LCQ22: Support for special schools
Regarding the support for special schools, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers of different types of special schools and special schools with a boarding section, as well as the number of places and students in such schools (including the respective numbers and percentages of local and non-local students) in each of the past five school years, and set out the breakdown in a table;
(2) whether it has made adjustments to the planning for the future supply of school places of different types of special schools to cope with the current situation of a sharp decline in school-age population in Hong Kong; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) whether it has considered adding information technology technical support personnel to the staffing establishment of special schools to support the development of STEAM (i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education in different types of special schools; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(4) of the number of job vacancies of different types of special schools (including but not limited to teacher assistant, cook, school bus driver and watchman, etc) in each of the past three school years, with a tabulated breakdown by type of job; whether the Government has reviewed the impact of the relevant vacancies on the operation of special schools and taken corresponding measures; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(5) given that the Education Bureau has earlier set up a working group to review the "Practice Guide for Special Schools on Planning and Managing Boarding Service" in a holistic manner, of the progress of the review, and whether it has drawn up a timetable for revising the Guide; and
(6) as there are views pointing out that the current establishment of clerical support workers in the boarding sections of different types of special schools still follows the structure adopted in the 1990s, which has long been outdated, whether the Government will follow up the relevant views and conduct a review on enhancing the establishment of such workers; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
The Education Bureau (EDB) adopts a dual-track mode in providing education services for students with special educational needs (SEN). The EDB will, subject to the assessment and recommendation of specialists and the consent of parents, refer students with more severe or multiple disabilities to aided special schools for intensive support services. Other students with SEN will attend ordinary schools to receive integrated education. The EDB has been continuously increasing the support for aided special schools in recent years. The expenditure on special education has increased from about $2.7 billion in the 2018-19 financial year to about $3.8 billion in the 2023-24 financial year, representing an increase of around 40 per cent. The average unit cost of subsidy per school place in aided special schools is about four times that of aided ordinary primary and secondary schools.
Our reply to the Hon Judy Chan's question is as follows:
(1) and (2) The numbers of aided special schools by type and their school places and enrolment from the 2018/19 to 2022/23 school years are set out at Annex 1 and Annex 2 respectively.
The EDB has been reviewing the supply and demand of school places in special schools. According to statistics, the number of students enrolled in schools for children with intellectual disability (ID) has increased in recent years (see Annex 2) and we estimate that the total number of students in special schools will increase from 8 400 in the 2022/23 school year to about 8 750 in the 2023/24 school year. To ensure the provision of sufficient special school places to cater for the needs of children with ID and to address the needs of boarding places for children with moderate ID, the EDB is currently constructing two new special school campuses to increase the supply of school places and boarding places.
(3) To strengthen the information technology (IT) staffing support for schools to practise e-learning and take forward various education initiatives which will harness IT, the EDB has disbursed an additional recurrent grant, namely the Information Technology Staffing Support Grant, to all public sector primary and secondary schools (including special schools) starting from the 2017/18 school year to let schools flexibly deploy the additional resources to employ technical support staff or appoint IT companies to provide worker(s) to render the required technical support services in school campus. Currently, the amount of funding for the 2022/23 school year is $327,588 per year (or about $27,299 per month) for each school. The grant will be adjusted annually in accordance with the movement of the Composite Consumer Price Index. Schools in general welcome the grant, finding it useful in helping them to address their manpower problem relating to IT support.
(4) Depending on the school type, special schools are provided with specialist staff and auxiliary staff. The EDB has introduced a number of improvement measures in recent years to improve the staff establishment of special schools (including boarding sections). More flexibility is also given in staff appointment by allowing special schools to opt for freezing vacant posts of some specialist staff (including occupational therapist, physiotherapist, speech therapist, nurse and houseparent) and auxiliary staff (including teacher assistant, cook, school bus driver and watchman) flexibly in exchange for cash grant. With this arrangement, schools will have greater flexibility in recruitment or hiring related services to meet the genuine needs of schools and students. The EDB does not have statistics on the number of job vacancies in special schools.
(5) The EDB has already undertaken to set up a working group to review the "Practice Guide for Special Schools on Planning and Managing Boarding Service" in a holistic manner, with a view to providing more detailed, specific and clear guidelines. The working group will commence work in June this year, and it is anticipated that the review could be completed in the 2023/24 school year.
(6) In order to strengthen the administrative support for schools, the EDB implemented the "One Executive Officer for Each School" policy in the 2019/20 school year to provide schools (including special schools) with resources to hire additional administrative staff. In addition, the EDB has all along been providing public sector schools (including special schools and their boarding sections) with cash grants that can be flexibly deployed, so that schools can employ additional contract clerical support/auxiliary staff and/or hire services according to their school-based needs. The EDB has also improved the staff establishment of special schools (including boarding sections) and increased the flexibility in staff appointment. The EDB will continue to review the implementation of various measures and listen to the views of the sector and different stakeholders, so that further improvement can be made where necessary and practicable.
Ends/Wednesday, May 17, 2023
Issued at HKT 11:01
Issued at HKT 11:01