LCQ6: Sub-standard school premises

     Following is a question by the Hon Ip Kin-yuen and a reply by the Acting Secretary for Education, Mr Kevin Yeung, in the Legislative Council today (June 29):


     At present, the facilities of quite a number of school premises built in different eras in accordance with the standards prevalent the time of construction are below the current standards. Some principals from schools with such premises have complained to me that the facilities of the school premises concerned still only meet the standards of forty to fifty years ago, and problems such as insufficient space and facilities for teaching and learning, as well as aging school premises, are prevalent. As a result, repair works need to be carried out all year round at the school premises.  These problems have not only constituted a serious impediment to teaching and learning as well as school development, but also endangered the safety of teachers and students. They consider that such situation reflects the existence of injustice in the education system and blunders in the education policy. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective current numbers of primary, secondary and special schools whose premises are not up to the current standards, and list by school name the years of age of the school premises, the standards which the premises have met, and whether they have been included in the School Improvement Programme (SIP) (if included, of the phase of SIP); which of such schools, whose premises have a floor area of less than 3 000 square metres and are aged over 30 years, have never or only to a limited extent benefited from school improvement works;

(2) whether it has assessed the structural safety, environmental safety and hygiene conditions of school premises that are not up to the current standards; if it has, of the assessment methods and outcome; if not, how the authorities ensure that such school premises meet the relevant statutory requirements, and which party is to shoulder the liabilities involved; whether the authorities have set ceilings on the annual expenditure on repair and maintenance of school premises; if there are ceilings, of the criteria adopted by the authorities for vetting and approving the funding applications from each school for urgent and large-scale repair works each year, the expenditure ceilings on the maintenance and repair for the schools in various districts in the past three years and the number of schools involved, and how the authorities ensure that sufficient funding is available for schools to cover the repair and maintenance expenditure; if there are no ceilings, how the authorities ensure that the repair and maintenance works conducted incessantly on dilapidated school premises are cost-effective; and

(3) whether there are new and specific measures to actively help schools with facilities in their premises not up to the current standards solve the relevant problems completely and comply with the current legislative requirements; if there are, of the details and the implementation timetable of such measures; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Education Bureau (EDB) attaches great importance to safety of school premises. Over the years, the EDB has implemented various measures to enhance school facilities and improve teaching and learning environment, having regard to the circumstances and needs of individual schools.  

     My consolidated reply to the various questions raised by the Hon Ip Kin-yuen is as follows:

     At present, there are about 900 public sector schools in Hong Kong. Their premises were built in different periods in accordance with the standards at the time of construction, which cover various facilities and have been changing over the years. As at May 2016, about 200 of them were built according to the prevailing standards. And, about 100 school premises were aged over 30 years and with site area less than 3 000 square metres.

     While most school premises were built in early years, the EDB has implemented various measures over the years to enhance school facilities. Among these measures, the School Improvement Programme (SIP) was implemented between 1994 to 2006, under which about 700 ordinary public sector schools built according to the planning standards when the schools were constructed have their school facilities enhanced. SIP was implemented through five phases. Phases One to Three of SIP focused on upgrading the schools' facilities for teaching, learning and administrative uses. The scope of the last two phases has been further expanded with a view to enhancing school facilities to the prevailing standards at that time as far as technically feasible. Where school site and technical feasibility so allowed, annexes were built for some schools to expand the campus. Under SIP, the scope of improvement works for each participating school varied according to the schools' vision and mission, characteristics, the facilities in place, site conditions, technical feasibility, etc. Hence, existing facilities of individual schools may be different from the planning standards when the school premises were built. Listing the schools solely based on the year when the school premises were built and the planning standards at that time, and whether the schools have participated in SIP cannot fully reflect the current situation of the school premises as well as their teaching superiority in other aspects, which may lead to unnecessary and over-simplified comparison among schools. For information about individual schools, Members may refer to the school profiles compiled by the Committee on Home-School Co-operation for reference, or approach the schools concerned direct.

     Apart from SIP, the EDB has also put in place other measures, including reprovisioning and redevelopment programmes, to enhance school facilities and improve teaching and learning environment. Reprovisioning of existing schools is generally conducted on a competitive basis through the School Allocation Exercise. All eligible school sponsoring bodies in the territory may apply for reprovisioning of existing schools under their sponsorship to new premises on the sites earmarked for school use or the vacant school premises considered as suitable for reprovisioning purpose.  As for in-situ redevelopment, apart from size of existing school sites and technical feasibility, factors such as the schools' views, availability of decanting premises, as well as the capacity of the schools to deliver the redevelopment projects in parallel with the day to day operation also need to be considered. In the past four years, a total of 12 new school premises have been completed for reprovisioning or redevelopment/expansion purposes. At present, works under 12 school building projects with funding approved are proceeding as planned. Except a special school project, all the remaining projects are for reprovisioning or redevelopment/expansion purposes.

     Both the EDB and schools attach great importance to the condition of the school premises. The School Administration Guide has stated that the schools, as daily users, are responsible for maintaining the school premises in a safe and hygienic condition. They also have the responsibility to maintain and manage school premises, as well as to arrange maintenance works as necessary. The EDB provides annual resources to schools for handling minor maintenance works. Such funding has been included in Expanded Operating Expenses Block Grant or Operating Expenses Block Grant. This arrangement allows schools to initiate minor repair works as soon as possible, thereby enhancing the flexibility of and autonomy over use of resources. In addition, minor defects can also be fixed the soonest possible. Should schools need to conduct relatively larger scale or more complicated repair works (i.e. repair works with estimated project costs over $3,000 for primary and special schools or over $8,000 for secondary schools according to the existing mechanism), they may submit applications under the annual major repairs exercise and the emergency repairs mechanism. The consultants and contractors appointed by the EDB will assist schools in the handling of such repair works.

     Without unlimited resources, it is impossible to accept all of the schools' proposals on repairs and improvement works under the annual major repairs exercise. When prioritising the major repairs applications received from schools, priority will be accorded to items required under law or deemed essential from the repair angle, such as essential items related to safety, health and hygiene, legal requirements, etc. Taking into account factors including schools' needs and resources, we will issue notification letters to schools on the application results. Our consultants will then meet with the schools to explain the details and arrangements of the approved items, and discuss with the schools concerned on the best timing for the conduct of the works. In the past three years, the average total approved project estimate of the approved major repair works by the EDB amounted to $820 million. We will bid for resources on a need basis to keep improving and enhancing school environment through repairs and maintenance of the premises.

     As for emergency repair works, we have stipulated in the contracts signed between the EDB and the consultants that a consultant, after receiving an emergency repair request from a school, have to liaise with the school concerned to arrange an on-site school inspection. The consultant concerned will conduct the on-site school inspection the same day the request is received should the situation so warrant and take follow up actions as appropriate.

     We understand that the community is concerned about school facilities, especially those cuboidal shaped school premises constructed between the mid-1960s and 1980 at public housing estates for primary school use (i.e. the so-called "matchbox-style school premises"). The Legislative Council Panel on Education (Education Panel) has discussed the related issues in past meetings. We are following up with the Education Panel and school representatives. To start with, we would look at problems arising from the unique design features of "matchbox-style school premises", with a view to identifying practical measures to improve the teaching and learning environment under the limitations in terms of space and architectural design.

Ends/Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Issued at HKT 17:59