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LCQ13: Secondary School Places Allocation System

     Following is a question by the Hon Leung Kwok-hung and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (June 6):


     Recently, quite a number of parents of primary students, in particular those in Ma On Shan of Sha Tin, and members of Parent-Teacher Associations have relayed to me that the teachers in the primary schools of their children who will move up to Secondary One (S1) in September this year have called on them, with coercion and inducement, to choose the secondary schools recommended by the class teachers during the discretionary places allocation stage and central allocation stage, with a view to increasing the percentage of their students moving up to those secondary schools (top band schools) which admit mainly S1 students belonging to Band One.  These parents have also pointed out that those teachers have deliberately smeared or played down certain secondary schools in order to make the parents accept the teachers' recommendations.  Quite a number of these parents have relayed to me that schools and parents have different interpretations about school banding while the Education Bureau (EDB) has not provided the list of secondary school of various banding, leaving the schools and parents not knowing what to follow, as well as giving rise to various disputes.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the Government will make changes to the existing system to inform students and parents of the outcome immediately upon the completion of the discretionary places allocation stage by secondary schools, so that parents and students need not worry about their choices of schools at the central allocation stage any more or have unnecessary disputes with the primary school teachers; if it will, of the time to do so; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) whether the Government has any measure in place to monitor serving primary school teachers to prevent them from adopting different approaches to request parents to choose the secondary schools recommended by the teachers during the discretionary places allocation stage and central allocation stage, oblivions to parents' wishes and students' abilities, and also to prevent such teachers from misleading the parents into accepting their recommendations by smearing or playing down certain secondary schools, with a view to increasing the percentage of their primary students moving up to top band schools; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) of the respective percentages of primary students being allocated by EDB to secondary schools belonging to Bands One, Two and Three in Sha Tin, Tai Po, the North District and Sai Kung in the past three years, with a breakdown in the table at Annex I; and

(d) whether the Government will immediately upload to the web site of EDB the respective percentages of S1 students belonging to Bands One, Two and Three admitted to various secondary schools each year to facilitate access by parents; if it will, of the time to do so; if not, the reasons for that?



(a) The Education Bureau (EDB) is open-minded as to whether the arrangement of releasing the results of discretionary places (DP) allocation and central allocation (CA) at the same time should continue under the Secondary School Places Allocation (SSPA) System.  In this regard, the Education Commission Working Group when reviewing the SSPA System in 2005 had consulted stakeholders on the early release of DP allocation results as suggested by some parents (Note 1).  After careful consideration and explanation to parents, we were of the view that this was a well-established practice.  On the other hand, allowing some students in a class to know the DP application results in advance might lead to an undesirable labeling effect and give rise to adverse impact on the overall learning atmosphere.

     Starting from 2007, the DP quota for each school has been raised to 30%, and the number of secondary schools that parents and students can choose has also been increased to two (with the order of preference indicated to the EDB).  According to the existing workflow, it is estimated that DP results could be announced at the earliest in late May or early June each year after secondary schools' verification of the students selected to fill their DP places.  By then, Primary Six students should have already completed the Choice of Schools Forms for the CA stage to tie in with the release of results in early July.  As such, there is little room for and benefit in early release of DP results.  In fact, the issue has been considered by the Secondary School Places Allocation Committee comprising representatives from school councils / associations and schools in the districts.  Acknowledging that the prevailing arrangement can better balance the aspirations of different stakeholders and align with the operation of schools, the committee has also agreed to maintain the existing practice to ensure the smooth operation of the SSPA System.

(b) To be in line with the School Development and Accountability Framework, schools should disseminate information in a professional manner, irrespective of the means to be adopted in dissemination such as through school websites, parents' briefings on Secondary 1 school choices etc., so as to ensure transparency of information and refrain from over-simplification to avoid possible misleading among parents.

     We have reminded primary schools of the important points to note when offering school choice counseling for parents in the briefings organised for primary schools on Secondary 1 admission every year.  The School Places Allocation Section of the EDB has set up a dedicated hotline for parents in order to co-ordinate and monitor the operation of the SSPA System while advice and guidance to schools will be offered as appropriate.  Besides, we organise a series of parent briefing sessions every year, inviting school principals/teachers to join us in educating parents on how to learn more about individual schools and from different perspectives in order to make appropriate school choices, taking into account the interests, needs and abilities of their children.

     We have not received any complaints about primary school teachers influencing parents' school choices this year.  We will continue to strengthen parent education so that parents understand that they should gather comprehensive information about individual schools for making balanced decisions on school choices for their children.

(c) Each year, the EDB provides individual schools with information of the overall banding (Note 2) of their Secondary 1 intakes with a view to enabling schools to have a general idea about the abilities of their Secondary 1 students, thus facilitating the formulation of teaching strategies including support measures for remedial and enrichment purposes to better meet the needs of their students.  Since the banding information is prepared specially for individual schools with reference to their Secondary 1 intakes, it is possessed by the schools concerned and, according to paragraph 2.14(a) of the Code on Access to Information, the EDB should not disclose the information.  In tandem, the schools have also signed an undertaking pledging not to disclose the information.

(d) The banding information on Secondary 1 intakes of individual school is generated from data which has been adjusted and converted in the allocation process.  There is a consensus of not disclosing the information so as to avoid the information being inadvertently interpreted as an indicator of school quality with unnecessary labeling effect and undue pressure on teachers and students.

Note 1: Chapter 6 of the "Report on Review of Medium of Instruction for Secondary Schools and Secondary School Places Allocation" published in December 2005 is relevant and extracts are at the Annex II.

Note 2: Primary schools participating in the SSPA System are required to submit to the EDB their students' internal assessment (IA) results at the end of Primary 5, in mid-year of Primary 6 and at the end of Primary 6.  IA results will be standardised by a computer programme to generate the "total IA score" of each student in each school term.  To facilitate comparison across schools and formation of a fair order of merit, which will form the basis for determining allocation bands, a scaling mechanism is used to scale the "total IA scores" of the students of participating schools.  The scaled scores of the three terms will then be averaged to give the "average total scaled scores".  According to their "average total scaled scores", all students in the territory/in each school net will be put into an order of merit and are equally divided into three Territory Bands/Net Bands.

Ends/Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Issued at HKT 15:02


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