Stop gap plan for North District school places
The government expects that 200 children living in the North District but allocated to schools in Tai Po will join a temporary lottery scheme that may allow them to go to a school nearer their homes.
It will create extra places in North District classes and distribute them by ballot to children whose parents are unhappy with their children being placed in Tai Po schools.
The plan, announced three days before the release of primary school place allocations, was condemned by the education-sector lawmaker as random and a result of poor planning.
Places in North District schools are in big demand because of an influx of cross-border children who were either born in Hong Kong to mainland parents or were living in the mainland with their Hong Kong parents.
Under the temporary plan to tackle the problem this year, parents will first have to register their children with the Tai Po school three to four days after the placements are announced, and decide within a fortnight whether to seek a place in North District.
If they decide to do so, their Tai Po places will be forfeited and their children will be given a place in a North District school according to a random draw.
Parents will be informed of their children's new schools before the end of next month.
Acting Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said 1,230 cross-border children have chosen a school in North District this year.
Fewer than 400 pupils who applied to schools in North District had been allocated to Tai Po, and half of them lived in the northern area, he said.
Yeung said each class in the district would have 33 pupils to accommodate the students who chose to "return" to their home district to study. He recognised that the measure would only be for this year, and more drastic means would be needed in the future. The government was still considering its options, including opening schools on the mainland. A detailed plan would be announced before September.
Lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen of the education sector said he was disappointed by the measure. He said more than 7,000 mainland children were studying in Hong Kong kindergartens and most of them would enter the city's primary schools in coming years.
"The government has done its planning really badly," he said. "When a school place is decided by a random draw, a child could end up in a school farther away from home even though there might be a place just next to it."