As Southside Kindergarten's founder and supervisor I am delighted to welcome you to our website and provide a brief introduction.
Founded in 2000, Southside is an independent, co-educational kindergarten in Repulse Bay.
Southside is recognised within Hong Kong for its caring, innovative, and highly individualised approach to the education of preschoolers. We teach in English, but provide exposure to Mandarin on a daily basis with an option for additional classes. Southside children typically progress to Hong Kong's leading international schools.
Parents usually choose to enrol their children into either morning or afternoon sessions, and subsequently attend an extended day class when they are four and five years old. During the extended day period we make use of Sylvan's Beginning Reading and Early Mathematics programmes to ensure children are well-prepared for primary school.
Our educational philosophy is rooted in the works of Helen Parkhurst and Lev Vygotsky. However, it has been heavily influenced by subsequent refinements of the Dalton Plan and developments such as those documented in "Tools of the Mind". Like all professionals, we are constantly learning, and adapting our methods.
Parents are strongly encouraged to arrange visits to Southside, and other kindergartens, before making their choice of preferred school. What matters most is not the words in a website, but the intuitive feel that parents, and their children, can experience when visiting a school.
I look forward to your visit, and an opportunity for us to discover whether Southside is the right choice for your child.
At Southside we follow the Foundation Stage of the UK National Curriculum. However, our progressive model of education is evident in all our activities. Teachers implement hands-on, experiential activities to enable children to acquire essential skills, engage in creative thinking, broaden knowledge, and deepen understanding.
We adopt a Vygotskian approach to early childhood learning, and play is used as a primary learning activity. The constructive use of play is one of the two main differences between our approach, and that of a typical Montessori school (the other relates to the role of language in development – parents interested to learn more are recommended to read “Tools of the Mind” by Elena Bodrova and Deborah J. Leong).
Our approach is highly individualised, and has a strong focus on the development of what we often refer to as “life skills” (self-regulation, deliberate memory and focused attention). Life skills are the underlying cognitive skills that are often used by reception teachers at primary schools to judge the performance of their students’ previous kindergartens.
We are proud of what we do, and look forward to showing you around the school where we can further explain how we would work closely with you to ensure your child receives all the support needed in these critical early years. Until then, you can gain a sneak peak into our curriculum by clicking on the buttons below.
Open to all children three years old and above, even those who don't attend Southside in the morning, our Extended Day programme provides the perfect platform to prepare young learners for entry into primary school. It presents a unique experience that builds confidence, resilience, and new skill sets, serving as a gentle introduction to a more formalised learning environment.
Through careful observation and exposure to different skills, we determine exactly what each child needs to extend their learning; whether it be cognitive, language, or social. Each daily session includes an hour of individualised instruction, equally split between Mathematics and English, and an additional half hour of Mandarin.
Southside Kindergarten is located within The Repulse Bay, a charming colonial building constructed on the site of the former The Repulse Bay Hotel. From its privileged position in the eastern wing of the upper terrace, it enjoys commanding views of the South China Sea.
The oasis of tranquility and nostalgia houses an appealing range of shops, restaurants, and professional service providers. It is also one of Hong Kong's most attractive locations for wedding banquets.
The four associated residential towers comprise one of the most recognised apartment buildings in the world, courtesy of a much-photographed "feng shui" hole. The complex and the serviced apartments are managed by Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, the manager of The Peninsula Hotel.
The Repulse Bay is easily accessible by car or taxi and has ample parking facilities. It is also serviced by many busses as well as the new South Island Line of the MTR.
Southside is committed to an open, fair, and transparent admissions policy. There are no academic admissions tests, and the bypassing of waitings lists by means of debentures or donations is not possible. Parents are therefore encouraged to apply well in advance to avoid disappointment.
We look forward to hearing from you and helping you along this exciting journey.
A message from our founder, Cheryl Raper:
The original edition of "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum dominated the New York Times best seller list throughout 1989. I mention this in the hope that it will remind you that your choice of kindergarten will have a significant impact on the rest of your child's life.
My vision for Southside is to be a role model kindergarten that serves as a catalyst for the continuous improvements of all kindergartens in Hong Kong and China. At Southside we all understand our important role in helping you to lay the foundations of your child's character and attitude to school.
As an educator I am a great admirer of the work pioneered by Helen Parkhurst and subsequently developed within the Dalton School. The Dalton Plan, with its focus on House, Assignment, and Lab, creates a framework that cultivates a high level of self-responsibility. It also uses a highly individualised approach that adapts to the differing needs of each student. I find that many of the teachers I admire the most adopt similar methods, even though they may not explicitly follow the Dalton Plan.
However, when looking at the needs of preschool children I am also influence significantly by the work of Lev Vygotsky. The main strength of his approach is the emphasis on the underlying cognitive skills that most concern parents and teachers; self-regulation, deliberate memory, and focused attention. It is the development of these skills that can have a radical effect on a child's entire outlook toward school.
The other hallmark of the Vygotskian approach is the use of play as a primary learning activity. It provides the tools to help teachers strengthen play's contribution to childhood.
"The true business of the school is not to chain the pupil to preconceived ideas, but to set him free to discover his own ideas and to help bring his powers upon the problem of learning... Let us think of the school as a place where community conditions prevail as they prevail in life itself". Helen Parkhurst in "Education on the Dalton Plan".
Southside is committed to cultivating excitement and joy in the process of learning. We nurture the natural inquisitiveness that exists in all children and help them to develop self-confidence and a positive approach to life. We lay the foundations for future success, not just in academia, but in all aspects of life.
Southside provides a homely environment. It is a place of transitions: first from home to kindergarten, and later from kindergarten to primary school. Our aim is to make those transitions as smooth as possible.
Southside understands that many parents in Hong Kong worry about securing admission to the "better" international schools. We are proud of our results, and even more proud that these results have been achieved without resorting to cramming or rote learning. Our approach is highly individualised and we work closely with parents to achieve what is best for their child.
It is worth reminding ourselves that Robert Fulghum's lessons from kindergarten were:
Though at Southside we prefer to promote healthy snacks rather than warm cookies, Robert Fulghum's words have an authenticity and effectiveness that is to be admired.
For example, it is easy to say that we value "honesty", but that statement has little practical value. Very few people will admit that they are not honest. Most will believe themselves to be honest even if they have taken something that doesn't belong to them. An intelligent adult of child can easily rationalise such an action. In contrast, "Don't take things that aren't yours" doesn't use an emotive word like "honesty" or "stealing", and thus enables us to focus on the action we want to discourage, rather than labelling the person in a very negative way.
At Southside we pride ourselves on our ability to respond to "problems" in a calm and caring manner. Our aim is to help to build the sort of character that all parents want to see in their children. A good kindergarten needs to do many things well. However, the ability of our people to turn such "problems" into effective learning experiences is the hallmark of a great kindergarten.
Teachers use the term "hidden curriculum" to describe the things that are taught in addition to the subjects of the more formal curriculum. If you look at the list of things learned by Robert Fulghum (author of "Everything I Need to Know I Learned at Kindergarten"), you'll see that most of them fall into what we would call the "hidden curriculum".
In most of our lessons, we probably spend more time teaching life skills than we do teaching the formal subject. This is a conscious decision on our part. Our aim is to ensure that children progress to primary school with the underlying cognitive skills that will help them to enjoy school and succeed academically. Self-regulation, deliberate memory, and focus attention are as, if not more, important than pre-academic skills.
The Vygotskian approach is that pre-academic skills should emerge out of children's interests in a social context appropriate to young children. Large groups of children should not be drilled on counting by a teacher. Instead, the use of numbers should emerge naturally when children are engaged in activities, such as measuring ingredients for a recipe, or dividing up tokens for use in a game.
Levels of numeracy are monitored by the regular proprietary assessment from Sylvan Learning. This gives us an objective way to monitor improvements in numeracy, and respond appropriately to the individual needs of each child, whether it be for extra support or extension work.
The Vygotskian approach is that pre-academic skills should emerge out of children's interests in a social context appropriate to young children. Large groups of children should not be drilled on phonics by a teacher. Instead, reading and writing should emerge out of a desire to write messages to a friend or a note to Mom or Dad, or other similar activities.
Southside makes use of Get Reading Right materials, as their synthetic phonic approach is considered to be consistent with our overall philosophy.
Levels of literacy are monitored by the regular use of proprietary assessments from Sylvan Learning. This gives us an objective way to monitor improvements in literacy, and respond appropriately to the individual needs of each child.
For a small minority of children at Southside, English may not be their mother first language, or the primary language spoken at home. This is rarely a problem as young children quickly pick up the language as it is the medium of instruction.
Southside also provides daily exposure to Mandarin. This is partly a reflection of our commitment to diversity, partly because most of the children will progress to international schools where Mandarin will be taught, and partly because the children enjoy it and find it easier to pick up at a very young age.
Southside is keen to develop an interest in the creative arts amongst its students. Arts & Craft and Music have formal lessons in the timetable, while singing and dancing are frequently used as parts of academic lessons or formal play time. Shows involving acting, singing, and dancing are an important part of the school calendar.
All of these activities have considerable value in their own right. However, they also provide many opportunities for the development of underlying cognitive skills.
Southside provides modest exposure to science, geography, and other subjects of interest to preschoolers. The purpose of these lessons is to cultivate a passion for learning and provide opportunities to stimulate the use and development of literacy and numeracy skills.
Southside pays particular attention to the physical development of its students. All students have their eyesight and hearing tested on an annual basis. Organised play incorporates activities designed to encourage the development of hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills. Performance is formally monitored by observation of certain planned activities, and parents are consulted if any particular strengths or weaknesses are noted.