City Weekend

Schools offer Hongkongers a sporting chance by opening up facilities

Although those offering venues to community groups at weekends are still very much in the minority, things are beginning to change

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 January, 2018, 3:17pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 January, 2018, 3:17pm

In land-scarce Hong Kong, the community is always seeking innovative solutions to overcome the shortage of space. One way is to optimise the use of schools by opening up their playgrounds and sports facilities at weekends.

However, a 2016 study by Baptist University found that only 23 per cent of the 138 local secondary and primary schools surveyed open their sports venues to the public outside school hours, a figure that lags far behind many other places. But this has begun to change.

In her maiden policy address last October, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government wanted to foster collaboration between schools and the community. She proposed the

“Opening up School Facilities for Promotion of Sports Development Scheme” to further encourage public schools to allow people to access their sports facilities outside school hours. She also suggested a review of the promotion of sports development in schools to encourage participation.

The voluntary scheme, which was launched in October, is expected to run till the end of the current school year around July.

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Lung Cheung Government Secondary School is among the 11 that have joined the scheme. From early next month, the Wong Tai Sin school will lease its hall and activity room to the Hong Kong Rope Skipping Association every Saturday until August.

Late last year, the association told the school that it was interested in hiring its facilities for weekly skipping activities. After a few phone calls, the two parties reached an agreement.

School principal Clark Chan Cheung-lam says the move can provide society with more resources and promote a sports culture in the community.

“These are the school’s existing properties, it would be a waste not to fully utilise them.”

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In terms of manpower, Chan notes there is only a slight change,such as when to assign cleaners.

Sports associations “borrowing” facilities have to reserve a quarter of the places in their programmes for students, teachers and even parents of the schools taking part.

Chan describes it as a win-win arrangement.

“It allows schools to push students to proactively participate in sports while at the same time we get to optimise all resources benefiting the community at large.”

Financial support will be provided for schools taking part with a subsidy of HK$20,000 for launching the first programme and an additional HK$15,000 per programme, with a maximum of HK$80,000 per school in the 2017-18 school year.

The subsidy can be used to hire extra staff, strengthen security arrangements and to cover extra utility costs and minor repair works if necessary.