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LCQ14: Vacant school premises

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Kenneth Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (April 9):


     The principal of a subsidised primary school on Hong Kong Island has earlier relayed to me that the premises of the school are far below the current standards in terms of its area, space and facilities (commonly known as "matchbox-style school premises"). Given that the school premises, which were built in the 1970s, have very limited space and are frequently in need of repair and maintenance, the school has no means to improve the learning environment of students. The principal has also indicated that the premises of an adjacent school, which have the same design as the premises of his school, have been left vacant. He has hoped that the authorities could allocate the vacant premises to his school, so as to alleviate the crowded conditions suffered by students, but some of the facilities on the vacant school premises have already been demolished and removed. Regarding the increase in the area of school premises and arrangements for the facilities on vacant school premises, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the current number, locations, commissioning dates and usage of "matchbox-style school premises" of public-sector schools;

(2) whether it has drawn up a timetable to phase out all the existing "matchbox-style school premises"; if it has, of the timetable and details; if not, whether it will consider drawing up such a timetable and work plan; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) given that at present, the school premises of some public-sector schools, due to space constraints, can hardly meet the current standards even if improvement works are carried out, whether the authorities will consider according priority to these schools in allocating the vacant school premises adjacent to such schools, so as to increase the space on their premises; if they will, of the specific arrangements; if not, the reasons for that; and

(4) of the criteria adopted by the authorities for deciding whether the facilities on vacant school premises should be demolished or materials therein be removed; whether the authorities will consider retaining the basic facilities on these vacant school premises as far as possible, so that once the new use of such school premises is confirmed, the time for reinstalling the facilities can be shortened; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     My reply to the Hon Chan's question on the so-called "matchbox-style school premises" and allocation of vacant school premises is as follows:

(1) The Education Bureau (EDB) does not have any definition nor set of standards for the so-called "matchbox-style school premises". We presume that the premises in question refer to those cuboidal shaped school premises constructed between mid-1960s and 1980 at public housing estates for primary school use. At present, 28 public sector primary schools are operating in such premises. Their distribution by region is listed in Annex.

(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. 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 past planning standards would be upgraded and provided with appropriate facilities through the following means so as to meet the changing needs in teaching and learning -

(i) School Improvement Programme (SIP) - Starting from 1994, the EDB has provided 743 public sector schools built according to past planning standards with additional space and facilities through the SIP. Almost all of the above-mentioned 28 schools were provided with additional classrooms, special rooms and/or administrative facilities through SIP.

(ii) Minor Improvement Works - 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.

(iii) Redevelopment and Reprovisioning Programme - We will, premised on optimising the use of land resources and existing school premises and satisfying the relevant policy objectives, reprovision those public sector schools in need 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, and whether it has benefited from the SIP, but not limited to the shape and age of the school premises.

     As regards vacant school premises, the EDB has an established mechanism for handling vacant school premises. Once a vacant school premises is identified, we will consider if the size, location and physical conditions of the premises would render it suitable for re-allocation for school or other educational uses. According to the established mechanism, once a school premises is identified to be suitable for reprovisioning/extension 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. 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). 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.

(4) Under normal circumstances, when a school ceases operation or is reprovisioned to another premises to continue its operation, the relevant SSB is required to return the existing school premises and the school site concerned (if applicable) upon relocation to the new premises, while the furniture and equipment in the premises would be disposed of in accordance with the terms set out in the tenancy agreement or land lease entered into with the relevant government department (e.g. the EDB, Housing Department or Lands Department). In general, the SSB is required to, before vacating the premises, remove all furniture and equipment and have the premises properly cleaned up. For reprovisioning cases, existing furniture and equipment with a reusable value should be kept for use in the new premises in order to make the best use of available resources. If the school premises is reserved for further school use, the existing fixtures and facilities in the premises will be retained with a view to facilitating the deployment of the premises as soon as possible.

Ends/Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Issued at HKT 12:51


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