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Thursday 15-Dec-2016
【SCMP Education Post:寄宿學校攻略】Mill Hill School - where bright futures are moulded

Mill Hill School epitomises what a British boarding education is about. Speaking with Head, Mrs Frances King, in an eye-opening interview, it became apparent how Mill Hill is preparing young people to meet life head on by stimulating their confidence and transferrable skills. The world is changing and Mill Hill is thinking long-term for the benefit of its pupils. Hong Kong families should take heed … 

While interviewing Mill Hill Head, Frances King, I began to wonder whether I could relay a recording of the interview to Hong Kong parents deliberating over whether to send their children to the UK as soon as possible. This is one Head, and one school, which is ready to support students in their passions and entrepreneurial pursuits, regardless of whether A-level grades and the school’s position in the league tables may be jeopardised.

To set the ball rolling, I should mention about a recent talk of mine at an education fair. I spoke about character-building and grit which Hong Kong children develop at British boarding skills. Hong Kong parents listened with intent and, to my joy, raised many questions after the talk. Slowly but surely, attitudes are shifting with the growing realisation that life is not all about straight A grades and attending the best selective schools.

Mill Hill is thinking outside the box. Mrs King summarised the situation quite neatly by referring to half a class of 15-year-old children which it is almost impossible to give careers advice to for reasons pertaining to future career indecision or merely an overload of innovative ideas. Therefore, these children must have a core set of creative and people skills to fall back on when that “unknown future” eventually unearths itself. In ten years’ time, according to Mrs King, today’s generation should be grateful for bucking up their interpersonal skills because they will be on the telephone trying to pull people into their office. Interesting thoughts, indeed.Mrs King is admirably aware of the situation on the ground in Hong Kong. The arrival of International Schools here has heightened intrigue about the benefits of a British boarding education because parents may settle for a solid product which can be found on their doorstep. However, as Mrs King put forward: “you can transfer a school, but to what extent can you transfer a culture”? Aside from the cultural aspect, Mrs King and her astute team are setting out to widen families “breadth of understanding” of life at a UK boarding school and make parents wonder whether the education path they choose will genuinely benefit their child in a competitive workplace environment.

When I hear stories of Hong Kong students who have not necessarily become successful as a result of securing straight A’s, attending world-class universities or choosing traditionally stable career paths, I do beam a smile of delight. We should rejoice at the news of the Hong Kong student who, as described by Mrs King, followed her passion for the History of Art and studied it at university. Certainly, in the words of my interviewee, this was one student who bucked the trend of hard work and a life in accountancy and finance in Hong Kong, as she began to “think in a broader sense about life experience, creativity and life opportunities”. The said student is now cooperating with an Auction House to encourage HK residents to purchase art.

Following on, Mrs King and I spoke of the need for UK schools to address public speaking skills, as well as to run house competitions and music competitions to help children adopt leadership and teamwork skills. We also need to get children’s creative juices flowing - a mindset both Mrs King and I subscribe to.

I was truly engrossed in Mrs King’s tale of a young man who, with the support of Mill Hill, dropped one A-Level subject as he has an enterprising spirit. Indeed, he is developing his own clothing brand and has a factory in the Midlands city of Leicester. I did not quite ascertain whether his t-shirts and jumpers are selling like hot cakes but that is beside the point. What we have at Mill Hill is a set of students whose DNA is filled with an entrepreneurial spirit and these pupils do “bounce off each other”, said Mrs King.

The success stories could go on and times have clearly changed. As Mrs King told so eloquently: “Grandfathers may have had jobs for lives, fathers may have had six jobs, now people are willing to fail and start over again and again”. I think the main message I want to convey from this interview is that it is ok to fail as students will have skills and grades to fall back on. If Mill Hill can get “most reluctant teenagers to do wonderful things”, as Frances King, alluded to - then Hong Kong families should keep this co-educational London school in mind.


Samuel Chan is the Managing Director of Britannia StudyLink.

文章作者Samuel Chan是Britannia StudyLink英識教育創辦人。

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Education Experts

With an entrepreneurial spirit spreading across online, print and broadcast media, Samuel is an award-winning educational consultant and celebrated columnist.

As a leader in the field of education, he was honoured with the British Council’s Study UK Alumni Award and his most prestigious achievement to date includes the founding of Hong Kong’s premier educational brands - Britannia StudyLink, Anglo Belgravia and Ascent Prep.

In addition to streamlining the UK independent school application process for Hong Kong families and spearheading the first official UKiset-accredited educational centre in Hong Kong, Samuel has led his company, Britannia, to becoming one of Asia’s leading brands with diverse clients and distinguished institutions ranging from Radley College to HSBC Bank and Hong Kong Telecom.


Mabel Chan is the Principal Consultant of Britannia. Having studied in both the UK and the US, she is an expert in school matching for overseas education. She writes education columns for Sing Tao Daily and The Standard, and answers questions arising from parents and students patiently.


MB Cheung, our senior consultant, has been writing education columns for major local newspapers for more than 25 years. With his experience and unique insights, he shares a variety of tips and advice on overseas education for the readers (and DSE students)

#School Analysis
Considering its reputation, Oundle School may not catch up to Eton, Wycombe Abbey and else top elite schools. However, Oundle’s academic performance is among the best in the United Kingdom. As a traditional top boarding school, Oundle pays huge attentions to student’s holistic development, by providing them diversified extra-curricular activities. In addition, Oundle still implements the House Dining System, which is rarely remaining among uk boarding schools. It is also one of the reasons why Hong Kong parents making a beeline for.
The ratio of teachers and students in Bromsgrove School is 1:8, which is lower than the average among uk boarding schools. In addition, according to my school visit experience, Bromsgrove has the best facilities, that it is undoubtedly one of the best three campuses in the UK. Besides, Bromsgrove spares no expense to provide students comfortable environment, it even invests on the nearby hotel and transfers it into dormitories. As a result, students can possess the “5-star enjoyment” on campus. To conclude, Bromsgrove is definitely a prospective and globalised uk boarding school.
Brighton College is Britain’s premier private school and one of the Hong Kong parents’ favourites. To understand a boarding school, despite of looking at its educational tenet, diversified extra-curricular activities and academics results, it is essential to observe the boldness of the principal. 10 years ago, after Mr. Richard Cairns taking up the duty of the Brighton College’s principal, the school ranking raises from the 150th to the top 20th. In addition to promoting educational reformation, Mr Cairns is such a good principal, that he still strives for maintaining students’ curiosity at the same time.
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