The four new international schools granted land by the government yesterday would do little to ease the waiting list for places at such schools, operators and business leaders said. They said that thousands of students were queuing for scarce places in already over-subscribed schools, and demand had been growing in recent years. One business leader added that the sites offered to international schools were too remote, and more places were needed on Hong Kong Island, where most expatriates lived. The nine primary schools of the English Schools Foundation (ESF) have received 1,494 applications for the new academic year, up from 1,342 last year, but have only 1,020 places. ESF communications head Peter Craughwell said that they were usually oversubscribed for year one and year seven. 'We would like to expand in future to cope with the demand,' he said. 'We have just opened two new schools, Discovery College and Renaissance College, over the past three years.' At the German Swiss International School, student numbers have increased for six consecutive years, from 1,130 students in the 2003-04 academic year to 1,309 in 2008-09. British Chamber of Commerce executive director Christopher Hammerbeck said there was a mismatch between the supply and demand of international school places. 'There's a large number of local parents who want their children to be educated in the international medium, and the extra places will remove the pressure for them to find places.' But Neil Johnston, a member of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce board of governors and a former principal of Canadian International School, said that the extra places available would satisfy just a small part of the demand. 'The waiting list can be as long as five years at the Canadian International School,' he said. Expatriate businessmen who came to Hong Kong with their children could not wait three to five years to enrol their children in a school. 'If there are not enough places, it will drive away expatriates.' Mr Johnston also called on the government to provide land on Hong Kong Island for international schools to expand. He said international schools were not often offered good sites. They were far away from the city centre, and students needed to take long trips to go to school. There were never enough international schools on the island. International schools not supported by the government can charge as much as they like. But the fees at the four new schools - which will pay nominal land rents of just HK$1 to HK$10 per year - will be restricted by government requirements, and the schools must run as non-profit organisations. The percentage of local students is also capped at 30 per cent for three of the operators of the new schools - Kellet School; Trustees of the Kowloon Tong Church of the Chinese Christian and Missionary Alliance; and the Hong Kong Academy Educational Foundation. For the fourth, Harrow International, the ratio of local to international students is 50:50. A government official said the cap was aimed at providing more openings for international students. 'Many people complain that many places at international schools are taken up by locals at the expense of expatriates' children. The extra places could help rectify that,' the official said, speaking anonymously. Information from the Education Bureau shows that there are now 51 international schools in Hong Kong serving about 30 nationalities.