Many parents disappointed at school placings

Poor planning by government blamed as only 68pc of pupils starting primary classes in September get preferred choices, a 12-year low

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 June, 2013, 6:03am

There were mixed emotions for parents who filled a Sheung Shui school where the results of the allocation for primary-school places were released yesterday.

Only 68 per cent of the 27,000 children who will start primary education in September are allocated to schools of their first three choices, a 12-year low. Some parents who live in North district criticised the government for poor planning, as their children were assigned to schools in neighbouring Tai Po amid an influx of cross-border pupils.

The government estimates that about 200 children living in the northern area were allocated to a Tai Po school. They could join a new mechanism, under which extra places will be created in North district and distributed through ballot, to study nearer their homes, but they must first forfeit their Tai Po places.

The mechanism is not applicable to the other 200 cross- border children who chose a North district school but were assigned a Tai Po one.

One mother, whose daughter was assigned a place in NTWJWAL Leung Sing Tak Primary School in Tai Po, said the new mechanism could do little to help them, because parents would not know which school their children would be assigned to before giving up the Tai Po place. "It has a nice name, the 'return mechanism'. But why doesn't the government do better planning of school places in the first place? It just hasn't taken care of Hongkongers at all."

Another mother broke down in tears when she learned that her son would be going to a school in Tai Po. She put Fung Kai No 1 Primary School as her first choice as the school was only a two-minute walk from home.

Now a housewife, she said she could have re-entered the workforce if her son had been assigned a school in the district. "I'm getting crazy. I couldn't sleep the past few nights. I just find ourselves really unlucky," she said.

A mainland mother who lives in Shenzhen said it would be too hard for a child to travel so far to Tai Po. "He's too small, but there's nothing else I could do," she said. "Everything is better in Hong Kong. We want him to be educated here."

Chan Siu-hung, chairman of the North District Primary School Heads Association, advised parents to see first whether the Tai Po schools suited their children before deciding to join the mechanism. They have two weeks to consider.

He said the mechanism could not solve the overcrowding problem in the long run, and urged the government to plan better for the coming years.

About half of the 200 extra school places in the northern area would be in Fung Kai No 1 Primary School, where three additional classes have been created in the empty premises of an affiliated school.

Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim said he understood the parents' concerns and the government would come up with plans to tackle the issue in the long run.