SCHOOLS are reluctant to integrate disabled students into mainstream classes because they fear many staff are ill-equipped to teach them. Almost four years after the launch of the integrated education programme, less than a quarter of the students eligible under the scheme are enrolled in participating schools. No schools in Central and Western districts or Sha Tin, and few along the KCR railway route in the New Territories, have joined. The target of 40 schools in the scheme by September has been met - but only after six schools were forced to join, frustrated officials admitted. About 90 students with slight disabilities entering Primary One or Secondary One this year have sought but failed to find placement at a school under the programme. Instead, they have to attend regular schools without the resources provided by the programme. Judy Wong Chi-tack, a senior inspector in the Education Department who is in charge of the programme, said: 'Teachers are still not comfortable with having to take care of students with disabilities. 'There are quite a number of innovative schools in Sha Tin, for example, but they are innovative in areas other than developing integrated education,' Ms Wong said. She described the number of schools taking part in the scheme as 'relatively small in number' considering the territory has more than 1,200 primary and secondary schools. Of more than 1,000 children eligible under the categories, only about 230 will be covered by the integrated education scheme from September. Louisa Tang Mei-sin, principal of Lui Ming Choi Primary School in Sha Tin, which declined to join the programme, said: 'Many of our teachers don't know how to take care of children with special needs and they are already tied up with so many education reforms going on. But we may try next year.' A spokeswoman for the Parents' Association of Pre-school Handicapped Children, said: 'There are just too few schools to provide a wide coverage since the children don't necessarily concentrate in certain districts. 'Also, with the small number of secondary schools joining the programme, there is going to be a transition problem for children when they graduate from primary school.' Students assessed with mild mental or physical handicaps, mild hearing or visual impairment, or with autism and average intelligence, are considered capable of attending a mainstream school. Under the programme, a resource teacher will be deployed to schools that admit around five to eight disabled students. Each student will be granted $1,000 a year for their special education needs, while each of the participating schools will be allocated $55,000 for any necessary structural alterations to accommodate special needs pupils.