If my child’s mainstream school demands that they have a shadow teacher, who gets to select the shadow teacher?

The school always gets to select – some schools will allow you be part of the process, especially if your child has severe physical disabilities. With or without a shadow teacher in place, inform your teacher how your child can best be helped. You can write up a concise one-page report on what they may want to be aware of, including any behavioural issues your child may have. Be a partner with the school and your child’s classroom teacher, and you can find a suitable solution for your child.

What is the Springboard learning support class? What grade levels does it include?

The Korean International School (KIS) has two classrooms called Springboard – a primary classroom and a middle school classroom. Between the two classrooms, they have a total of 16 children, from the ages of 5 to 16. It’s an individualised programme, and the students integrate with the other students of KIS as appropriate. Please be aware that the curriculum is based on ASDAN which only goes up to 16 years old. If your child is capable, he/she may switch to The Korean International School which offers the GCSE programme.

How does ESF run their learning support?

English School Foundation designates a number of spaces across their primary and secondary schools for learning support. ESF also has a system to delineate children that require different levels of support and it’s helpful to understand their categorisation. Students in level 1 or 2 are placed in mainstream classroom with a minimum level support. Students in level 3 or 4 would enter the ESF Learning Support classes to receive more support. Children in level 5 or level 6 are placed at the Jockey Club Sarah Roe School.

If you have made an application to receive learning support, ESF staff may request to observe your child in a classroom setting. They will determine your child’s level and offer you a place if appropriate.

My child turns four this year, so he’s supposed to apply to ESF by the end of September. Is it okay if I wait for one more year to apply, or does it definitely depend on the age of the child?

The date for an ESF application is based on the year that the child is born, and ESF wants to reserve the right to determine whether or not your child is ready to start school there – so in short you must apply now and not wait another year. After your application, ESF may determine that your child should wait another year to start and they will inform you of their decision by letter. If you want your child to study at ESF for the coming years, then you should trust their professional judgement on an appropriate start date for your child.

What is the application process like for other schools outside of ESF?

Many other schools have more flexible admissions policies, and they’re not as strict as ESF. It is best to call the school that you’re interested in, and ask them your questions directly.

How important is including an assessment in the application process? Should an assessment always accompany an application?

All schools that accept primary 1 students will require an assessment. Each school has its own requirements, so it’s best to check with the schools directly. While the schools may conduct an assessment of their own, it is not the same kind of formal psycho-educational assessment; so please bear this in mind when you inquire about each school’s assessment requirements. Schools request and require assessment because they need to know the learning style of your child and how to move forward.

When ESF are ready to look at your child they will require a full psycho-educational assessment and families are generally given three months to submit this. Some other schools will require an assessment usually only after the child has been accepted into the school.

What do you do if you don’t get a space?

If you cannot secure a placement at the schools to which you have made applications, then your child may be able to stay at the kindergarten or at CDC. We have had many cases where children have stayed at the CDC until they turned 7 because they could not secure a primary school placement. However, if your child is offered a placement at a school which you do not feel is the best option at the moment, it may still be worthwhile to consider accepting it – if a school offers a placement for your child, they would have made an internal assessment of their ability to support your child’s needs.

My child has just started at CDC, but I want to be prepared for his eventual application to primary school – what does the CDC do to prepare children for primary school?

CDC offers many programmes for young children to prepare them for primary school. In addition to our main Toddler Group (Teddy Bears) and Preschool Group (Tigers & Giraffes) programmes, there are other group programmes that target skills to prepare young children for primary school, such as

  • EIG Programmes
  • Language Groups
  • Social Skills Programmes
  • Occupational Therapy Groups
  • Attention Skills Groups
  • Math/ Literacy Groups

Depending on the needs of your child and whether there are specific areas that they need to work on for primary school success, these specialised groups may be a good addition.

Our team of staff will prepare your child for the primary education that is most suitable for them, and you can play a crucial part as well. If you child attends the Preschool programme, the assessments included in the programme can give you a sense of his strengths and weaknesses, and you can also get practical support both at the centre and at home if your child needs to work on specific goals or issues. We also offer parent reviews and parent talks, which is a great forum for you to connect with our staff on your plan for your child’s future school options. Our team is also happy to support you in your application with any reports and assessments that are needed. We know that the journey to primary school may be a daunting one, and we are here to support you along the way.

My child seems to be doing fine now in preschool, but I wonder whether primary school will be very different.

Preschool is supposed to prepare your child for the primary school environment, but yes it will be quite different in many ways and that’s why it is important to adequately prepare your child for this change.

The whole school environment will be different, and the programme structure and curriculum will also be different. The role of friendships and social networks will function differently in primary school, and so will the role of parents. For children with learning difficulties or special educational needs, primary school can also be challenging for them in terms of managing their behaviours and everyday logistics.

What do primary school teachers expect of my child in terms of their behaviour inside the classroom?

The first thing to remember is that primary school teachers, especially teachers of primary one classes, are used to students having adjustment issues. Although they have certain expectations from your child, they are also very understanding and will work with you and your child to ensure a smooth transition.

Some general expectations of P1 students inside the classroom include responding promptly when their name is called, looking and listening to the teacher when he or she is speaking, raising their hand to ask or answer questions, and for students to initiate a request for help. When students are working on tasks at their tables, teachers would expect them to stay at their seat, finish a task or complete a whole work sheet within a time limit as requested, leave the table to run errands and return to table when finish, and find tools to help themselves to complete tasks.

I think my child’s main challenge would be his self-care skills. What do mainstream primary schools expect their students to be able to do on their own?

Teachers in mainstream primary schools do expect a certain level of independence in their students in their ability to organise themselves at school. Here is a list of self-care skills that teachers usually expect:

  • Toileting and washing hands.
  • Dressing themselves and being aware of weather conditions and appropriate times to change – apron, cardigan, raincoat, P.E. clothes and shoes; and packing away clothes and being able to find shoes and clothes after changing.
  • Opening and packing their own lunch box, remaining seated during lunchtime, and finishing lunch.
  • Packing their school bag.

Being aware of these expectations can help you adequately prepare your child, so that he won’t be overwhelmed when he starts primary school.

In the later years, the expectations expand to:

  • Understanding time frames, establishing daily routines or weekly schedules.
  • Making lists e.g. things to remember and things to do.
  • Running errands and delivering messages.

My child sometimes has behavioural challenges when he interacts with other children. What would a mainstream primary school expect in terms of student behaviours in social settings?

Learning happens not only within the classroom, the playground is also an important venue for learning. Most primary schools have rules and expectations for their students in terms of appropriate behaviours. Generally, schools expect students to make friends and behave in a respectful and cooperative fashion. Some common rules and expectations include:

  • Standing still while lining up , with their hands to themselves.
  • Seek guidance and assistance from an adult when problems arise.
  • Respect other people’s space and belongings and respect other people’s feelings and other people’s “NO”.
  • Wait for their turn.
  • Behave appropriately in large groups and participate in group games.
  • Relates problem or desires appropriately and not through tantrums or whining.
  • Say “thank you”, “sorry” or be able to greet friends and teachers without prompts

Many of these skills are hard for young children, so be mindful that all children, not only yours, will be learning this at school together in a peer environment.

What are some practical things that I can do, as a parent, to prepare my child for mainstream schooling?

While it can be overwhelming to think about how your child may cope with primary school ahead, there are things you can do with your child at home that can help prepare them for the demands and structure of school. Here are some suggestions that you can try at home:

  • Establish a routine around school and homework
  • Encourage independence skills at home, for example (un-)dressing self or knowing the toilet routine
  • Practice skills at home, like sharing, reading signs, sorting and categorisation
  • Read together, play card games and board games together


There are also things that you should avoid doing:

  • Do not pre-teach your child what they will learn in class; they need to get used to learning from their classroom teacher
  • Keep extracurricular activities in moderation

I know that I have to be a proactive parent to help my child succeed in school. What are the most important things that I can do?

The best thing you can do is to be your child’s advocate as well as their mentor and parent. The role of an advocate does not come naturally to all parents; but as a parent of a child with special educational needs, your ability to take on this active role is more important than ever.

In the process of choosing schools, you can check the school’s websites and see if they have any open house opportunities or informational talks, and if they do, attend as many sessions as you can. You should also consider setting up an individual appointment where you can ask specific questions that are pertinent to your child’s needs, and you can gain more realistic expectations of how your child would perform in this particular school environment.

Once you secure a placement for your child, prepare their new teacher and let them know of the special ways that your child learns best. Keep an open communication channel, and address any emerging issues promptly.

I heard good things about certain schools. To save time and money, should I just focus on those schools?

Navigating through primary school applications, admission and transition is a tall order for any parent, so try not to get too stressed out, and ask for help when you need it. Most importantly, as you may come in contact with other children and parents, do not compare your child with someone else’s, as we all need to remember that the school choice for each child is based different and unique needs.

I am considering placing my child in an international school – what should I be aware of?

There are many international schools in Hong Kong and many families choose them for their children. However, first and foremost you must be aware that almost all international schools have limited places, so getting your child admitted may be a competitive process. Also, speech therapy and occupational therapy may not be available at the school; and they will incur an additional cost.

International schools generally use English as a teaching medium, and will follow a curriculum of their choice. Here is a list of international schools that cater to students with special educational needs for your reference. This list is by no means an exhaustive list and may change so please check with each school directly.

Special Schools: Autism Partnership, Family Partners, Jockey Club Sarah Roe School (ESF), The Children’s Institute, Learning Support Centre – ESF

Learning Support Classrooms: Bridges at International Christian School, Springboard Programme at Korean International School

“SEN-friendly” Schools: Anfield, Australian International, Carmel, Christian Alliance P.C. Lau Memorial, English Schools Foundation (ESF), Harbour School, HK Academy, International College Hong Kong – Hong Lok Yuen , International Montessori School, International Christian School, Island Christian Academy, Nord Anglia, Norwegian International School

Our family is considering sending our child to the local school system for primary school. How does it work?

The good news is that all government and government-aided schools receive funding to provide SEN services like speech therapy, occupational therapy, and social worker services. However, schools allocate these funds in different ways. They tend to use a structured and traditional approach, and follow a curriculum of their choice. These schools charge a very reasonable school fee or are free, and can alleviate the financial burden placed on families. Local schools can be a good option for families and children who can speak Cantonese.

For families who do not speak Cantonese or Chinese, there are currently no special schools in the local school system that use English as the teaching medium. There are, however, a selective number of government-aided schools (eight at our last count) that are friendly to students with SEN and use English as the teaching medium.

To apply to these schools, you must follow the procedures outlined on the Education Bureau’s website: www.edb.gov.hk