Axe still hanging over number of primary schools

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 January, 2008, 12:00am

Falling enrolments threaten closures

Figures released by the Education Bureau this week show that primary schools continue to face threats of closure due to falling enrolments.

The 2008 'Choices of School List for Central Allocation' provided the number of remaining Primary One places ahead of the central allocation deadline next Sunday.

Education Post found a number of schools had fallen well short of the minimum enrolment of 21, following the first round of allocation based on parents' choice. Their Primary One admissions will be frozen If they don't make the target in the next round.

Seventy-one schools admitted just enough Primary One pupils to open one class last year. However, of these five are threatened with closure this year after only securing 10 or less students.

GCCITKD Cheong Wong Wai Primary School in Sha Tin received three pupils in the first round due to a lack of promotion this year. Principal Tong Po-chun said she did not feel the situation was hopeless, however.

'I know several other schools in the area that admitted less than 10 pupils last year and are still in business. I think the government will go easier on the admission requirement this year so I am not worried,' Ms Tong said.

She added that demand for school places would increase in two years' time, according to demographic statistics.

Bui O Public School on Lantau Island is in the same boat, having been threatened with closure for the past four years.

Principal Yu Mei-fung said she did not understand why the government would impose a minimum admission policy a year ahead of introducing the small-class teaching policy.

'The government should be able to see that the problem lies with population planning, not schools.'

Ms Yu added the government should keep under-populated schools open for the time being in order to meet increasing demand for school places in two years.

Although Holy Family School on Peng Chau had not secured enough pupils so far, principal Theresa Cheng Fai-kwan was not worried about the prospect of closure. 'We used to have three schools on Peng Chau and now we are the only one left. I don't believe the government would close us down,' she said.

Information from the 71 schools revealed that 13 had already reached the minimum admissions requirement. But another 13 schools had the axe hanging over them - in addition to the five with less than 10 students, a further eight had between 11 and 20.

Forty-five schools either refused to reveal their enrolment status or failed to return calls.

There was good news for the two schools making a last-ditch attempt to stave off closure after failing to reach the previous minimum of 23 students last year.

Both Fresh Fish Traders' School in Tai Kok Tsui and Tai Po Baptist Public School in Tai Po - which are this year running privately funded Primary One classes - will return to normal in September after securing 27 pupils each in the first round.

'We are very happy that our school can continue to run,' said Leung Kee-cheong, principal of Fresh Fish Traders', which has twice been threatened with closure. 'In the past year, we have stepped up promotion and teachers have held more talks at kindergartens to introduce our school to parents.'

About 22,000 of the 43,684 children applying for discretionary places in government and aided primary schools in November were successful.