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LCQ5: Supply of kindergarten premises
     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Pierre Chan and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Education, Mr Kevin Yeung, in the Legislative Council today (April 26):


     In its report submitted to the Government in May 2015, the Committee on Free Kindergarten Education (the Committee) made a number of recommendations on stable supply of kindergarten premises, including increasing government-owned kindergarten premises in public and private housing estates, as well as providing incentives for school sponsoring bodies or operators to acquire their school premises. Some parents of young children have pointed out that while a number of kindergartens have relocated or closed down one after another in recent years necessitated by tenancy problems, they have no means to find out whether the premises of various kindergartens are self-owned or rented properties when they choose kindergartens for their children. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective current numbers of kindergartens the premises of which are (i) government properties; (ii) self-owned properties and (iii) rented private properties (with a breakdown by District Council district);

(2) whether it will establish an information platform or compile an information booklet, for parents' reference when they choose kindergartens for their children, which sets out leasing information about school premises (including (i) the expiry dates and (ii) the terms for renewal and early termination of existing leases) provided by kindergartens on a voluntary basis;
(3) whether it will consider formulating guidelines to stipulate that kindergartens should regularly inform parents of the leasing information about their school premises; and

(4) whether it will adopt the Committee's recommendations for ensuring a stable supply of kindergarten premises; if so, of the measures for increasing the number of kindergartens operating in government properties or self-owned properties, as well as the implementation timetable and expected efficacy of such measures; if not, the reasons for that?



     My reply to the Dr Hon Pierre Chan's question is as follows:

(1) Kindergartens (KGs) in Hong Kong have all along been privately run, with diverse operation modes and different development targets of individual school sponsoring bodies (SSBs). KGs are located in a variety of premises, such as self-owned premises, privately-leased premises or premises in public housing estates. Every year, there are KGs ceasing operation and KGs newly operated in different districts. If no public resources are involved in their operation, KGs are not required to submit to the Education Bureau (EDB) information on their school premises, such as whether they are leased, the lease terms, etc.

     Currently, items on KG premises that involve public resources include EDB-administered school allocation or nomination mechanisms, rent reimbursement/rental subsidy schemes and the premises maintenance grant under the Free Quality Kindergarten Education Scheme (the Scheme) to be implemented from the 2017/18 school year.

     At present, KGs not receiving rent reimbursement are not required to submit information on their school premises. Upon joining the Scheme, these KGs will receive rental subsidy or premises maintenance grant in future. Information of their school premises will then become available. Since the applications for rental subsidy are being processed, we consider it not appropriate to release unverified information at this stage. Therefore, we can only provide the number of KGs operating in Government-owned/allocated premises and KGs with their applications for premises maintenance grant under the Scheme (generally operating in self-owned premises) initially verified as at early April 2017 by District Council district which is tabulated at the Annex.

(2) and (3) For lease of privately-owned premises for use as schools, the particulars including the expiry dates of current tenancy agreement, the terms for renewal and early termination of the tenancy are terms of the contract between the landlord and the tenant. Whether the landlord would renew the tenancy with the tenant and the terms concerned are commercial decisions in which the Government is not in a position to intervene. To enhance the transparency of KG operation, we will consider encouraging KGs operating in leased premises to inform parents of their school development plans, including information on the tenancy agreement of the school premises (such as the expiry date of the tenancy agreement).Besides, we will also remind KGs to keep close contact with parents. In case they decide to cease operation, they should inform parents as soon as possible and make proper arrangement for the affected students. The EDB has all along been concerned about students' learning. In case a KG ceases to operate, apart from support to the KG as appropriate, we would offer assistance to affected parents and students, including uploading the vacancy information of KGs in the district concerned onto the EDB's homepage and setting up dedicated hotlines for parents' enquiries.
(4) According to the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines, the need for setting up KGs is taken into account in housing estates and large-scale private development projects where space is allocated for such uses. When there is space for KG uses in public housing estates, the EDB will review the supply and demand for KG places there and launch school allocation exercises (SAEs) as appropriate at the request of the Housing Department. When SAEs are launched, all eligible SSBs including existing and new SSBs may apply for using the premises concerned to operate new KGs or relocate existing KGs.
     Having considered the recommendations of the Committee on Free Kindergarten Education, the Government is of the view that a stable supply of Government-owned quality KG premises is crucial. For achieving this and as a long-term strategy under the free quality KG education policy, adequate space would be earmarked for KG use in new public housing estates with new demand, and available KG space identified for re-location of existing KGs that require substantial improvement to their physical accommodation. The Government will also explore the feasibility of increasing Government-owned KG premises in accordance with the established mechanisms for site search and/or premises allocation as appropriate. The feasibility of co-location of KGs and primary schools will also be explored. As the recommendation involves a number of complicated issues touching on design, management, operational matters, etc, we will further examine the feasibility on a case-by-case basis in consultation with relevant bureaux or departments.
Ends/Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Issued at HKT 17:34
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