Teachers could strike over demand for smaller Form One classes
Strike on the cards if Form One class sizes not cut to reflect falling numbers, union warns
Johnny Tam and Shirley Zhao
Teachers might take to the streets if the government doesn't answer their call for a further cut in Form One class sizes to address the falling number of children entering secondary school, a union has warned.
The Professional Teachers Union said morale was being hit because staff feared redundancies or school closures as a result of the dropping numbers.
"I believe our frontline teachers can't bear this any more," education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said yesterday, on behalf of the union. "The whole sector is very angry."
With an expected surplus of up to 4,000 places in the coming academic year, the teachers want smaller class sizes to prevent whole classes being axed or schools closing because they cannot meet an enrolment target of two Form One classes with at least 26 pupils in each.
Most schools have already joined a programme to reduce each of its Form One classes by one or two places every year from 2012 to 2015. But teachers want a further reduction, especially where the shortage of students is most acute.
Ip said that in just two days the union had collected 128 signatures from secondary school principals supporting the call.
But he said the Education Bureau last week refused to copy the signatures and petition for distribution at a meeting of a government-appointed committee to decide secondary school place allocations. "It's really unbelievable," Ip said.
He said the union would meet affected groups today to decide on what action to take next, and protests and demonstrations would be considered. He refused to rule out a strike.
Ip said the number of surplus Form One places had risen since last year, when 15 classes were cut, but the government was not taking stronger measures to deal with the situation.
By the 2016-17 academic year, a surplus of more than 7,000 Form One places is expected.
A joint committee of secondary school councils and principals has asked the government to allow schools to cut a further one to three places in districts such as Eastern, Southern, Tuen Mun, Sha Tin, Tai Po, Sai Kung and Wong Tai Sin.
The Education Bureau said the drop in the number of pupils was a transitional problem and it would pragmatically continue its policy to sustain the schools and their teachers.