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LCQ6: Primary One places in the North District

     Following is a question by the Hon Frankie Yick Chi-ming and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (February 6):


     It has been reported that the Secretary for Education (SED) has indicated that the proportion of students who were born in Hong Kong and do not have mainland household registration but whose parents are non-permanent residents of Hong Kong, commonly known as "doubly non-permanent resident students" (DNR students), coming to Hong Kong for primary education in the near future is expected to increase substantially from between 40% and 50%, as originally estimated, to 65%, reaching 130 000 persons.  The increase in the aforesaid figure is mainly attributed to the recent cessation of admission of such students, who do not have mainland household registration, by the public schools on the Mainland.  The pressure of DNR students on the demand for local school places has been increasing, and the school nets in the North District are the first to bear the brunt, with a shortage of about 800 to 1 000 school places in the Sheung Shui school net this year.  Therefore, local students residing in that district may need to travel long distance to attend schools in other districts, and DNR students may also be allocated to schools in various districts.  SED has also indicated that as the allocation process has already commenced, it is difficult to implement in the North District the policy of according priority to local students in the allocation of school places, and that the issue of fairness has to be taken into consideration.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that some principals of the schools in the North District had earlier said that while the Education Bureau had undertaken that priority would be accorded to students residing within the school nets in the North District in the allocation of Primary One places, SED later made different remarks on this issue, whether the Government has currently put in place a policy which stipulates that students residing within a particular school net will be accorded priority in the allocation of Primary One places in the same school net; if it has, of the relevant data concerning the implementation of such policy in various school nets in the past three years, and the reasons why it is difficult to implement such policy in the North District at present; if it has not, the reasons for that;

(b) as it has been reported that the authorities will introduce five measures to ameliorate the problem of shortage of Primary One school places in the North District, of the details of the various measures and the expected results, including whether these measures can ensure sufficient Primary One places in the North District this year; if they cannot, of the measures in place to support the students who have not been allocated school places within the districts of their residence and their families; and

(c) whether the authorities have now obtained information on the demand of DNR students for school places at various grades, and on the time that they intend to come to Hong Kong for education; if they have, of the details; if they have not, when such information will become available; whether the authorities have assessed the short, medium and long term demand of DNR students for school places, as well as whether the places in various school nets in the corresponding periods are sufficient to meet the demand of DNR students and to ensure that all local students are not required to attend schools in other districts?



     The Government will ensure the provision of sufficient public sector school places for children eligible for receiving education in Hong Kong.  Under the existing Primary One Admission (POA) System, all eligible children, including cross-boundary students, can take part in the POA for admission to public sector primary schools.  My reply to the three-part question of Hon Yick is as follows:

(a) When inviting application for POA for the 2013/14 school year in September 2012, we made clear to all parents the eligibility requirements(Note 1) (including the child concerned must be a Hong Kong resident) as well as the allocation mechanism (Note 2) of the POA System.

     In brief, the POA System comprises two stages: Discretionary Places Admission stage and Central Allocation stage.  During the Discretionary Places Admission stage, parents are open to apply to any public sector primary schools.  The Central Allocation is based primarily on parental choices.  For oversubscribed schools, the order of priority in school places allocation will be determined by a computer-generated random number for each applicant so as to ensure fairness.  Therefore, children residing in the school net do not have priority in the Central Allocation exercise.  Parents joining the POA 2013 had completed the choice making exercise of the Central Allocation on January 19 or 20. They have legitimate expectations on the publicly announced operation of the Central Allocation exercise (including the order of priority). It is rather difficult to change the order of Primary One (P1) places allocation haphazardly when the exercise is now in progress.

(b) We expected that the shortfall of P1 places in the North District in the 2013/14 school year will be less than 1 400.  Since the projected number of cross-boundary students will drop after a few years, approximately in 2018, we will adopt flexible measures to ensure that sufficient P1 places will be made available for take-up in September 2013.  Such measures include, firstly, borrowing places from Tai Po school net; secondly, making use of unused classrooms in the North District; thirdly, converting rooms originally designed for other purposes into additional classrooms; fourthly, allocating more students to each class.   Meanwhile, fifthly, we have embarked on extension projects in four existing primary schools in the North District.  We have also devised contingency plans to ensure that the additional classrooms needed will be available for use in the 2013/14 school year.

     We understand that some parents residing in the North District are concerned that their children might be required to attend school in Tai Po under the POA System as a result of the increase in cross-boundary students.  To address their concerns, we are going to implement special measures for their children. After the release of allocation results in June this year, for students residing in the North District and assigned to a school net in the district during their POA application but have been allocated places in Tai Po in the Central Allocation, they can seek help from this Bureau if they wish to give up the allocated places in Tai Po and stay within the district for schooling. We pledge to increase the school places in the North District in order to address their wish by arranging P1 places in the North District for them.

     Meanwhile, the Education Bureau will make every effort to enhance the arrangements for the 2014/15 and subsequent school years, with a view to according priority to the students of the North District in a legal and reasonable way, and reducing significantly the number of students who are subject to cross-district allocation due to the impact of cross-boundary students.  We will collaborate with other bureaux and departments to improve the cross-boundary support measures for more effective diversion of cross-boundary students to other districts.

(c) Nearly 160 000 Type II babies (born to Mainland women in Hong Kong and whose fathers are non-permanent residents of Hong Kong) were born in Hong Kong between 2006 and 2011, and about 23 000 between January and October 2012.  These Type II babies and local babies are both Hong Kong residents.  The Census and Statistics Department anticipates that about 50% of these Type II babies will return to Hong Kong for settlement before reaching the age of 21.

     For those Type II babies that do not return to Hong Kong for settlement, some of them will choose to cross the Shenzhen boundary to attend school in Hong Kong every day as cross-boundary students.  For 2012, there were about 6 800 cross-boundary students in the public sector primary schools (Note 3). These students comprise children of Hong Kong residents residing in Shenzhen, and children born to Mainland women in Hong Kong and whose fathers are permanent residents of Hong Kong.  The number of cross-boundary students as well as the boundary control points which they use to access Hong Kong are subject to year-on-year changes depending on family factors, distribution of their places of residence, and adjustment of relevant policies, etc.  Therefore, it is difficult to make an accurate projection.  We will take into account the year-on-year progression of cross-boundary students already attending schools in Hong Kong and the prevalent number of POA applicants when estimating the number and planning school places.

     The Education bureau will closely monitor the future demand for education in Hong Kong as well as changes in the supply and demand of school places in individual districts.  In the event that specific districts suffer from a shortfall of public sector school places in the next few years, we will consider adopting different options to increase the supply of places.

Note 1: Taking the 2013 POA (i.e. application for P1 places in government or aided schools in September 2013) as an example, applicants must meet all the requirements set out below:
(1) Hong Kong resident;
(2) Reach the age of five years and eight months by the time of enrolment in September 2013 (i.e. born on or before December 31, 2007; children who were born on or after January 1, 2008 are underage);
(3) Not attending any primary school; and
(4) Have never been allocated a P1 place under the POA System.

Note 2: For details, please refer to the booklet "Primary One Admission for September 2013" distributed to parents in September 2012 and the Notes on How to Complete the "Choice of Schools Form" for the Central Allocation exercise (point 6) given to parents on January 19/20 2013.

Note 3: Based on the Education Bureau's research on schools in the New Territories (including Tung Chung) and therefore not reflecting the situation of other districts.

Ends/Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Issued at HKT 17:02


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