Principals call for more funds to ease cross-border load

Schools in northern areas face costs of hiring extra teachers, offering more classes, heads say

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 September, 2013, 4:25am

The government should provide more financial support to schools admitting cross-border students, and should also allow them to have smaller classes when the number of cross-border students drops drastically in future, principals said yesterday.

They asked the government to provide an annual subsidy of at least HK$240,000 for schools to provide special care for cross-border children, such as hiring extra staff and helping them adjust to Hong Kong culture.

The principals were responding after a meeting with education authorities on the Education Bureau's new scheme to require public schools in Tuen Mun, Yuen Long, North District and Tai Po to reserve at least two places in every Primary One class - a minimum of 900 places for cross-border pupils - in the next school year.

Representatives from the four districts' primary schools said they were also worried about what would happen after the end of the influx of cross-border pupils, expected to come about in 2018. In that year, the last group of children born in Hong Kong to mainland parents before Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying ordered a "zero quota" of bookings from mainland parents at all hospitals will reach school age.

Some schools that had opened more classes might have to close them and lay off extra teachers they had hired because there were not enough pupils, the principals said.

They hoped the government would allow them to keep the extra classes by reducing minimum class sizes. The minimum number of pupils for a small-size class is now 25.

Lo Sau-chee, president of the Tai Po Primary School Headmasters' Association, said some schools in the area were opening eight new classes due to the influx and faced an uncertain future.

"It's not healthy for these schools if one year they have 10 Primary One classes and the next year they have only two," Lo said.

Education sector legislator Ip Kin-yuen, who was also at the meeting, said the authorities knew schools needed more resources to cater for cross-border pupils, but did not say whether the bureau would give subsidies.

Lam Pik-chu, president of the Yuen Long Primary School Headmasters' Association, said some schools in good locations in the district were popular among local parents and did not have many spare places.

She hoped those schools would be allowed to give fewer places to cross-border pupils.

"It'll be quite unfair to local parents if their children are forced to study in other schools with less convenient transport," she said.