Harrow International School opens to first intake of pupils in Tuen Mun

Term begins for some at British school's campus in Tuen Mun, but a few arrive too early for class

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2012, 2:40am

Britain's prestigious Harrow International School opened in Tuen Mun yesterday to a few hiccups, with several parents and children turning up unaware that their new academic term had yet to start.

A spokesman for the school said it had staggered the start dates for different year groups throughout the week, in order to ensure individualised service for its first batch of pupils in the city.

School buses and private cars dotted usually quiet Castle Peak in the morning as part of the 750-strong intake began its academic year. Anxious parents plied staff with questions about school uniforms and bus services.

"I would like my girl to do something British," a Putonghua-speaking woman said. She said another of her daughters was studying in the United States.

Harrow provides kindergarten, primary and secondary school classes. Those for the junior forms begin over the next few days, and the staggered dates took some people by surprise.

School management said it had e-mailed notices to parents about the schedule in the past few days, but some said they were still not aware of the different start dates.

A woman arrived with a boy at about 7.30am, only to be told pupils below Year Nine would start school later in the week.

The woman said she was from Sichuan , and that she and her son had come too early because she had been unaware of the school's staggered start dates.

Harrow's Hong Kong campus sits on a So Kwun Wat site granted in 2009 as part of efforts by the former administration to boost the city's standing as a regional centre for privately funded education.

Its opening comes amid longstanding worries among businessmen and expatriates over a lack of international-school places. Foreigners relocating to the city face long waiting lists for their children's education.

Under the arrangement the government made with the school, which counts among its famous alumni the young Winston Churchill, it cannot enrol pupils from the mainland - who represent a huge market for elite private schools.

Harrow says 70 per cent of its first intake hold foreign passports, while the rest are Hong Kong passport holders. It declined to say what percentage were mainland pupils holding dual passports.

Some international schools have admitted that they take in locals and mainlanders who hold foreign passports, exploiting a loophole in the system - the Education Bureau bases pupils' nationality on the travel document they provide.