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LCQ3: Primary One places in the North District

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (June 6):


     I have recently received requests for assistance from several parents and school principals in the North District, pointing out that due to insufficient Primary One ("P1") places in the district, quite a number of school children need to attend school in other districts, thereby causing inconvenience and danger to them.  They have also pointed out that in addition to the continuous increase in population in the district, another factor attributing to the insufficiency of P1 places is that quite a number of school children originally receiving pre-school education on the Mainland choose to attend primary school in Hong Kong, and thus intensify the competition for school places.  Although the Education Bureau has recently permitted additional intake of students by the primary schools in the district as an alleviating measure, it has not allocated additional resources to the schools concerned.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the numbers of P1 school children living in the North District who had been allocated primary school places in other districts in each of the past five years, and the respective percentages of such numbers in the total numbers of school-age children in the district; the anticipated changes in the relevant figures in the coming five years (set out the information in table form);

(b) whether it will consider constructing new primary school premises in the district or permitting school sponsoring bodies to use existing vacant school premises to operate schools expeditiously, as a mid-term or long-term measure to alleviate the problem of insufficient school places; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) of the expected increase in intake of students by the primary schools in the district in the 2012-2013 school year; whether it has assessed the impact of increased intake on the quality of teaching and learning; whether it will, for this reason, allocate additional resources and manpower to the schools concerned to help alleviate the pressure on their teaching staff; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     Firstly, I would like to reiterate that the Administration will ensure the provision of sufficient public sector school places for children eligible for receiving education in Hong Kong.  In view of the demand for school places from children born in Hong Kong to Mainland women and returning to Hong Kong for education (including cross-boundary students) in recent years, we have increased the provision of school places through flexible measures as far as possible to ensure sufficient school places for local children.  My reply to the three-part question raised by Hon Chan is as follows:

(a) The numbers of Primary One Admission (POA) applicants residing in the North District but allocated primary school places in other districts at the Central Allocation stage in the past five years, and the percentages of such applicants in the respective years are listed at Annex.

     In estimating the future demand for public sector primary school places in the North District, the Education Bureau (EDB) will make reference to the school-age population projections, which are compiled based on the population projections updated regularly by the Census and Statistics Department, and take into account the actual numbers of existing students at various levels and the latest demographic changes (including the number of cross-boundary students) so that relevant measures can be formulated to meet the demand.  Since the actual demand for school places mainly depends on the school-age population and parental choices, and it is difficult to predict with any accuracy the increase in cross-boundary students, in particular year-on-year changes, the EDB will not prematurely provide projections on the number of P1 students residing in the North District but allocated school places in other districts in the next few years.

(b) In meeting the demand for P1 school places in the North District, we have already formulated medium and long-term measures to increase the supply of school places.  For medium-term measures, we are actively carrying out works for addition of classrooms in four existing primary schools in the North District.  We anticipate that the works can be completed in the 2013/14 school year.  We will also look for suitable vacant school premises that may be recycled for school use in the North District so as to cater for the short-term needs of existing schools for additional classrooms.  However, the feasibility of recycling vacant school premises and the lead time required for constructing new school premises depend on a number of factors, including land status of the site concerned, transport network in the vicinity and facilities available in the premises.  It should be noted that most of the vacant school premises in the North District are ex-rural school premises, most of which have only a limited number of classrooms and are remotely located.  We are conducting feasibility studies on the existing vacant school premises.  If any of them is found suitable, we will arrange allocation in accordance with the established procedures and relevant land policies.

     Since a typical school building project will take six years to complete and require substantial resources, such projects should tie in with the future development of the districts concerned and hence are considered long-term measures.  We have already started the planning of a primary school project at Area 36 of Fanling with a view to reprovisioning existing primary schools.  Before conducting the school allocation and seeking financial resources for the school building project, we have to review the long-term development and demand in the North District to ensure the effective use of land and public resources.  We would not hastily build new school premises in the face of short-term demand so as to avoid keen competition for student intake among existing schools in the district or even under-enrolment when there is a change in the student population.

(c) Under the existing allocation mechanism, we will increase the number of operating classes or allocate more students to each class when necessary to cope with changes in the demand for school places from year to year.  In the 2012 POA exercise, we have allocated two more students to each P1 class in all the 26 schools in Net 80 and Net 81 of the North District.  In other words, the numbers of P1 students per class in schools implementing Small Class Teaching and in other schools are 27 and 32 respectively.  As the number of students allocated to each class is still within the enrolment cap, the quality of teaching and learning should not be affected.  I have to stress that allocating additional P1 students to each class is only a temporary measure.  As such, no additional resources will be provided.

     For schools in the district that will operate additional P1 classes by making use of vacant classrooms or other rooms in the 2012/13 school year, the amount of operating expenses block grant and teaching staff entitlement will be determined according to the total number of operating classes under the established mechanism.

Ends/Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Issued at HKT 12:59


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