School nets cut may save some from closure

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 June, 2008, 12:00am

The number of school nets within which primary school graduates are allocated to secondary schools is set to be reduced in a move that could save some struggling schools from closure.

The move is being considered as part of a review by the Education Bureau of the net system - which divides the city into 18 school catchment areas largely on district boundaries - says a member of a consultant group advising a government working group on the issue.

Aided Primary School Heads' Council chairman Alex Cheung Chi-hung said the number 'will surely be cut down to fewer than 18 with some school nets being combined. But we still do not know what the result will be, as the government working group is still reviewing it'. But he said there was no likelihood of all 18 being combined into one.

'If we only have one school net, most top students will choose to go to English schools and schools' intakes will be very unbalanced,' he said.

At present, the school net to which a student belongs is determined by the location of the primary school the student attends, and secondary places are determined according to the Secondary School Places Allocation System (SSPA).

The SSPA is divided into two stages - the discretionary phase under which parents indicate a choice of schools within the net and central allocation for those not placed in the first round.

Mr Cheung said the school net issue was related to many other major education policies such as closure of schools.

'A school might be saved from closure if a school net with high birth rate is combined with one with lower birth rate, as the underenrolment problem will then be solved. Parents can also enjoy more school choices once some school nets are combined, as a bigger net will include more schools,' he said.

Education groups for years have been calling for the government to review its school net system - in use since 1988 - to reflect changes in population distribution.

The government set up the working group on school net review in 2006 to study the issue. A consultation is expected to be carried out as early as in the 2009-2010 school year, according to a parent group.

A member of the working group, William Yip Kam-yuen said population distribution and the traffic network were factors being considered.

He said the number of school nets would be the core issue. 'At present, we have 18 school nets. Maybe, for example, we will have 12 or 15 in the future.'

The Education Bureau confirmed the review was under way but would not say whether the consultation would be carried out in 2009-10.

The head of the parent-teacher association at the SKH Wei Lun Primary School in Discovery Bay, Daisy Ong Leung Sau-mui, said deputy secretary for education Bernadette Linn Hon-ho had told members it could be in that year.

A bureau spokeswoman said if there were any changes to the net system, changes would not be made earlier than the 2009-10 school year.

'All changes will only be made after that year. A territory-wide consultation will be carried out after the working group has come up with a proposal.'

She also said there was no time frame for the consultation.