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Local School Admissions 101

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

All children legally residing in Hong Kong are entitled to a place in a local school.

By ‘local school’, we mean a school primarily offering the local Hong Kong curriculum as stipulated by the Education Bureau. The vast majority of these schools use Cantonese as the main medium of instruction.

Typical characteristics of the local curriculum compared with an international curriculum:

We can identify four such types of school:

Most local schools are standalone primary and secondary schools. Usually, a separate application is required to move from primary to secondary. 

Some are through-trains with schools in which primary school students are automatically promoted to the secondary school. The full list of these 21 schools is here: . These schools are very much in demand as it’s seen as a huge advantage not having to apply to secondary school.

DSS/Private School Admission

Most DSS and private schools offer the local Hong Kong curriculum, whereas some do offer an alternative curriculum.

Where they do offer an alternative to the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) for the final two years of high school, they must maintain a majority (at least 51%) of students opting for the DSE. This is a requirement of the school to meet its obligations to the EDB and to continue to receive funding.

Students in some schools with IBDP/A Levels as an option are not necessarily free to opt out of the DSE; the school retains the authority to allow them to enrol (or not). So, schools will only allow their best students to enrol and maintain high average scores.

Private and DSS schools are highly selective.

Application Procedure

Schools will have their own schedule. The earliest applications are due in May of the year prior to entry (in September). First round interviews are usually in August with some schools having multiple rounds of interviews.

ie A child born in June 2011 will be eligible to enter P1 in Sept 2017. Parents will apply May-Dec 2016, according to each school’s schedule.

“small babies”

ie A child born in Nov 2011 will be eligible to enter P1 in Sept 2017 or Sept 2018.

For DSS and private schools, parents may apply the second year if unsuccessful in the first. This applies to children born 1 Sep – 31 Dec. The child may repeat K3 in their current kindergarten. They may also take a P1 place through the POA, or any other school and repeat P1 in the preferred Private/DSS school the following year.

Some of the most popular schools receive in excess of 7,000 applications for less than 200 places. For this reason, we suggest parents apply to as many preferred schools as possible. Application fees are generally only $50. Also, schools will often schedule interviews on the same days so you may need to make some decisions as to which interviews to attend.

If you are successful in being offered a place at a DSS or private school you will no longer be eligible for a place through the Primary One Allocation. (POA). If a place has been allocated to that child through the POA, this place will be withdrawn.

Gov’t/Aided School Admission

Provided a child is 5 years 8 months to 7 years on 1 September and has not previously been allocated a P1 place at a DSS school or through the POA system, you may apply for a government or aided school. Most people start applying to schools in the beginning of K3 having done their research in K2. Most local kindergartens are very helpful in helping familiarise parents and students with the application and assessment process by arranging talks and workshops and offering advice. Many local kindergartens have good relationships with primary schools and can put in a good word for a particular student.

Stage One: Discretionary Place (DP)

  1. Collect the form on the prescribed dates in September.

  2. Submit the completed form to your ONE selected government or aided school on the exact dates specified at the end of September. You may select any school; inside or outside of your school net. (See school nets: )

  3. Check the result at the end of November with the school directly.

  4. Register with the selected school, if successful.

  5. Proceed to Stage Two, if unsuccessful.

Under Stage One, places are allocated into two categories:

Category A

Siblings/Children of staff – About 30% of places allocated. Guaranteed place.

Category B

Children with highest number of points. At least 20% of places allocated.

Schools will reserve about 50% of places for places allocated through the discretionary stage.

Stage Two: Central Allocation (CA)

  1. Attend the designated central allocation centre on the specified date(s)

  2. Select up to 3 schools – these may be inside or outside your school net and are known as ‘unrestricted choices’.

  3. Select up to 30 schools – these must be inside your school net and are known as ‘restricted choices’. Some nets do not have as many as 30 schools; in this case, leave the remaining options blank.

  4. Submit at the end of January.

  5. Check the results in early June

  6. Register with the school allocated.

Schools will reserve about 50% of places for centrally allocated places. Of this 50%, about 10% of places will be allocated to candidates outside the school net through the ‘unrestricted choice’ part of Central Allocation.

However, if a parent indicates on the Application Form for POA that their child cannot use Chinese as a medium for learning for their restricted choices they can select schools within their Net AND schools in other Nets that traditionally have a higher intake of non Chinese students (NCS).

Central Allocation is based on parent choice and a random lottery of allocated student numbers. The system first processes the unrestricted choices and the restricted choices.

Triple 1

If you have a strong preference for one school, use the Triple 1 approach (‘111′). To achieve this, your preferred school must be within your Net. You should then select this school in the DA round, and then as your first choice in BOTH restricted and unrestricted choices for the CA.

Stage Three: Door Knocking

Schools hold a handful of places after DA and CA. If, after CA, you have been allocated a school you are happy with you can try to “knock on the door” of your preferred schools and see if you can secure a place. The success rate is very low, but higher for those schools selected as ‘111′.


Where do I get an application form?

Your child’s kindergarten may distribute them. If not, you can collect one during September from any District Office (Public Service Enquiry Centres) or the School Allocation Section of the Regional Education Offices of the Education Bureau.

For the DA, can I apply to more than one school?

No. If you attempt to do so, your application will be marked null and void and go straight through to CA.

My child doesn’t have a Hong Kong passport; can we apply?

Yes, any child legally resident in Hong Kong may apply.

My child doesn’t speak Cantonese; can we apply?

Yes. If you prefer schools with a greater emphasis on English, you can consider these schools which devote more resources to support Non Chinese speaking children:

However, if you prefer an unmodified curriculum with high expectations in Chinese from all students, you may look for a school with a minimum number of non Chinese children. If you don’t read and write Chinese, look for a school with some English information on their website.


P1 – Primary One (6 years old)

POA: Primary One allocation

DA: Discretionary allocation. The first round of applications.

CA: Central allocation.

Net: catchment area

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