Five or six pupils will be added to every Primary One class in three districts for the coming school year, as pressure from children born in Hong Kong to mainland mothers continues to bite.
Primary schools in Tai Po, Yuen Long and Kwun Tong will have 30 pupils allocated to each first-year class, up from 25 in previous years, a paper submitted by the Education Bureau to lawmakers reveals. Nine schools in western Yuen Long may be allocated 31 pupils per class due to rising demand.
An influx of Hong Kong-born children, many of whom live across the border, has already put pressure on kindergarten places in districts close to the border.
The bureau said it would pay for an extra assistant principal for every school affected, and that any school allocated more than 30 pupils per class would receive additional funding. The extra support will last for the six years the pupils remain at the school.
The bureau expects demand for Primary One places - which will also face pressure due to a higher birth rate in 2012, the auspicious Year of the Dragon - to peak between 2016 and 2019. It will then taper off due to a ban on mainland mothers giving birth in the city, implemented last year.
The bureau said it would make temporary changes every year in the "transitional period" before the peak to cope with demand.
The level of increase "cannot be fully foreseeable in long-term overall planning", the bureau said, due to parental choice and the varying number of Hong Kong-born children whose mainland parents would send them for schooling here.
Law Lai-yin, principal of Carmel Leung Sing Tak School in Kwun Tong and vice-chairman of Kwun Tong Schools Liaison Committee, said the demand for primary school places had increased in the district with the completion of several public housing estates.
He was concerned that the allocation of pupils would reverse recent moves towards smaller class sizes.
"Teachers have gotten familiar with small-class education … Now teachers must adjust again with more pupils, which would definitely make their workload heavier and affect pupils' learning," Law said.
Tany Chan Hei-chuen, principal of Lam Tsuen Public Wong Fook Luen Memorial School in Tai Po, said although the policy went against his educational philosophy, it was a "painful but necessary decision". Had the government instead told schools to increase the number of classes they offered, the end result would be that the classes would close and teachers would be fired when the demand eased.