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International schools in Hong Kong

Troubled British school Mount Kelly to begin classes in Hong Kong despite lacking approval for Hung Hom campus

School to provide pupils with free “induction programme” in small groups that will circumvent regulations

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 September, 2017, 10:27pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 September, 2017, 11:48pm

A troubled British private school in Hong Kong said on Wednesday it would begin classes next week despite having not yet won approval from the Education Bureau for one of its new campuses.

In an attempt to honour its promise to start primary classes this September, Mount Kelly School Hong Kong said it would provide its pupils with a free “induction programme” next week in small groups that would circumvent regulations.

The programme will take place at its Tsim Sha Tsui centre rather than Hung Hom Bay campus. A land use application for the latter venue will not be given the green light until a meeting late this month at the earliest.

The Hong Kong branch of the British boarding school has been embroiled in a series of controversies since it announced one year ago that it would open in the city this September.

“We are now less than one week away from our opening and the exciting countdown begins,” the school said on its Facebook page on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman confirmed that the school had not received approval from the bureau to begin classes for the primary levels.

But she said the classes those pupils would be having next week were more like an “induction or orientation programme” and were not subject to school fees.

She added that the classes would be small to comply with bureau regulations and the learning more play-based.

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“We want to honour our promise of starting school in September and do not want to make the pupils sad,” she said.

The spokeswoman was unable to disclose how many pupils had enrolled.

Doubts had been raised over whether the school’s original Tuen Mun campus would open in time for the new academic year, with officials eventually conceding in January that the project had been pushed back a year due to land use reclassification issues.

To compensate, the school said it aimed to open three new sites in Tsim Sha Tsui, Jordan and Hung Hom Bay, for which director Peter Kenny said in January he anticipated approval by the relevant government departments by late February.

According to Town Planning Board documents, the school is tentatively scheduled for a meeting with the board on September 22.

Ted Hui Chi-fung, an education spokesman for the Democratic Party, said the school could be exploiting a loophole in the law.

He pointed out that the Education Ordinance stipulated a school “means an institution, organisation or establishment which provides [education] for 20 or more persons during any one day or eight or more persons at any one time”, and that schools require registration.

Mount Kelly said that because the induction programme was not compulsory, it was unable to provide the number of students attending.

Hui accused the school of poor organisation, which he said had affected pupils’ education plans, since some may have rejected other offers to attend Mount Kelly.

An Education Bureau spokesman confirmed that the Jordan campus had been registered, but said it had not received any application for the Hung Hom one.

He added that organisations offering educational courses which hosted more than the number of pupils stipulated in the ordinance had to register to become a school.

The Mount Kelly spokeswoman said the first day of school for the kindergarten section would be on Monday, while the induction programme for primary would begin on Tuesday.

She said the primary course included study skills, language tuition, daily sports and games.

Uniforms had been purchased by parents from an external provider while textbooks were free of charge, she said.

A parent from mainland China whose son was set to attend Primary One classes said she was aware of the issue with registration of the Hung Hom campus, but was not worried.

“I believe the school will communicate with us ... We have met them a few times,” she said.

If the school had issues opening, she had a backup plan for her son to go to another school.

A friend of hers who had attended an information session said the school told her the Hung Hom campus would be ready by October 16.