Schools fear new classes won't last
Policy to move cross-border children away from North District set to cause problems elsewhere
A government policy to relieve mounting pressure on North District schools from cross-border pupils - mostly children born in Hong Kong to mainland parents - may have created a headache for other districts.
Primary schools in neighbouring Tuen Mun and Yuen Long have added a total of 27 classes this year. But principals fear that the schools will face a drastic cut in class numbers and redundancies as the number of cross-border children entering primary schools declines.
"We foresee a cut in class numbers," said Ng Ka-chun, principal of LST Leung Wong Wai Fong Memorial School in Tuen Mun. "It's something you have to worry about."
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying stopped all hospitals from admitting non-local pregnant women from last year. The last group of cross-border children will enter primary school in 2018.
Under a policy introduced last year, 122 schools in Tuen Mun, Yuen Long, North District, Tai Po, Wong Tai Sin, Ma On Shan and Tung Chung were to provide 3,000 Primary One places for cross-border children.
Almost 80 per cent were in Tuen Mun - with 10 new classes - and Yuen Long, with 17. Even in North District, schools have added seven classes.
Ng said her school admitted about 30 new cross-border pupils this year and had to convert activities rooms into classrooms. The number of classes has leapt to 17, from 10 in 2012.
She said the school had started to prepare for cuts by hiring staff who would retire at about the time classes had to go.
Chan Siu-hung, chairman of North District Headmasters Association, said mainland parents' determination to have their children admitted by schools in the area because they did not want their children to travel had made the policy ineffective. Many children were allocated schools in Tuen Mun or Yuen Long, but parents begged North District principals for a few available places.
"I believe the demand for next year's places will be even stronger, but we really can't add more places to North District any more," Chan said.
The Education Bureau predicted that about 59,000 children would reach six - the primary school age - next year, 2,000 more than this year.
The relief policy has been more effective in Tai Po, where schools have had nine classes cut. Tai Po Baptist Public School has cut three classes this year, but the number of classes has still risen from 17 in 2012 to 27 now.
Former principal Chan Siu-yin said the schools had reached saturation point.