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LCQ14: Regulation of playgroups for pre-school children

     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 (April 20):


     At the end of last year, some private organisations which operated playgroups for pre-school children suddenly closed down one after another, causing financial losses to quite a number of parents who had prepaid the fees. Such cases also aroused concern about the adequacy of the authorities' current regulation of playgroups operated by private organisations. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows the number of organisations operating playgroups in each year since 2012, with a breakdown by District Council district; if such information is unavailable, of the reasons for that;

(2) whether the existing legislation has prescribed certain requirements to be met by persons or organisations operating playgroups; if so, of the details;

(3) whether it knows the following information regarding the playgroup activities conducted at the venues under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department in each of the past three years: the total number of such activities, names of the operators, contents of such activities, names of the venues, and total number of participating young children;

(4) whether it will consider providing venues in various districts for non-profit making organisations to operate playgroups, so as to meet the demand of parents; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(5) as it is learnt that the United Kingdom has put in place a system for regulating organisations which provide pre-school educational services, including the requirements that a specified proportion of the staff members of organisations operating playgroups for pre-school children must have received relevant training, and that they are subject to regular inspections, whether the Government will, by making reference to such a practice, regulate the playgroups operated in Hong Kong by private organisations, so as to ensure that young children can participate in the relevant activities in a safe environment, and that such activities are beneficial to such children's physical and psychological development; and

(6) given that the Government has indicated in the Policy Agenda of this year's Policy Address and related documents that it will implement a two-year pilot project to help grandparents become well-trained child carers in a home setting while promoting life-long learning and active ageing for such elderly grandparents, whether the Government will make reference to this initiative and support more non-profit making organisations in providing parents with training in respect of enhancing children's physical and psychological development through playgroup activities, so as to promote parent-child and parenting education as well as to help parents and children develop healthy and fruitful lives?



     My reply to the question raised by the Hon Ip Kin-yuen is as follows:

(1) and (2) In accordance with the Child Care Services Ordinance (CCSO) (Cap 243), any premises which habitually receive at any one time more than five children who are under the age of three years for the purposes of care and supervision requires registration as a registered child care centre. A playgroup, which provides play learning classes for children accompanied by their parents or carers, is not under the ambit of the CCSO. The relevant data and other information as requested in the question are not available from the Social Welfare Department.

In respect of Section 3(1) of the Education Ordinance (EO) (Cap 279), a "school" means an institution, organisation or establishment which provides for 20 or more persons during any one day or eight or more persons at any one time, any nursery, kindergarten, primary, secondary or post-secondary education or any other educational course by any means, including correspondence delivered by hand or through the postal services. Any organisation which provides educational courses with the number(s) of students attending these courses meeting the number(s) stipulated in the above definition of "school" is required to be registered or provisionally registered in accordance with Section 10(1) and regulated by the EO. Playgroups which do not provide educational courses (e.g. those aiming at facilitating children's mental development or at developing their physical and social skills) are not subject to the regulation of the EO. The relevant data and other information as requested in the question are not available from the Education Bureau (EDB).

(3) Statistical data on playgroups conducted at its rental venues are not available from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.
(5) If an organisation provides educational courses, irrespective of the mode of activities and the age of students, it is required to be registered or provisionally registered as a school under the EO so long as it meets the above thresholds regarding the number of students. Schools registered or provisionally registered under the EO have to fulfil the requirements of the EO in respect of school premises, fees collection, teacher qualification, teacher-pupil ratio, curriculum, etc, and to comply with guidelines issued by the EDB from time to time. EDB officers can also conduct visits to any school to ensure its compliance with the EO and it is being run satisfactorily. The EDB has no plan to amend the EO.

(4) and (6) Parents play a very important role in the development of their children's early life and are their children's role models. As regards promotion of parent education, the EDB aims to provide students with quality education, develop students' potential to the fullest extent and prepare them for the challenges ahead. Our parent education measures thus mainly centre on schools, including kindergartens (KGs), as the platform for supporting parents to guide their children at home and promoting the whole-person development of students through home-school co-operation. On KG education, we continue to enlighten parents about the development needs of their children through parent education. This includes organising talks on different themes for parents, such as childrenˇ¦s development needs, quality KG education, transition from KG to primary education and application for KG admission, as well as publishing relevant leaflets and booklets such as the booklet entitled "Helping Your Children of Kindergarten Age", a storybook on helping children to adapt to their new primary school life, etc. In addition, the EDB encourages KGs to set up Parent-Teacher Associations and promotes the involvement of parents in the learning of their children.

     The EDB has no plan to provide venues for operators of playgroups. As a matter of fact, in accordance with the established mechanism, non-profit-making organisations can apply to use suitable venues and facilities of the Government as they see fit. Details and application forms are available at relevant websites for their reference. Moreover, parents who wish to enrol their children on playgroups available in the market should pay attention to their rights as consumers, which include making a pre-enrolment visit to the venue; reading carefully the respective leaflet, with particular attention to the fees, activity details, refund policy and procedures, etc; ensuring that information such as the organiser's name and address, name of the activity, date of payment and the amount paid, etc is shown on the receipt; and keeping the receipt as a proof for refund purpose when necessary.

Ends/Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:34


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