ESF school cancels trip to Shenzhen after complaints

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 September, 2010, 12:00am

An English Schools Foundation primary school said yesterday it had cancelled a four-day field trip to Shenzhen for 120 children after a flood of complaints from parents.

Parents of the nine- and 10-year-olds at Clearwater Bay School bombarded principal David Fitzgerald with e-mails after learning of the plan to send their children to the border city.

For years, children in their last year at the fee-paying school have gone on an Outward Bound adventure course in Sai Kung in November involving hiking and an overnight camp.

But the school dropped the Outward Bound camp without consultation and replaced it with the Shenzhen trip, telling parents it would provide 'authentic opportunities for students to utilise their growing Chinese skills'.

Anxious parents said they were concerned about their children's safety as well as pollution and hygiene in Shenzhen, and that their children were upset about missing out on the Outward Bound activities.

Fitzgerald confirmed yesterday that the Shenzhen trip had been cancelled after the 'vast majority' of the 40 per cent of Year Six parents who contacted him opposed the cross-border trip. In an e-mail sent to parents, he said: 'Parents have been very clear with us that they highly value the current adventure-based recreational camp programme ... and we respect that.

'As a result we have been investigating other possibilities including the traditional Outward Bound camp and ensuring whatever decision we make is based on providing students with a safe, challenging and age-appropriate experience.' Fitzgerald did not say if the new programme would be at Outward Bound or another centre but said: 'I am positive that the end result will be a highly engaging residential for students within a safe and stimulating environment.'

Fitzgerald told parents the change had been made because hiking and camping, sometimes in harsh weather, were more appropriate for secondary than Year Six students.

The Shenzhen trip was to have cost parents around HK$3,500 per child - the same price as the Outward Bound activities in previous years - and was to include visits to local restaurants, a museum and art gallery, as well as kite-flying and tai chi.