Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(2)1234/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PS/2/98

LegCo Panel on Education

Subcommittee on facilities in special schools
for physically handicapped children

Minutes of Meeting
held on Wednesday, 25 November 1998 at 11:00 am
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong (Chairman)
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum

Public Officers Attending :

Mrs Margaret CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (9)

Assistant Director of Education (Services)

Principal Education Officer (Services)

Mr Albert K W WONG
Senior Inspector (Special Schools Planning)

Attendance by Invitation :

Hong Kong Special Schools Council
Mrs Laura LING
Mr Andrew TSE

The Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation Community Rehabilitation Network
Mr CHING Pui-kei
Ms HO Shuk-yi

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Constance LI
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2

Staff in Attendance :

Mr Stanley MA
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6

I. Follow up on visits to special schools
[LC Paper Nos. CB(2)721, 729 & 733/98-99]

1. The Chairman welcomed representatives of the Administration, Hong Kong Special Schools Council (HKSSC) and Hong Kong Society of Rehabilitation Community Rehabilitation Network (HKSR) to the meeting. Members noted that the Administration had provided a written response to the suggestions of the Subcommittee and principals of the three special schools visited on 18 November 1998. The Subcommittee's recommendations were given in its report on the visit [LC Paper No. CB(2)721/98-99], and HKSCC and HKSR also provided supplementary information at LC Paper No. CB(2)729/98-99.

2. The Chairman suggested and members agreed to go through the Administration's paper [LC Paper No. CB(2)733/98-99]. Members and representatives of the Administration and deputations were invited to seek clarifications and make suggestions in the course of discussion.

Installation of air-conditioners in school hall and boarding section of special schools for physically handicapped children

3. Dr YEUNG Sum welcomed the Administration's response concerning the provision of air-conditioning for the boarding section, and asked if the Administration could also provide a cost estimate for extending air-conditioning to the school hall. Mrs LING of HKSSC added that six of the seven special schools for physically handicapped children had already installed air-conditioners in the classrooms and special rooms from donations. At present, only two schools offered boarding places and one had already installed air-conditioners in the boarding section. However, the halls (some were also used as multi-purpose rooms) of these special schools were not air-conditioned.

4. Assistant Director of Education (Services) (AD/Ser) said that the Administration was taking progressive steps to improve the accommodation and facilities in special schools. The Administration had, as a first step, made provisions for air-conditioning in the classrooms and special rooms of special schools for physically and severely mentally handicapped children from the 1998/99 school year. The next step would be to consider the case for providing air-conditioning for the boarding section at a later date. Due to the high recurrent costs of electricity and the competing priorities for resources, air-conditioning for the school hall would not be considered at the present stage.

5. Dr YEUNG Sum and Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung commented that the boarding section should be air-conditioned as soon as possible, and urged the Administration to complete installation works before summer. They also asked about the reasons for not providing air-conditioning in school halls. Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (PAS/EM) responded that the Administration had agreed in principle to consider providing air-conditioning in the boarding section of special schools for physically handicapped children because they needed to wear tight garments even during the night. As regards air-conditioning for school halls, the Administration would have to carefully consider the justifications as well as the policy and resource implications. The duration of use of school halls was also a consideration. It was envisaged that the recurrent electricity costs would be significant in view of the size and design of school halls in general. In this connection, the Chairman said that he had raised at a recent meeting of the LegCo Panel on Economic Services that the China Light and Power Company Limited (CLP) should offer preferential rates on electricity to special schools. He requested the Administration to pursue his suggestion with CLP. At the request of the Chairman, PAS/EM agreed to look into the matter in consultation with the relevant bureau. Responding to members' concerns, PAS/EM also undertook to seek an assessment of the capital and recurrent costs for providing air-conditioning to school halls of special schools for physically handicapped children.Adm


Standard items for medical inspection room

6. Members welcomed the Administration's response that the following items would be considered for inclusion as standard provisions for special schools for physically handicapped children:

  1. suction machine;

  2. oxygen;

  3. bed with railing;

  4. emergency call bell;

  5. small drawer set for medicine; and

  6. autoclave.

7. With regard to the suggestion of raising the current limit of $3000 to $8000 under the School and Class Grant for the purchase of furniture and equipment by special school principals, AD/Ser said that the Education Department would have to further discuss with the schools the implications and arrangements. Mrs LING of HKSSC commented that the Class Grant for some special schools might still be inadequate even after raising the spending limit to $8000. Adm


8. Members welcomed the Administration's decision to provide handrails for toilets in special schools. Members noted that the schools could apply to the Education Department (ED) for installation of handrails with funds provided in the annual estimates.

9. Dr YEUNG Sum also noted that the Administration had agreed to consider providing toilets near the junior classrooms in the future school design. As regards improvements to existing schools, AD/Ser said that schools could apply for provision of toilets near junior classrooms and the Administration would examine the technical feasibility of such requests. Ms HO Shuk-yi of HKSR pointed out that some existing toilets in special schools were too small for physically handicapped children to change napkins and clothes, and asked if these toilets could be expanded. AD/Ser responded that the schools were encouraged to forward proposals to ED on improvement works required, and that some of these improvement proposals could be considered for inclusion in the School Improvement Programme. With regard to the application procedures and allocation of funds for modification works under the annual estimates, AD/Ser said that ED would invite applications by circular, and would examine the merits of each request with regard to availability of funds. Emergency repairs would be carried out immediately as a matter of priority.


Mr TSE of HKSSC was of the view that more space should be allowed for classrooms to facilitate movements of physically handicapped children who required ambulating aids such as rotators, wheelchairs and clutches. He suggested increasing the standard size of classrooms for special schools from 45 m2 to 60 m2. Dr YEUNG Sum said that he supported the Administration's proposal to review the standard size of classrooms for this category of special schools. Senior Inspector (Special School Planning) added that ED would further discuss with special schools their justifications for larger classrooms. Members agreed that ED should further examine the issue and report progress in due course. Adm

10. On the provision of adjustable desks and other special furniture for use by physically handicapped children, Mr TSE of HKSSC said that ED usually approved the requests for procurement of furniture items based on prices for standard items in normal schools. As adjustable desks were expensive, special schools could not afford to purchase sufficient numbers for use by students. Principal Education Officer (Services) pointed out that imported items were usually more expensive than those supplied locally. Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung suggested special schools and ED to obtain quotations on the prices of special furniture items from local suppliers and devise a list of reasonable prices for these items. AD/Ser said that different special schools might have different requirements for special furniture items, depending on the type(s) of handicapped students admitted, and that some flexibility would be necessary in the approval of funds for special furniture. He added that in some special schools, the artisans or occupational therapists could make some adjustments to the furniture to suit the needs of the students.

11. In this connection, the Chairman advised that the schools should specify clearly their requirements for ordinary and special furniture when bidding funds, and that the prices should be based on the average and reasonable costs quoted by local suppliers.

Speech therapy rooms

The Subcommittee agreed that the special school concerned could make arrangements to install curtains in the speech therapy room to facilitate observation of students through the one-way mirror.

Kitchen for special schools without a boarding section

12. Dr YEUNG Sum said that following the visit to special schools on 18 November 1998, the Subcommittee had a better understanding of the need for kitchen facilities in special schools. As special food had to be prepared for handicapped children who had chewing or swallowing difficulties and that such service was not available from private caterers, there might be a case for special schools to be equipped with kitchen facilities. While acknowledging that not all special schools would require a large kitchen of the same standard as the one in John Kennedy Centre, members considered an upgraded pantry could be provided to facilitate preparation and cooking of meals for handicapped children. The Chairman said that while parents should have a role in preparing lunch for their children, there were cases where parents could not make such arrangements. He therefore urged the Administration to seriously look into the possibility of providing a simple kitchen in special schools and discuss with parents their participation in preparing lunch for their children.

13. In response, AD/Ser pointed out that parents had a responsibility for providing meals for their children in schools. As regards members' suggestion of providing an upgraded pantry to provide cooking facilities in special schools, AD/S said that ED would need to seek the views of the Architectural Services Department and Fire Services Department on the building and safety requirements. At the Chairman's request, he undertook to report progress in three months. Adm Activity in living room14. Regarding the comment that the height of the cooking benchtop had made it inaccessible to wheelchair-bound students, AD/Ser said that the school concerned could apply for modification works. To ensure that the furniture and facilities in special schools could meet the needs of handicapped students, members urged the Administration to assign architects and engineers who were familiar with the operational needs of special schools to design and co-ordinate the special school requirements. Mr TSE of HKSSC commented that no 'standard' design would be applicable to special schools due to the different requirements of handicapped children. In this connection, the Chairman advised that the Administration should further discuss with HKSSC and HKSR to agree on the special school design and facilities. HKSSCAdm Physiotherapy room15. Miss HO of HKSR and Mr TSE of HKSSC said that the physiotherapy room in some special schools were too small for accommodating physiotherapy equipment. The Chairman requested HKSSC to co-ordinate requirements of the seven special schools for physically handicapped children and discuss with ED on the requirements.Adm

School bus

16. Dr YEUNG Sum said that according to some special school principals, the lifting platforms of large school buses were seldom used in order to save time in picking up and setting down disabled children especially during rush hours. There were also comments that special school buses were not allowed to stop in some restricted zones, which had created difficulties for both the parents and the handicapped children. In this connection, the Chairman informed members that the Subcommittee had already written to the Transport Department requesting compassionate arrangement for school buses of special schools to stop in restricted zones for picking up and setting down disabled students.

17. Given the policy of nine year compulsory education, Dr YEUNG Sum considered that the Government had the obligation to provide transport to enable physically handicapped students to attend school. In this connection, Government should bear both the capital and recurrent costs of the school buses service for physically handicapped children. He suggested that, to achieve flexibility in routing arrangements, more smaller coaches tailor-made for transport of the handicapped should be provided to special schools.

18. Mrs LING of HKSSC pointed out that at present parents of handicapped children had to pay $400-$500 a month for school bus service which was more expensive than the Rehabus Service. Many parents had found it difficult, even with the Disability Allowance, to afford the various special expenses arising from the handicap of their children. Mr CHING of HKSR added that school bus service was essential as it would be difficult for handicapped children to use public transport or taxi service.

19. Responding to these comments, AD/Ser briefed members on the background and development of the provision of educational and rehabilitative facilities to special schools. He said that ambulating equipment was now included in ED's provision of facilities for special schools. As regards the provision of school bus service for special schools, the Administration would have to further examine the policy and resource implications as the service was basically related to rehabilitation rather than educational support. Senior Inspector (Special Schools Planning) added that there were altogether 20 school buses in special schools for physically handicapped children, and all were acquired by donations from charities such as the Jockey Club or Lotteries Fund. So far, there had not been problems in approving applications from special schools for replacement of school buses or procurement of special facilities in school buses.

20. Dr YEUNG Sum stressed that the problem actually lay in the recurrent costs of school bus service. Mr Andrew WONG pointed out that as school bus service was provided by Government to enable students of some remote villages to attend school, ED should provide similar service for physically handicapped children. Dr YEUNG Sum said that the Democratic Party strongly objected to the present policy that ED did not provide school bus service to enable physically handicapped children to attend school. He held the view that ED should provide one-stop services to cater for the special needs of this category of students. The Chairman concluded that the Subcommittee and parents were strongly of the view that school bus service was essential to special schools for physically handicapped students, and he urged the Government to review the present policy and report progress in three months.Adm

Improvements to Margaret Trench Red Cross School21. Members noted that ED would continue its search for a suitable site for re-provisioning the School and was discussing with the Fire Services Department the alterations required to improve access to the multi-purpose rooms and the fire exit. With regard to the replacement of chairs which were already 25 years old, Mrs LING of HKSSC said she would ascertain with the school principal the reasons why replacement of chairs was considered unnecessary.HKSSC

John F Kennedy Centre

22. In view of the benefits of hydrotherapy to the physical development of handicapped children particularly those with neurological impairment, Dr YEUNG Sum urged the Administration to examine the need of providing a hydrotherapy pool for each of the seven special schools for the physically handicapped. While he acknowledged that ED would need to consult Hospital Authority (HA) on the issue, he reminded ED that HA might not be able to comment on the educational need of these children. Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung added that the serving physiotherapists in these special schools should also be consulted.

23. Mrs LING of HKSSC said that according to a recent survey of HKSSC, the number of children suffering from multiple handicaps had increased over the past ten years, and this would add justification to the need for a hydrotherapy pool in special schools. Mr TSE of HKSSC added that hydrotherapy pool was a standard provision in special schools in some overseas countries.

24. Representatives of ED said that the vacancy rate of physiotherapists in special schools was the lowest at the moment, and the consultancy study on multiplicity of handicaps of students in special schools would also look into the staffing ratio of physiotherapists in these institutions. ED would continue to liaise with HKSSC and concerned parties on the adequacy of hydrotherapy service and physiotherapists in special schools for physically handicapped children.

25. The Chairman noted that the provision of hydrotherapy pool in special schools was a controversial issue and advised the Administration to discuss with HKSSC the justifications and/or improvements required in this respect. He advised the Administration to report progress in three months. Adm

Concluding remarks

26. The Chairman thanked representatives of the Administration, HKSSC, HKSR and the Clerk for their contribution to the work of the Subcommittee and efficient response to the various issues raised. Mr TSE of HKSSC also expressed appreciation of the high efficiency of the Subcommittee in providing immediate and long-term solutions to the problems faced by special schools.

27. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 12:50 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
2 February 1999