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LCQ11: Standards of the premises and learning environment of public-sector schools
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     Following is a question by the Hon Ip Kin-yuen and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (March 19):

Question:

     Regarding the standards of the school premises and learning environment of the public-sector primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council of:

(1) the respective standards of the school premises of public-sector primary and secondary schools in different periods (including the requirements on gross floor area, equipment, number of classrooms and space per student), the number of premises built in each period, as well as the number of premises which have been decommissioned and the reasons therefor;

(2) the respective current numbers of public-sector primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong with school premises not meeting the latest standards for school premises; and set out the (i) names, (ii) types (government or aided), (iii) districts, (iv) addresses, (v) gross floor areas, and (vi) causes of not meeting the standards, of such schools by the year in which the construction of the school premises commenced, and use tables of the same format as Annex 1 to set out the respective information of primary and secondary schools;

(3) the measures in place to improve the learning environment of the schools mentioned in (2), including whether priority will be accorded to redeveloping those school premises which are obsolete or grossly substandard, or whether the schools concerned will be reprovisioned;

(4) the procedure, assessment criteria and scoring scheme adopted by the School Allocation Committee under the Education Bureau (the Committee) for vetting and approving applications for school sites/premises, as well as how the Committee handles those school premises which are obsolete or grossly substandard; and

(5) the respective numbers of applications for school sites/premises which were (i) received, (ii) approved and (iii) considered but not approved by the Committee in the past five years, as well as (iv) the reasons for granting approval to the successful cases and details of such approvals, setting out such information by school type and school sponsoring body?

Reply:

President,

     Regarding the size and learning environment of public-sector primary and secondary schools, our response to the Hon Ip is as follows:

(1) Standards of public-sector school premises in Hong Kong have been changing in response to, among others, developments in classroom learning, extra-curricular activities as well as guidance and counselling work. Take public-sector primary schools as an example, they have evolved from the standard 24-classroom premises (with three special rooms) in the 1980s to the current scales of 18-, 24-, 30- or 36-classroom, equipped correspondingly with 10 to 14 special rooms for teaching and learning purposes. The prevailing reference site area is around 4 000 square metres to 7 000 square metres. As for public sector secondary schools, they have evolved from the standard 24-classroom premises (with 12 special rooms) in the 1980s to the current 30-classroom premises, with 21 special rooms for teaching and learning purposes, and a reference site area of around 7 000 square metres. At present, school premises also have to meet the planning target of providing two square metres of open space per student. As at March 2014, 228 public-sector schools were built according to the prevailing standards.

     In respect of schools which ceased operation due to various reasons, the Education Bureau (EDB) has an established mechanism for handling the vacant school premises. We will consider if the size, location and physical conditions of the premises would render it suitable for re-allocation for school uses (including primary schools, secondary schools, special schools and international schools) or other educational uses. In view of the various requests made by members of the community for early identification and disposal of vacant school premises to meet educational and other community needs, we have strengthened our existing mechanism by enhancing our liaison with various policy bureaux and departments concerned so as to facilitate early planning on the long term use of the vacant/ to-be-vacated school premises, thus enabling early deployment of the premises upon cessation of operation of the schools concerned. Regarding the vacant school premises which have been earmarked for long-term use but would be available for interim short-term use, for the purpose of proper use of resources, the EDB will follow the existing practice to regularly inform relevant government departments and invite them to consider the premises for short-term uses. For those premises that are not suitable for further school or other educational uses, we would inform the Planning Department and return them to relevant departments (such as the Lands Department) for their consideration on alternative uses in accordance with the prevailing established arrangement.

(2) and (3) School premises built in different periods follow the standards at the time of construction while existing school premises in operation are required to comply with prevailing statutory requirements. Standards are set for various facilities of school premises and they may have been updated for many times over the years. Furthermore, the EDB would also improve facilities of school premises from time to time through various channels. The EDB does not keep detailed records on compliance of each facility of some one thousand schools with the prevailing standards once they were updated. The EDB strives to upgrade the facilities of school premises according to their needs, so as to improve the learning environment. Subject to the consideration of various factors (including optimal use of public resources and technical feasibility), schools built according to the past planning standards would be upgraded and provided with adequate facilities through various means so as to meet the changing needs in teaching and learningV

(a) School Improvement Programme (SIP) V Starting from 1994, the EDB has provided 743 public-sector schools built according to the past planning standards with additional space and facilities through the SIP. Implemented in five phases, the Final Phase of the SIP was completed in 2006. The scope of the SIP varies according to the schools' visions and missions, characteristics, the facilities in place and site condition. Phases 1 to 3 of the SIP focused at upgrading the schools' facilities for teaching, learning and administrative needs. Phase 4 and the Final Phase of the SIP aimed to upgrade schools' facilities to the prevailing standards where technically feasible. Only a small number of schools were unable to benefit from the SIP because the proposed works was neither feasible nor cost-effective.

(b) Minor Improvement Works V Apart from the SIP, the EDB has also improved the facilities of schools in need through minor improvement works, including addition or conversion of classrooms and special rooms. For example, 46 special schools are being provided with additional classrooms and special rooms in response to the implementation of the New Senior Secondary Academic Structure and the extension of years of study. Six rural schools in North and Yuen Long Districts are also being provided with the same.

(c) Redevelopment and Reprovisioning Programme V As for those schools that cannot or can only marginally benefit from the above-mentioned works due to site condition or technical constraints, we will, premised on optimising the use of land resources and existing school premises and satisfying the relevant policy objectives, reprovision these public-sector schools to new premises meeting the prevailing standards, or improve the school facilities through in-situ redevelopment. In prioritising redevelopment and reprovisioning programme, parameters considered include the quality of education delivered and the physical condition of the school's existing premises such as age, site area, and whether it has benefited from the SIP.

(4) According to the established mechanism, once a school site/premises is identified to be suitable for reprovisioning of existing primary/secondary schools, the EDB will invite eligible school sponsoring bodies (SSBs) in the territory to apply for the relevant school sites/premises through the School Allocation Exercises (SAE). Applicants are required to submit application forms and other documents as needed.

     Allocation of school premises is generally conducted on a competitive basis amongst the SSBs. In assessing the applications for reprovisioning of schools, quality of education is the prime consideration of the School Allocation Committee (the Committee) comprising both official and non-official members. Other factors to be considered include the operation track record of the SSB, the school plan after relocation and the physical condition of the school's existing premises, etc. In general, we consider that schools with a site area of less than 3 000 square metres and premises over 30 years of age without having benefited or having only marginally benefited from the SIP warrant serious consideration. Yet, these are not the pre-requisites for submission of applications since each case will be assessed on its own merits. In addition, the location of the applicant school (i.e. whether the existing school premises is located in the same district as that of the school premises to be allocated) will also be one of the factors for consideration. When assessing the applications, the Committee will give due consideration to each case before working out the recommendations for school allocation. If necessary, the Committee will arrange interviews with the SSBs.

(5) Details of the SAEs related to public sector mainstream schools that were considered by the Committee in the past five years are set out in Annex 2.

     When coming up with the recommendations on allocation of school sites/premises to the above SSBs, the Committee, after taking into account a basket of factors, including the quality of the school plans submitted by the applicant schools, operation track records etc. (for those SAEs for upgrading the infrastructure of schools, the Committee would also consider the physical conditions of the premises of the applicant schools and their locations), was of the view that the performance of the successful applicant schools and their SSBs was outstanding. The quality of their submitted school plans and their operating standard were also excellent. Therefore, after consolidating the merits of these applications in all aspects, the Committee recommended that the school premises should be allocated to these successful applicant schools.

Ends/Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Issued at HKT 16:51

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