This study examines the issues surrounding ‘student voice’ in a specific Chinese context, and assesses the key elements of leadership that could enhance student voice in that context. It reports the results of a research conducted in a community-based educational centre in Hong Kong that provides after-school educational and social adjustment programmes for children aged 6–15. Although the centre promotes the principle of student voice, the perceptions and attitudes of students and teachers towards this principle are found to be different. Analysis draws on several sources, including semi-structured interviews, observations and related documentation. Based on the data collected, the gaps between teachers’ and students’ perspectives of student voice are identified, and cultural perspectives are discussed. Student voice is found to be a key issue for children. The recommendations for institutional leaders who seek to promote this concept include valuing student voice, embracing a willingness to construct a new partnership with students and ensuring consistent whole-institution commitment. Copyright © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business.