LCQ2: Class sizes of special schools

     Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Man-kwong and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (November 26):


     The Education Bureau informed this Council in February this year that it was reviewing the class sizes of the different categories of special schools.  It indicated in May that it was liaising and exchanging views with the special schools on their proposals and justifications for changing the class sizes, and anticipated that it would announce the decision within this year.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the latest progress of the above review;

(b) of a breakdown by school type of the names of schools and school sponsoring bodies with which the authorities have liaised, and their specific views on changes to the class sizes (including the reasonable class sizes of the different categories of special schools for meeting their actual teaching needs); and

(c) whether the authorities will reduce the class sizes of the different categories of special schools; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



(a) & (b) The Education Bureau (EDB) has considered recommendations and justifications on class sizes collected through the Hong Kong Special Schools Council (HKSSC) from all categories of aided special schools.  Following meetings with HKSSC to discuss the issue on several occasions in the past few months, we have just completed the examination of the class sizes of different categories of aided special schools.  We will brief HKSSC on the result of the review at the next meeting to be held in December.

     There are a total of 60 aided special schools, including nine categories: visual impairment (VI), visual impairment cum intellectual disability (VI cum ID), hearing impairment (HI), physical disability (PD), school for social development (SSD), mild intellectual disability (MiID), moderate intellectual disability (MoID), severe intellectual disability (SID) and hospital school (HS).  On the whole, they considered that the class sizes of special schools had not been adjusted for years, despite the fact that teachers have to handle greater learning diversity in recent years.  To tie in with the curriculum reform and to enhance the effectiveness of learning and teaching, they considered it necessary to reduce the number of students in each class.  Their proposed class sizes ranged from 6 to 15 students per class.

(c) The existing class sizes of aided special schools range from 8 to 20.  In addition to the basic teacher provision calculated according to the teacher-to-class ratio, different categories of special schools are provided with relevant specialist staff and additional teaching staff.  Specialist staff provided include School Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Occupational Therapy Assistants, Physiotherapists, Speech Therapists, Educational Psychologists and School Social Workers.  Additional teaching staff include Low-vision Training Teachers, Mobility Instructors, Resource Teachers for Autistic Children, Teachers Assisting in Speech Therapy, Resource Teachers for Supportive Educational Programmes, Primary School Master/Mistress(Curriculum Development), Teacher Librarians and Native-speaking English Teachers, etc.

     Based on the revised estimate of the 2007-08 financial year, the average unit cost per aided ordinary school place is $28,410 for primary schools and $36,200 for secondary schools whereas the average unit cost per special school place is $152,450.  As reflected from this, all along the Administration has provided more resources for special schools in order to cater for students' special needs.  For details on the existing class sizes and average unit cost per place of different categories of special schools, please refer to the Appendix.

     We have taken note of the opinions of special schools with regard to reduction of class size.  The current exercise is to review teaching and specialist staff establishment in the light of the curriculum, learning and teaching and counselling needs of students in special schools, as well as the resource implications of changing the class sizes.  Initially, we recognise that the curriculum of MiID schools follows that of ordinary schools to the greatest extent among all categories of ID schools.  With a smaller class size than the existing 20, the effectiveness of teaching and learning can be further improved and teachers will be provided with more space to take care of the greater diversity of students so as to stretch their potential and better prepare them to lead an independent and self-reliant life.  However, reduction of class size involves additional resources.  We will take into account the priorities of various needs in the education sector and, subject to availability of resources, consider adjusting the class size of this category of special schools.

Ends/Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Issued at HKT 14:25