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【The Standard】 HK protests increasing demand for UK prep schools

UK chitchat


As mentioned in my last column, the general atmosphere of conflict has now made its way into Hong Kong’s schools. This is leading more and more parents, regardless of their political stance, to look to the UK to educate their children.

Apart from a greater interest in boarding schools and day places, parents are also keen to send their children abroad at a younger age to prep schools.

In the UK, private schools for younger children are called prep schools – short for preparatory school.

They are named this way because they traditionally prepare children for public schools. Do not confuse them with prep schools in the United States, which usually refers to a private secondary school that prepares students for university or just adult life.

You can think of British prep schools as essentially miniature versions of boarding schools with a very similar culture and tradition, albeit on a smaller scale. Indeed, many public schools include a prep school so that children can stay at the same school from the age of three or four all the way up to their late teens before they go to university.

As I myself went to a prep school, I understand the true benefit of starting young and progressing.

Of course, not every child is suitable for boarding at a very young age; however, getting going when young allows children to become fully immersed in school life and, in fact, the support available and the pastoral care is phenomenal.

At least half of the market for prep schools in Hong Kong is coming through us.

In the past, at Britannia, we might receive 60 applications for prep schools in any given year. Recently though, due to the political climate in Hong Kong, this number has absolutely rocketed. This year we received 60 applications for one prep school alone!

What we are also noticing, though, is that there’s something that families aren’t very well-informed about just yet: guardianship companies.

A guardianship company is a company that, essentially, takes care of your child when they are in the UK. It’s a legal requirement in Britain to have a guardian, even for children at boarding schools.

This means that if a Hong Kong family doesn’t have relatives in the UK who can do this for them, then a caring and reputable guardianship company is a must.

Caroline Drewett, director of Belgravia Guardians, has noticed the increased demand in prep schools and, correspondingly, for guardianship.

“We’ve had a lot more business in recent months because of the political situation. Our office in Hong Kong is really busy at the moment,” she said.

“It’s really reassuring for parents, especially of younger children who are more vulnerable when studying abroad.

“Rather than trying to phone the housemistress at 6am to find out how their child is getting on, parents can phone us whenever they like or even just walk into our office at lunchtime and talk to our Cantonese and Mandarin speaking staff, knowing they’ll get an immediate answer.”