$150,000 will buy a place at Discovery Bay school

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 September, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 September, 2002, 12:00am

Parents are angry that Discovery Bay International School has announced plans to introduce premium $150,000 debentures that would see a buyers' child jump to the front of the waiting list.

They fear the new debentures will mean children who have been waiting for a place for years will miss out or be forced to wait longer than they would have done before the scheme is introduced.

But principal Anne-Marie Naughton said a newsletter sent to parents detailing the scheme had failed to say the number of premium debentures would be 'strictly limited'.

She did not wish to elaborate on the number ahead of a school management meeting next week.

The new debentures are non-refundable but can be sold when they are no longer needed on payment of a transfer fee.

But they are five times the cost of the refundable $30,000 deposit the school now charges parents, which also entitles a child to waiting-list priority. A similar corporate debenture scheme now costs $50,000 per child.

The school already charges an annual fee of more than $70,000 per child.

The new system does not apply to children who are already at the school.

Parents who elect not to buy one of the new debentures will face a one-off payment of $30,000 per child, partially refundable if the child stays less than four years.

Alternatively, parents can pay an additional levy of $10,000 per year.

The school, which was founded in 1983, argues the charges are necessary to fund developments between 2003 and 2005, including expanding the library and upgrading technology facilities, improving a learning support centre and for a multi-purpose drama studio.

The newsletter sent to parents says the campus now operates independently of school developer Hong Kong Resorts and needs to secure its long-term financial viability.

The school is in such demand it stopped taking applications for children born between 1996 and 2000 in February. Ms Naughton said pressure on places at the school of 610 pupils was so great that one child had had to wait a record time of almost four years before securing a place.

One parent said she had put her son on a waiting list within months of his birth but was still not certain he would get a place. 'People can come along with $150,000 and your child will have to travel for an hour [to go to school elsewhere] because you don't have $150,000,' she said.

'The whole thing to me just stinks. They have made it like another club . . . I also wonder, as a business thing, what the hell they are doing with all that money.'

Another parent, who did not wish to be named in case it jeopardised treatment of his children, said the new system was elitist.

'They are vastly increasing the price of sending your child to school and creating the situation where people who have got the money can get their child to the top of the waiting list,' he said.

According to Web site www.classmateasia.com, most - but not all - international primary schools in Hong Kong do not charge debentures.

Many of those that do charge them have recently completed large-scale building works.