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LCQ13: Opening up sports venues and facilities of schools for loan by community groups
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     Following is a question by the Hon Ma Fung-kwok and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Education, Mr Kevin Yeung, in the Legislative Council today (June 29):

Question:

     I have earlier commissioned a professor from the Department of Physical Education of the Hong Kong Baptist University to conduct a study, and the results of which show that a number of countries and places, including the United States, France, the United Kingdom, the Mainland, Taiwan and Japan, have formulated policies on the opening up of sports venues and facilities of schools for loan by community groups. Such a practice optimises the use of idle sports facilities on the one hand, and helps promote sports and enhance the sense of belonging to the community among the residents on the other hand. The study has also found that the percentage of schools in Hong Kong which loan their idle sports venues for community use is on the low side: only 23 per cent of the responding primary and secondary schools have formulated policies on loaning their sports venues, while more than 50 per cent of the schools have indicated that they do not loan their venues. In addition, the responding schools have considered that the most effective proposals on encouraging schools to loan their sports venues include: (i) provision of additional resources by the Government to schools loaning their sports venues, (ii) the Government's resolving problems relating to legal liabilities and insurance, and (iii) provision of funding by the Government to enhance the security level of the schools concerned. Some organisations have pointed out that the sports and cultural organisations in Hong Kong have been facing a longstanding problem of insufficient venues, and the Government should therefore encourage schools to loan their sports venues and facilities. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows the statistics on government and subsidised primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong loaning their sports venues and facilities during weekends in the past three years;

(2) given that it is the Government's policy to encourage schools to loan their venues and facilities after school hours, of the criteria based on which the authorities assess the effectiveness of such policy;

(3) whether the Education Bureau (EDB) will provide financial incentives (e.g. increasing the proportion of rental income from loaning sports venues and facilities shared by subsidised schools, and allowing government schools to have a share of such income) to encourage more schools to loan their venues and facilities;

(4) as some schools have indicated that one of the reasons for schools having reservations about loaning their sports venues and facilities is the legal liabilities and insurance problems arising from such a practice, whether the EDB can collectively take out liability insurance policies for schools which loan their sports venues and facilities, so as to allay the schools' concerns; and

(5) whether the EDB will provide one-off financial support for schools which loan their sports venues and facilities to enhance the security level of those schools, thereby allaying the schools' security concerns?

Reply:

President,

     My reply to the questions raised by the Hon Ma Fung-kwok is as follows:

(1) With the introduction of school-based management, schools are provided with greater autonomy to flexibly manage the school affairs as well as deploy the resources in order to align with the school development plan and student needs. Currently, schools generally take into consideration their own context, such as the supporting environment and students' utilisation of school facilities in vetting the applications from outsiders or organisations for the renting of their school facilities. As such, the Education Bureau (EDB) does not collect relevant figures regularly.

     To understand the current situation, the EDB has recently conducted a territory-wide survey on "Opening up of School Facilities". According to the survey results, more than 80 per cent of schools opened up their school facilities during weekends or weekdays after school hours to various groups or organisations in the 2014/15 school year for organising different activities, including those for parent-teacher associations, alumni associations, school sponsoring bodies and non-profit making organisations.

(2) Under the existing situation of school-based management, the school management has to consider the environmental facilities, school operation and student needs, infrastructure in addition to the school development plan in order to provide a safe and favourable learning environment for student learning. As such, it is not practicable to assess the effectiveness of "Opening up of School Facilities" by setting the evaluation criteria.

     To align with the schools in promoting the curriculum for whole-person development and diversified learning activities, a simple and multi-purpose design is generally adopted for facilities in primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong, including basketball court, covered playground, school hall and student activity room. Different activities such as uniform group marching trainings or cultural performances are also arranged to be conducted at the basketball court (also known as the multi-purpose court) other than the general Physical Education lessons. Besides, the majority of the schools would utilise their school facilities during weekends or weekdays after school hours for different co-curricular activities,  including sports training/school teams training at the basketball court, musical group or orchestra training/performance or religious activities at the classroom and school hall. Different exhibits related to learning and teaching would also be displayed at the covered playground, e.g. "M" Mark Events Roving Exhibition by the Home Affairs Bureau, Schools Sports Education Programme by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, "[email protected]" by the Department of Health. As such, the existing sports facilities in schools are used in a multi-purpose way.

(3) It has been the Government's policy to encourage schools to open up their school facilities and hire out their school premises to social organisations as a means to foster collaboration between schools and the community. Through different channels including issuing school circulars to primary and secondary schools and regular communication with schools and school councils, the EDB encourages schools to open up their facilities, as far as practicable, to social organisations, especially non-profit making organisations, for welfare services and youth activities, as means of support to social services and community activities, provided that the school operation as well as the learning and teaching are not affected. Schools usually formulate their fee-charging policy which is approved by the School Management Committee/Incorporated Management Committee. Without disrupting the regular school operation, schools should charge hirers on a full-cost recovery basis as far as possible. Nonetheless, schools might adjust the rate or waive the charge if circumstances warrant, e.g. examinations, activities organised by non-profit making uniform groups, organisations and religious organisations.

(4) The current Block Insurance Policy (BIP) covers the public liability of aided schools and caput schools as the occupier and/or landlord and/or property owner. If a school hires out school premises/facilities to outside organisations for holding activities, a user gets injured due to the facilities provided during the hiring period is covered by the Public Liability Insurance section of the BIP provided that the injury is caused by the negligence of the school. However, the legal liability of outside organisations for accidents caused by their negligence when holding activities in schools falls outside the scope of the BIP and such insurance cover should not be provided by the EDB with public money. The EDB has informed schools through a circular that when hiring out school premises/facilities to outside organisations for holding activities, they should remind such organisations to arrange adequate insurance protection (including public liability insurance) for the activities on their own and indemnify the school in respect of any damages, expenses or cost incurred due to their act or negligence. In addition, information of hiring of accommodation has been set out in the School Administration Guide to remind schools to handle respective arrangements properly.

(5) Provision of government subsidy to public sector schools is mainly to meet the daily operating expenses of schools and the beneficiaries should be students. Schools have the responsibility to ensure adequate protection for staff, property and facilities in the school premises. Schools should discuss with the relevant organisations the school premises security matters before opening up facilities for outside organisations. If extra cost is incurred, schools should charge hirers on a full-cost recovery basis as far as possible.

Ends/Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Issued at HKT 17:39

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