Whole-day Primary Schooling
This paper sets out the way forward for implementing whole-day primary schooling.
2. Whole-day primary schooling has been recognised by the Government as preferable to half-day primary schooling on educational and social grounds. These include a less crowded timetable giving scope for greater curricular flexibility, more time for teacher-student contact and activities after school, and supervision of students for longer hours in schools to help reduce learning and disciplinary problems.
3. All new primary schools built since 1993 operate on a whole-day basis where practicable. Existing primary schools are encouraged to change to whole-day where they have sufficient accommodation for conversion and the supply and demand of places in their districts permit.
4. Schools converting to whole-day operation have been provided with incentives such as enhanced annual school and class grant (since 1988), a one-off grant for the purchase of folding tables and benches to enable pupils to take lunch at schools (since 1989), and improved teacher-to-class ratio and senior teacher ratio (since 1992).
5. Despite these incentives, so far only 24 per cent of primary schools are operating on whole-day basis. A breakdown of public sector primary schools by categories as at the 1996-97 school year is as follows:
6. Half-day primary schooling has been in place for many decades and is accepted and even preferred by some parents and teachers. The reluctance of some schools to convert to whole-day operation may be due, at least partly, to a perception among parents that a well-run school can always attract enough pupils to fill two sessions. There is also resistance from some teachers who may prefer to work in half-day schools given the shorter working hours, or are concerned that they might be made redundant in their own schools.
7. We have recently conducted a review in conjunction with the Planning, Environment and Lands Branch (PELB), Planning Department (Plan D) and Education Department (ED) to consider the feasibility and ways of speeding up the programme where possible. The results are summarised in the following paragraphs.
8. As all new public sector primary schools will be operated on a whole-day basis except where there is an acute shortfall in primary school places, we have focused our study on how to speed up the conversion of existing uni-sessional / bi-sessional schools to whole-day operation.
9. To fully implement whole-day primary schooling we will need to convert 480 out of the existing 574 uni-sessional / bi-sessional schools. Of the 480 schools, it is estimated that 109 new schools will need to be built to convert 327 schools, while the remaining 153 can be converted to whole-day operation without building new schools. It should be emphasised that our priority objective in primary schooling must remain the provision of adequate school places to meet new demand. The timeframe for constructing the 109 schools required for conversion is therefore dependent on the availability of land (within the relevant timeframe) and manpower resources in excess of those required for meeting new demand.
Conversion where no additional schools are required
10. As explained in paragraph 6, it is expected that some schools may take a wait-and-see approach and delay conversion for as long as they could. We therefore recommend that, subject to adequate supply of primary school places in the school zones concerned, the following types of schools should be persuaded and, if necessary, instructed to switch to whole-day operation:
- uni-sessional schools;
- bi-sessional schools whose classes can be packed to convert to whole-day operation;
- bi-sessional schools whose PM or AM session has only a few classes which can be phased out by not allocating Primary 1 students to that session;
- bi-sessional schools which can switch to whole-day operation upon building more classrooms within the existing school boundary;
- bi-sessional schools having a private session which can be phased out; and
- bi-sessional schools where one session can be reprovisioned to school premises vacated by a secondary school.
11. Subject to availability of resources, we aim to convert 133 uni-sessional / bi-sessional schools to whole-day operation by 2001 without building new schools. The remaining 20 schools can be converted to whole-day operation in 2002-03 when the supply of primary school places allows conversion. ED will also conduct a more detailed assessment to ascertain whether more bi-sessional schools can be converted to whole-day operation without building new schools.
Conversion where additional schools are required
12. As regards the 109 additional schools required for conversion, we anticipate that we would be able to complete 10 schools by 2001 enabling 24 existing bi-sessional schools to convert to whole-day operation, bearing in mind the need to devote priority to building another 45 new schools to meet new demand over the same period.
Constraints beyond 2001
13. A recent comprehensive site search of land for primary schools by the Plan D and ED has revealed that 107 sites have been reserved for future development of primary schools. However only about half of them are in the school zones where additional schools are required and large enough to accommodate the standard design primary school.
14. Taking into account the need to meet new demand for primary school places up to year 2001 and the 109 new schools required for conversion, it is estimated that at least 94 (or 62 if those sites not in "right" zones are also used) additional sites will have to be identified.
15. The shortage of sites will be even more severe when new demand beyond 2001 is also taken into account. To illustrate, if the tentative projected new demand up to year 2015 is taken into account, it is estimated that at least 164 additional sites (or 132 if those sites not in "right" zones are also used) will be required.
16. The shortfall in school sites is found mainly in the existing built-up urban areas where it is difficult to identify new primary school sites, usually because there is competing demand of land for other developments such as housing, or there are simply no suitable sites available. Plan D assesses that it may not be possible to provide adequate school sites in some built-up urban districts such as Eastern, Central and Western, and Sham Shui Po even in the long term.
17. In order to speed up the programme beyond 2001, we need to first resolve the site difficulties. We intend to proceed as follows:
- requesting PELB to give high priority among competing land uses to reserve more primary school sites (including non-standard sites);
- asking ED and Plan D to review the demand and supply of school sites on a regular basis;
- asking ED to work with the Architectural Services Department to develop designs for smaller non-standard schools so that more sites can be utilised for building schools;
- exploring other options such as:
- reviewing the existing school zone system with a view to utilising identified / potential school sites outside the "right" school zones as far as possible;
- reviewing the height restriction on primary school buildings with a view to maximising the use of sites.
18. In addition to the above proposals, we have requested the Housing Department to reserve sites for primary schools (including non-standard ones) in the housing developments, for meeting new demand and for enabling existing bi-sessional schools to convert to whole-day operation where possible. The initial feedback from the Housing Department is that while the Department will reserve sufficient school sites in new housing projects, it is normally not possible to do so in the case of redevelopment projects.
19. We will explore the feasibility of the above options with the branches/departments concerned. We intend to report progress to Members in twelve months, taking into account where possible the updated population statistics based on 1996 bi-census results which are expected to be ready by the first quarter of 1997.
20. As mentioned in paragraphs 11 and 12, subject to availability of resources, we aim to convert 133 uni-sessional/bi-sessional schools and to building 10 new schools (thus replacing 24 existing bi-sessional schools) between 1997 and 2001. As a result, the percentage of whole-day primary schools will rise from the present 24% to 48% by 2001.
21. At this stage, it is not practicable to provide a definite timetable for the period beyond 2001. Members will note from paragraphs 13 to 16 that the major problem to full implementation of whole-day primary schooling is the availability of suitable sites. As stated in paragraph 19, we shall keep Members informed of our findings in twelve months time. Apart from the problem of identifying and making available suitable sites, we also need to overcome the reluctance of some existing uni-sessional or bi-sessional schools to convert to whole-day operation. As explained in paragraphs 10 and 11 above, we intend to adopt a pro-active approach in converting these schools.
Education and Manpower Branch
12 October 1996
Last Updated on 14 August 1998