Parents seek permanent home for school

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 June, 2014, 2:43am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 June, 2014, 2:43am

The city's first direct subsidy school has been without a permanent home since its founding in 1965 because of government restrictions that effectively exclude it from site allocation exercises, parents say.

St Margaret's Girls' College is to move out of its Caine Road campus next month as it is unable to afford the new lease of HK$400,000 per month from September 1 - a doubling of the rent it was paying in the 2010-11 academic year.

As the secondary school prepares to relocate from Mid-Levels to a five-year temporary site in Sha Tin granted by the government, parents of its pupils bemoan official policy that has barred it from qualifying for site allocations.

In 2012, the government exercise required applicant schools to surrender their existing premises, making St Margaret's ineligible as it did not own any campus, Paul Stables, chairman of the school's parent-teacher association, said.

"There had been no exercise for which St Margaret's would have been eligible," he said.

Ironically, the Education Bureau had been telling St Margaret's to apply through the site allocation exercise for a permanent home, he said.

The Sha Tin site came with the condition that no new Secondary One pupils would be enrolled.

Stables and other parents met education officials yesterday requesting that the school be allowed to resume admissions and they get help in obtaining a permanent site. The officials made no concrete promises, they said.

Eddie Lei Kwok-kit, chairman of the school's board of directors, said they had received about 80 applications for Secondary One, but all would have to be rejected.

Lei said the school applied three times to the bureau, in 2002, 2003 and 2006, when sites on Hong Kong Island became available in the allocation exercises. "But the government rejected our applications without explaining why," he said.

The St Margaret's sponsoring body wanted to keep running the school, he said.

In a previous allocation exercise, an Ap Lei Chau site on the list caught the eye of St Margaret's parents who wrote to the bureau expressing interest.

"Officials told us they had to cater for different educational needs," parent Charles Yeung Chun-kit said.

"But apparently our school is already a special one for both locals and ethnic minorities [to integrate]."

The Audit Commission's 2010 report suggested the bureau takes "proactive action" on the issue. "We believe the bureau is under an obligation to help secure a permanent site for us. We're not going to shut up and we won't go away," Stables said.

A bureau spokesman said the college could apply through the school allocation exercise for a permanent site. The bureau will keep in contact with the school to provide advice.