Thanks for all the comprehensive replies.
with regard to schools, we already assume that top top schools are out - I did email Kellett and they told me they already had 600 applications for year 1... but I was welcome to apply and send them HK$2000 for the privilege!! Response from ESF wasn't particularly useful, just cut and pasted all the information from their website which didn't really help. Will have a look at some of the others schools mentioned above.
As for cycling, I cycle in central London everyday so am used to a fairly poor standard of driving. I guess the ideal would be to look for accommodation within cycling distance of an MTR station if I am likely to be commuting that way. Otherwise am I right in thinking that there are ferries from places like discovery bay?
Village lifestyle appeals because it is the least departure from our current lifestyle. I guess the aversion to high rise living is that my understanding is it is more expensive per square meter etc, and I value space over distance to the office (hence living in a decent sized house in the Kent countryside with a longish commute rather than in a shoebox flat within central London!)
I have been offered the possibility of a short trial period/explore if I want, but it isn't really fair for me to be yanking the kids out of nursery (and my wife out of school, which would have to be unpaid) for a couple of weeks to take them to the other side of the world, as we wouldn't really be able to accomplish much of use.
The main priority is trying to sort a school place and I should hopefully get more details about the package etc today, so may be in a better position soon