British school in Hong Kong told it cannot be called ‘international’ until it receives government approval

Education Bureau sent letter warning school management not to make declarations that might mislead the public or parents before registration is complete

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 November, 2016, 5:47pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 November, 2016, 11:28pm

The Education Bureau said on Saturday night a British preparatory school which plans to open in Hong Kong next September could not call itself an “international school”, just hours after the institution held a ground-breaking ceremony for its new campus.

The bureau has now issued statements for three days in a row concerning Mount Kelly International School, which is setting up its campus in So Kwun Wat in Tuen Mun. The statements included a warning on Friday to its management not to make declarations that might mislead the public or parents.

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The bureau also said it had not received another application from the school after the institution withdrew a first one in July. The latest statement said the school could only be called an “international school” after the bureau ­approved its application. The school must meet ­requirements set by the bureau in its application.

“Before being recognised by the bureau as an international school, the school cannot use the word ‘international school’ in its school name to avoid confusion,” the statement said.

A school spokeswoman said they were not aware of the latest statement from the Education Bureau issued on Saturday night. She said they would study it carefully and take appropriate action after discussions with the bureau scheduled for next week.

Earlier, school governor Martin Wong attributed the ­recent developments to a “miscommunication” ­between the school and the bureau. Wong explained a previous application was only “temporarily withdrawn” in July because the bureau asked for further additions or modifications to be submitted in a bundle, a request the school could not meet at the time.

“The data collection is nearly complete and we will submit the documents as a set as required [by the bureau],” he said, adding he hoped the application could be lodged again before the end of the year.

But officials clarified in the latest statement that the step of “temporarily” withdrawing an application did not exist in the application procedure and as nothing was being processed, the bureau could not make any comment on whether the school could register before September next year.

Wong said that phase one of the school would be ready by the next academic year for 420 ­pupils in years 1 to 4, ­and the number would grow to 820 by 2019 when the second phase was ready.

On reports that the school site included land that had to undergo rezoning procedures, he said phase one was on a plot earmarked for government, institution and community purposes and no Town Planning Board rezoning approval was needed.

“We are working with the authorities on how to iron out the rezoning obstacles for phase two,” he said. But he insisted areas which had yet to be ­rezoned – mostly outdoor facilities and sports grounds – would not be used for education purposes.

The school’s website details its student application procedures, which include a HK$1,500 non-refundable fee for the first interview, while a HK$1.92 million individual nomination certificate grants ­access to an application form.

A number of high-profile guests turned up for the school’s ground-breaking ceremony on Saturday, including British deputy consul general Esther Blythe.

“It’s a long-term relationship between the consulate and all of the British companies and British schools in Hong Kong,” Blythe said.

Headmaster Gary Wright said both the British Trade and Investment Department and InvestHK in the city were very supportive of its plans.

“I think [InvestHK] is supportive of offering quality education [in Hong Kong],” he said.

According to Section 86A of the Education Ordinance, “no person shall publish any advertisement that alleges that an institution … is registered or ­provisionally registered as a school under this ­Ordinance when it was not”.

But the ordinance does not prohibit schools from recruiting students after a formal application is ­submitted.

Local media reported on Thursday that the school had already begun recruiting students.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said he was concerned about the issue and had asked the bureau to follow up.

“If the school has already started to recruit students and sell nomination certificates before submitting a registration application, both parents and students face a huge risk,” Ip said.