A top British public school is eyeing a Tai Po site in a fresh attempt to launch a primary section in Hong Kong.
Locals seeking a place for their children, however, will be largely left out of the enrolment process at the prestigious Worcestershire-based Malvern College.
The school says it will set aside up to 90 per cent of its places for pupils with foreign passports - more than the government's 70 per cent minimum requirement under its new round of land allocation for international schools to ease a shortage of places.
"The priority would be for international families," Antony Clark, headmaster of the 149-year-old independent school in England, said.
"We would look very favourably upon families who are coming in [to Hong Kong] and struggling to find the appropriate schools for their children."
Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said international schools should also "cater for local needs" as the sites they used were public resources.
"It's about a balancing act," Chan said. "The 70:30 ratio is meant to provide adequate choices [for local parents]."
In late March, the Education Bureau rolled out two vacant school premises and three undeveloped sites in Tai Po, Sai Kung and Southern districts for international schools. Successful bidders usually enjoy nominal rents or favourable land premiums.
The city expects a shortfall of some 4,200 primary places at international schools by 2016. To ease the problem, the bureau granted three abandoned school premises last year to educational operators.
Malvern lost out then but is now eyeing the new sites - in particular one covering 6,200 square metres near the Science Park in Tai Po - to build a school for pupils aged six to 11.
The planned school would initially enrol 300 pupils, said Jacqueline So, principal of the college's secondary section in Qingdao , Shandong .
Malvern intends to charge annual tuition fees of up to HK$160,000.
If the college succeeds in winning a site, it will be the second famous British boarding school to have a campus in Hong Kong, after Harrow International School, which opened its doors in Tuen Mun in 2012.