Finding the Right Boarding School to Support Your Children

【Interview with Graeme Cooper & Helen Wong-Cooper, Founders of UK Education Advisers】

Specialising in helping parents find places for their children at UK boarding schools and government colleges, UK Education Advisers, (also known as Coopers & Coopers Ltd.), has over 20 years of experience. Founded by the Coopers, Graeme Cooper and Helen Wong-Cooper, UK Education Advisers offers a personalised consultancy service to every parent and student. “When we started, there were only 6-8 main educational consultancy services of this nature. Having 21 years of experience, we offer a very knowledgeable service and are proud to say we really know the schools, having visited almost every school that we represent. We know what we are doing.” says Graeme.

Graeme graduated from Oxford University. Whilst there he ran a society where he taught English to immigrant children. Graeme said “I enjoyed teaching, but did not want to teach in a conventional classroom. Even after I became an accountant, I still did some tutoring during weekends.” Graeme met his wife, Helen, who was the guardian for many Hong Kong boarding school students. They moved back to Hong Kong, where Graeme was employed by a well-known bank. The idea of starting UK Education Advisers materialised 21 years ago when an agent approached the Coopers. “We thought this would be a more emotionally rewarding business to get into. Consultancy service requires a more personal-touch than banking, and education was something we both felt passionate about.”

With numerous education consultant providers in Hong Kong nowadays, UK Education Advisers differentiates themselves with their personalised service. “We personally talk to all our parents and students. It takes an hour for Graeme to interview the child and for Helen to meet the parents to discuss a study plan with them.  As founders, we are still very hands-on on the business. That’s unusual for a business of our size and age, and it gives a definite edge” says Helen.

Most pupils seeking advice on potential school places fall into the 12 to 18-year-old age range. “At first, we also helped students with university applications, but we soon realised that the admissions staff in boarding school staff seemed nicer to work with and the schools could make decisions more quickly than universities. We have then deliberately concentrated on being THE UK boarding schools specialist in Hong Kong” says Graeme. The Coopers would love to send younger children to boarding schools but it is uncommon for Hong Kong parents to send their young children to overseas boarding schools. Graeme believes going to preparatory school at age 8 or 9 could be hugely beneficial for many HK children, as they tend to adapt so readily and enjoy their UK school life immensely.

Working with a large portfolio of UK boarding schools, the Coopers and their team know the schools very well. Graeme advises parents to be realistic when choosing a boarding school. It is important to look for a school which matches the personality and abilities of the child, rather than merely focusing on parental aspirations. “That is the reason why we interview the child separately and then meet with the family to understand more about the personality, skills and interests of the child. If parents are looking for a school that will not suit their child or if they have done little to no research, children can fail to flourish in their British boarding school. This is where we make suggestions based on our vast experience and knowledge, helping the parents make an informed decision.”

Graeme points out some boarding schools are gradually changing to prepare for the differing needs pupils will have in the future. Many schools no longer only focus on just traditional academic subjects, but they also have additional vocational courses designed to prepare pupils for a specific career, (i.e. engineering, pilot training), along with many extra-curricular facilities to provide a well-rounded education.   They offer a holistic education, teaching pupils the soft skills, such as public speaking, leadership, empathy and resilience skills.  These are all qualities pupils will need to succeed in future careers, as much as traditional academic knowledge.

UK Education Advisers has helped thousands of pupils with school admissions. “There are so many success stories. Every year we get 3 or 4 students into Oxford or Cambridge. We are very happy to wish these students well on their journey and are proud for them, but we are also delighted when we are able to find places for pupils who do not necessarily have an affluent background or who have only been mediocre pupils in Hong Kong. We have had great success in recommending and placing students from Hong Kong into UK government colleges. The tuition fee is under half the price of private boarding schools, at around HK$200,000 per annum” says Graeme.

Regarding their future plans, the Coopers have no plans to diversify. “We will stick with what we are good at and what we have been doing for the last 21 years. We should like to encourage more Hong Kong students to apply to UK government colleges. It’s not just because of their low fees. These colleges offer flexibility: they still offer the traditional A level subjects, but also more vocational subjects and qualifications. Students may also find government colleges offer more chances of integrating with the British, as the colleges have a lower proportion of overseas students and offer the chance to live with a British family.” Graeme explains they would also like to introduce students to some of the specialist subjects that UK summer schools are now offering - whether a journalism, a global leadership or an enterprise and entrepreneurship course. “We hope to introduce more students to these opportunities, which will ultimately help them consider their major at university and their future career path.”

Share your experience with UK Education Advisers on Whizpa:

UK Education Advisers is going to have a Summer School Tour. For more details, please go to