. From there, we manage expectations throughout the process with one dedicated consultant. We can modify a plan at any stage to suit changing preferences and expectations.

Emphasise

Our senior consultants are all parents too and we’ve been through the process. Between us, we have – or had – our own children in seven of Hong Kong’s top schools.

How Will We Guide You?

Initial discussion and questionnaire

We prefer to meet you face-to-face. We’ll ascertain how much you know about the options available and fill you in where you have gaps. We’ll then guide you through a questionnaire to understand family background, current schooling situation and expectations.

Analysis and follow-up discussion

We’ll analyse your responses to the questionnaire and generate a ‘long list’ then speak with you again to discuss and shorten the list.

Shortlist

Next, we’ll draw up a list of schools and send the details information to you in a comparable table format. We’ll arrange for you to visit the schools. We have developed good relationships with the schools and can often arrange visits outside their normal schedule.

Timeline

We’ll make sure that you don’t miss any application deadlines, based on your child’s date of birth and each specific school’s requirements.

Interview preparation

We’ll advise on the format of child assessments and parent interviews and brief you on what to do/say and what not to.

Applications

We can check and advise you on your applications and supplementary information to give you the best chance of success. We can advise on debentures.

Follow-up

Once and application is submitted, we can check with the school to understand actual vacancies and the wait list situation. Lastly, we can advise on choosing a school, if multiple offers are received (as they often are!)

Testimonials

Want to know what our clients, partners and industry contacts have to say about the work that we do?

Admissions Consulting Services Guide

Download your copy now!

Real Stories

Family E contacted Top Schools in Sept 2012 to start planning for their daughter, J, aged almost one year. At that time, J was enrolled in a playgroup taught entirely in English. While Mum spoke fluent Cantonese, she had left HK at the age of 10 and her written Chinese was weak. Dad was English and Hebrew speaking. The parents really wanted to try to have J fluent and literate in Chinese.

Family E were able to secure a PN place for J in a trilingual kindergarten with priority to a through train to primary and secondary. Mrs E participated fully in kindergarten life and J enjoyed her PN and KI there.

We advised Mr & Mrs E that it wasn’t safe to rely on one primary school and they therefore submitted two other applications – one to a bilingual international school and another to an immersion Chinese private independent school.

We assisted with providing support on providing essay questions in advance and checking all application forms. After several rounds of revision, the parent questionnaire was thoughtful and authentic. We gave guidance on all assessments and parent meetings. J passed the assessment, Mr and Mrs E felt comfortable about how the parent interview went and J was placed on the reserve list.

So, we proceeded to submit further applications to the other primary school on the list. At the same time, we advised on submitting PN applications for the younger daughter.

While J was waiting to attend further assessments, she received an offer from one of the parents’ top choices. It was clear that they would accept. We then advised on how to inform the kindergarten that she would be leaving whilst preserving the relationship for the younger daughter to enter later that year. J started in a fully bilingual through-train school in Sept 2015.

Family D was a British expat family living in Tianjin, China with two young girls, ages 7 and 4. Mr D, a senior manager, being moved to the company’s Hong Kong office was entitled to a full relocation package with a company based in Hong Kong. Their service included Hong Kong schooling placement.

Mrs D contacted Top Schools in March 2015 as she felt dissatisfied with the school advice given by their relocation agent. The relocation agent had suggested three schools for the D family to consider, none of which matched the family’s preferences and priorities. The relocation agent recommended that the D family apply to these schools based on the fact they had the shortest wait list(s). Mr and Mrs D were not comfortable with this approach. They successfully convinced Mr. D’s HR manager to engage Top Schools to provide school consulting services for their family.

The D family wanted a top notch international school in Hong Kong offering a British style curriculum as their children had been going to a similar school in Tianjin. They also wanted their children to be in the same school, as both were still so young.

The biggest challenge was timing, as their applications for the new school year were so late. The other challenge was getting both children in the same school.

We were quick to understand their needs and immediately organised meetings with four suitable schools for Mr and Mrs D within three weeks of their initial contact with us. We accompanied Mr and Mrs D to the schools and provided valuable insights on each other schools.
A top choice merged very quickly – a school that their relocation agent had never mentioned.

We assisted in submitting urgent applications to their top school choice and another equally popular school which fulfilled their requirements, and we diligently followed up on all the necessary paperwork and payments. We kept in close contact with the admissions officers at both schools and kept Mr and Mrs D updated on the status of their applications.
We provided guidance on the assessments for their children who were interviewed by their first choice school via skype.

In May, the younger sibling received an offer from their first choice school. There was still no space available for the older child so we kept in close contact with the school. One month later in June, an offer came through for the older sibling.
Mr and Mrs D are very pleased that both their children will be attending a school that they truly feel is best for their family.

Family T contacted us in late August 2017 after they had already been to HK for look see visits with the relocation firm they had been allocated through their company. As it had been the school holidays, they had not been able to visit any schools beyond the school gates.

They planned to relocate to Hong Kong in January 2018 with their twin girls and were looking for G8 places. The duration of their secondment to Hong Kong was for 3 years and this would mean potentially relating back to the US mid way through G11. The initial advice was to apply to a number of schools as soon as possible and they would get a place somewhere.  Following this advice they submitted applications to two schools with one clear favourite; a school offering a US curriculum that would allow the girls to seamlessly transition back into the US. Unfortunately, their second choice school came back and made an offer within a few weeks. At this point the family contacted us as they were confused as to what to do next. Their relocation agent was suggesting they accept the offers and pay large deposits for a school they didn’t really feel comfortable with. The only alternative appeared to be to wait for the preferred school and risk having no places.

After careful review of the family profile, student reports and applications it was decided that the family were ideal candidates for their first choice school. Furthermore, there was not an alternative that would offer the continuity and transferability for their family. We advised that they don’t accept the offers, and we would monitor place availability at their second choice school.

We continued to personally liaise with both schools throughout September and October and in early November, they finally received an offer for both girls at their first choice school. They had not had to pay a deposit to any other school.

Family F In April 2014, Mrs F contacted me, her son, C, had almost finished a whole year in a “good” local school and the family was miserable. He was spending hours each night on homework and becoming less motivated to learn every day.The family spoke cantonese at home and C’s school conducted most of the lessons in Cantonese. His English was OK, but he was shy to speak and far from native level.

The parents felt that they’d prefer to switch him to an international school with English as the medium of instruction. They had vague plans to move to Canada at some point in the future since they had Canadian citizenship.

Because C was born in October and younger in his year, we advised the parents that they had some choice in whether they preferred him to continue on to the next grade, or “repeat” the year in a school with an August cut-off.

Since it was already April, the parents applied to more schools than would have been necessary had they started the process earlier. They had applied to seven schools in total. Since C’s English language proficiency wasn’t native level, these seven included a few schools with good ESL support.

C was invited for six assessments. He attended five, failed one and passed four. He received four offers. We were able to manage the offers such that the parents didn’t need to lose money by securing offers with deposits before making their final decision. They chose the best by far of the four offers – a school running the English National curriculum where C would repeat his P1 year by entering Year 2.

After the first year, C and his parents are happy with the school, with C’s progress and with the decision to switch into an international school.

Family M contacted us very late; in June 2015. They were seeking advice on whether it was possible to move their daughter from S2 in a prestigious local secondary school to an international school and when. M’s parents are both professionals – an academic and a lawyer. A Cantonese family, they were concerned about what they perceived to be a decline in the standard of English at M’s current school. They also planned to send M overseas to University.

The parents felt their top choice – a top brand IB through-school – was unattainable since friends had mentioned it was extremely difficult for a “local” family to access. Therefore, Mr and Mrs M came to us for alternative schools to try either for 2016/17 or the following year.

In fact, Mrs M preferred that M begin in a new school for Grade 9. However, we advised the family to try for G8 for the immediate year, given that she was born at the end of the year (31 Dec!). If unsuccessful, she could follow her original plan and apply for entry the following year.

Her academic record was not that solid and she had the opportunity to start in G8 as an older girl, which would surely be an advantage. Since assessments at Upper Primary and Secondary are age/grade-appropriate, they only become more difficult.

We moved fast and organised all the paperwork. As it was M’s application for the G8 was submitted in June, way past the deadline. Often a sticking point in transferring from a local school to international is that the international school will seek a confidential reference from the child’s class teacher and local schools and their teachers do not usually entertain such requests. This was smoothed out and a later assessment requested to accommodate the family’s holiday. M sat for the assessment on the 12 August and received an offer on the same day.

Then, the parents hesitated. Everything had happened so quickly that Mr & Mrs M hadn’t had time to investigate the school properly. We were able to quickly arrange a private school tour and meet key staff, after which they felt comfortable to accept the offer.

Family B’s son, J, was in K2 in an international kindergarten for the academic year 2015/16. The parents, both local Cantonese speakers, had been confused about when their son would start school – at Year 1 (5 years old) or Primary 1 (6 years old). When they realised that they were late to apply for international school, they panicked and were very seriously a very small, low-profile school.

Family B contacted us late in November 2015. They felt they had no option but this one school and were desperate.

Both B’s mother and father were both native Cantonese speakers, but spoke to J in English. As such, J had little to no exposure to Cantonese.  Additionally, he only held a Hong Kong passport and many of the international schools have a limited quota for these children.

We evaluated J and found he was a near native speaker of English. We then suggested a few schools for the parents to consider – the top choice was a top-tier international school but had no space.


We duly submitted applications for two other schools while all the time, following up with the preferred school almost daily.

J attended assessments for the two other schools and, while we were waiting for the result, he was invited to assess at the preferred school. This was at the very end of January, almost 3 months after submitting the application.

J subsequently passed and the school made a straight offer without any need to purchase a debenture (usually required for HKSAR passport holders).

J started at the International School in August 2016.

Family C

Mr & Mrs B, a Hong Kong family living in Beijing, contacted us in Aug 2015 when they got word that they’d be moving back to Hong Kong in Summer 2016.

Their two boys – N & H – were aged 3 (H) and 5 (N) at the time, both attending an international school in Beijing and both holding US passports.

The family were keen to have the boys in a bilingual school. However, their English language proficiency was not strong, and their Chinese literacy was not strong.

Parents came to HK twice before their move. On both visits, we arranged private meetings with principals and admissions staff. These meetings allowed the parents to make an informed decision on whether the school was a fit for their family. For some schools, they proceeded to submit applications; for others, they decided not to.

The parents’ top choice school – School X, a bilingual school – invited both boys for assessment. H was accepted whilst N was not, due to lack of English language proficiency.

We quickly lined up other assessments for N. At the same time, we discussed with School X the strategy to have N reapply and have another chance for assessment later in the year. N would enjoy sibling priority as soon as H started the school.

N was accepted into two schools – School A and School Y. Since School Y was a 5 minute walk from School X, this was their choice. School Y was a pure English language environment for N. Since this was the area in which he needed to improve, it made sense. The parents supplemented with Chinese tuition.

N had a further assessment at School Y in July and, again, did not pass.

Family B moved to HK in Aug 2016 and the boys started at their respective schools. In October, Mr & Mrs B revisited the idea of having N reapply to School Y. We checked and advised them to resubmit an application. We were able to arrange for N to attend an interview one week later. Two days later, the offer came. N will start at School Y in Dec 2016.

Helpful Resources

LTE December
Stamford Meet the Teachers
Mount Kelly Open Day
AISC December

Our Trusted Partners

Over the years we have developed good working relationships with a small select group of trusted partners providing complementary services. We’d be delighted to refer you.

Our partners specialise in the following areas:

  • Home Search
  • Relocation
  • Chinese Language Enhancement
  • Kong Visas / Immigration
  • English Language Enhancement
  • Nanny Service
  • Foreign Domestic Helper

  • Family Therapy
  • Educational Psychology
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Social Emotional Skills
  • University Counselling

Would you like a no obligation introduction?