Survival options laid out for small schools
Quality checks are among essentials to pass muster
Education chiefs have spelled out the hurdles small schools will need to jump to survive when secondary school reforms take effect in 2009.
Schools operating only one or two Form One classes will have to pass a quality inspection or provide acceptable proposals for ensuring a suitably diverse curriculum, the Education and Manpower Bureau says. A bureau source said such schools would be encouraged to collaborate with others to ensure a diverse curriculum, or to merge.
If schools' proposals are approved, they will be allowed to take part in the Secondary School Places Allocation scheme the following year, while those passing a quality review can participate in the allocation for three consecutive years.
But if schools fail an inspection and their proposals are rejected, or if they fail to jump one hurdle and do not attempt the other, they will be excluded from the placement allocation scheme - dooming them to closure once their final intake completes Form Three.
A spokeswoman said the bureau would help arrange transfers to other schools for their pupils.
In the next academic year, 15 schools will be offering only one or two Form One classes.
Under the reforms, secondary schooling will be split into a three-year junior secondary phase and a three-year senior secondary phase to give students flexibility in their choice of subjects and to improve teacher-student ratios.
The latter will help alleviate the impact of a falling school population.
In a document issued yesterday, the bureau also said the standard class size would stay at 40, though schools with surplus teachers could operate classes of 35.
The Subsidised Secondary Schools Council has suggested schools standardise the number of classes at 24, or four classes for each form.
But a bureau source said it feared parents would be upset if popular schools were downsized.
The source also said the council's proposal for a standard class size of 35 was not feasible, since it would lead to a worsening shortage of teachers by 2011.