Planning ahead to get it right
Getting your child into the school you want often requires years of planning. It varies with school type but many parents make multiple applications, trying the aided sector and sought-after Direct Subsidy Scheme schools, and backing up by scouring international and other private schools.
Most offer places on a first-come, first-served basis. For popular preschools, it is necessary to put a child's name on waiting lists early.
Most require children to show they can learn in English, and the more popular ones are selective, taking into account signs of early academic ability and social skills.
For example, places in Chinese International School's reception year are based on observation sessions to assess language abilities (in English and Putonghua), and academic and social skills.
For later years, students must sit written tests in English, Chinese and maths, and at secondary level, non-verbal reasoning. Both Chinese and Hong Kong International School accept applications two years before admission. Some, such as Canadian International, have no deadlines but offer places on a first-come-first-served basis, as long as entrance criteria are satisfied.
English Schools Foundation schools
Applications should be lodged by September 22 for Year One and October 7 for Year Seven. Applications are sorted according to admission criteria with children from non-Chinese-speaking families given higher priority.
Direct Subsidy Scheme primary schools
The most sought-after DSS schools normally set admission deadlines in early September, but some run a second round of admissions for a limited number of places. Places are offered after interviews based on factors such as academic achievement in preschool, language abilities and extra-curricular activities. Children of alumni and, for schools with religious backgrounds, members of sponsoring church bodies may have priority.
Direct Subsidy Scheme secondary schools
Admission is based on academic achievement in primary and an interview. Extra-curricular activities may be taken into account. It is essential to retain all academic records and certificates. Diocesan Girls' School, for example, asks to see school reports for three consecutive years. The more popular schools have limited admission periods, normally November to January. Less-popular schools admit students until shortly before the start of the academic year. This allows those not successful in gaining places in aided schools to shop around during the summer term for Primary and Secondary One places, and Form Six after HKCEE results are announced.
Aided primary schools
Direct applications must be made in the last week of September. Parents can apply to only one school but their choice is not restricted by their school net. Results are announced in late November. If unsuccessful, parents can then apply through the central allocation system before late January, with results announced in early June.
Aided secondary schools
Application forms are distributed in late November and those for discretionary places need to be made between late December and late January. Last year the proportion of discretionary places rose from 20 to 30 per cent. Parents are now also able to apply for places at two schools instead of one. Applications for central allocation are made through primary schools in early May and application results are released in mid-July.