Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(2)2384/98-99
(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 Friday, 26 February 1999 at 4:00 pm
in Conference Room B 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

Members Attending :

Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
Hon LAW Chi-kwong, JP

Public Officers Attending :

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

Assistant Director of Education (Services)

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

Attendance by Invitation :

The Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation Community
Rehabilitation Network
Mrs MAK CHAN Lai-lun

Mrs POON MOK Hing-yin

Ms HO Shuk-yi
Registered Social Worker

Hong Kong Special Schools Council
Mrs LING LAU Yuet-fun, Laura

Mr Andrew TSE

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Constance LI
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2

Staff in Attendance :

Mr Stanley MA
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6

The Chairman informed the meeting that he had invited Mr HO Mun-ka, Chairman of the LegCo Panel on Health Services, and Mr LAW Chi-Kwong, member of the LegCo Panel on Welfare Services, to attend the discussion and give advice on areas of their interest.

2. The Chairman welcomed representatives of the Administration, Hong Kong Special Schools Council (HKSSC), Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation Community Rehabilitation Network (HKSR) and parents' representatives of the seven special schools for physically handicapped (PH) children to the meeting.

I. Confirmation of minutes of meeting
[LC Paper Nos. CB(2)1233/98-99 and CB(2)1234/98-99]

3. The minutes of the meetings held on 6 and 25 November 1998 were confirmed.

II. Review of the improvement proposals for special schools for physically handicapped children
[Paper Nos. CB(2)1350/98-99(01) and (02)]

4. Members noted that parents of the seven special schools for PH children had tabled a revised version of their further submission at the meeting. Ms HO Shuk-yi of HKSR highlighted the key points in the written submission on behalf of the parents' association. She reiterated the parents' request for kitchen facilities, school bus service, hydrotherapy pool, air-conditioning, toilets and nursing room, etc. Ms HO said that HKSR agreed to make use of the hydrotherapy service available in the community, but requested that consideration be given to providing a hydrotherapy pool in the future design of special schools for physically handicapped children. Parents' representatives attending the meeting supplemented that air-conditioning including warm air circulation in winter would also be necessary for physically handicapped children.

Priority of improvement items under discussion

5. Mr HO Mun-ka noted HKSR's concern about the provision of physiotherapists, occupational therapists and nursing staff in special schools. He pointed out that the requirements for these professional staff in special schools might vary from time to time depending on the composition of handicapped children admitted. It would be more effective for special schools and other subvented organisations to seek flexible deployment of staff resources instead of a fixed staffing ratio. He suggested that consideration could also be given to shared use of pooled resources among schools and agencies for economies of scale.

6. The Chairman added that the Administration was reviewing the School Management Initiative (SMI) Scheme and the allocation of resources for the next school year. Under the SMI, schools would be given more flexibility in determining the use of resources allocated. In view of this development and the resource constraints as reflected in the proposed budget for 1999-2000, he would suggest a pragmatic approach in prioritising the various requests for improvements. Ms Laura LING of HKSSC agreed with the Chairman. She said that the disparity in employment terms for physiotherapists and allied health personnel in the Hospital Authority (HA) and special schools had been a matter of concern when there was a high vacancy rate of these staff in special schools. However, as special schools had never operated under a full-strength situation before, it would be difficult for the community or Government to assess whether the existing staffing ratio was adequate or not. Now that special schools had attained almost full strength of physiotherapists, she would prefer to review the situation some time later. She was also in support of having more flexibility in the deployment of resources by schools under the SMI. Dr YEUNG Sum shared Mrs LING's views that discussion on staffing ratios would be protracted and would not serve much useful purpose in the present circumstances.

7. Mr LAW Chi-Kwong said that all suggestions for improvements were well-intentioned, but it would be necessary to prioritize the various requests in view of the resource constraints. In his opinion, improvements which would benefit the handicapped children directly should be given higher priority. However, he had reservations about providing a kitchen for each special school due to fire safety concerns. As regards air-conditioning for the boarding section of special schools, Mr LAW considered that not only the bedrooms but the whole boarding section should be air-conditioned in order to encourage handicapped children to move around in the dormitory.

8. Members agreed that in reviewing the progress of improvement proposals, priority would be given to items which would be of immediate benefit to the handicapped children in special schools.


9. Referring to the Administration's progress report [Paper No. CB(2)1350/98-99(01)] and the discussion at the previous meeting, Dr YEUNG Sum enquired about Government's present position on provision of air-conditioning in special schools. Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (PAS for EM) clarified that at the last meeting, the Administration had agreed in principle to support the provision of air-conditioning in the boarding section of special schools for PH children, on the understanding that there were only two schools under this category and only one of them was not yet air-conditioned. However, in calculating the necessary costs, the Administration must have regard to the special schools for severely mentally handicapped (SMH) children some of whom also suffered from severe physical disabilities, and the total number of schools of these two categories would be 17. The Administration therefore had to carefully consider the priorities of these improvements with regard to resource implications and impact on the boarding fees. The Chairman advised that priority should be given to the dormitory of these special schools. He informed members that the two electric companies were willing to donate air-conditioners (and the installation expenses) to the dormitory of the special schools, and the Clerk would ascertain the total number of air-conditioners required. These air-conditioners would be installed before summer. Mrs MAK of the Parents Association also confirmed that parents were willing to bear reasonable recurrent expenditure of air-conditioning in the dormitory.

(Post-meeting note : The Hong Kong Electric Company Limited and China Light & Power Company Limited agreed to donate some 90 air-conditioners to dormitories of special schools for PH and SMH children.)

10. With regard to the installation and recurrent costs for air-conditioning in school halls and canteens, Assistant Director of Education (Services) (AD of E(S)) said that the estimated amount of $34 million for installion costs included nine dormitories, 10 school halls and five canteens in special schools for PH or SMH children. Those special schools which only had open air playground cum school hall were not included. However, Mrs LING disagreed with the calculation. The Chairman therefore advised the Administration to provide a breakdown of the costs for different sections before further deliberations.Adm

11. Mr Andrew WONG enquired whether the Administration would consider providing air-conditioning to the whole dormitory in special schools. PAS for EM responded that the Administration would also have to assess the implications on other welfare institutions. The Chairman considered that the Subcommittee should focus on the bedrooms in special schools for PH children at the present stage.

12. Concerning parents' request for warm air circulation in the dormitories in winter, members suggested that portable electric heaters could be provided by schools if necessary.

Standard items of the medical inspection/nursing room

13. Responding to the Chairman, AD of E(S) said that arrangements were being made to include suction machine, oxygen, bed with railing, emergency call bell, small drawer set for medicine and sterilizer into the list of standard provision for special schools. Members noted that most special schools had already acquired these items by private donations. Pending the formal resource allocation procedures for inclusion of these items in the standard list, ED would also approve requests for supply of these items upon request.

Raising the spending limit of the School and Class Grant

14. Mrs LING reported that HKSSC had conducted a survey on the issue but there were divergent views among the 73 member schools. She said that raising the spending limit without increasing the amount of the Grant would not help the school principals. Noting that the Code of Aid for SMI schools was currently under review and the Administration was considering giving more flexibility to the schools in the use of allocation, members agreed to hold the issue in abeyance pending a definite view from special schools.

Provision of adjustable desks and chairs

15. Members noted that ED had agreed to include adjustable desks and chairs as standard provisions for special schools. Mrs LING acknowledged that imported items were expensive and said that special schools would make use of local suppliers as far as possible. She added that HKSSC would provide ED with the specifications of such desks and chairs required as well as the local prices of these items.

Toilet facilities

16. Members noted that ED would arrange to install handrails in the toilets of special schools for PH children under Phases 5 to 8 of the School Improvement Programme (SIP). At the request of the Chairman, ED would give priority to special schools with urgent needs. With regard to improvements to special schools outside SIP, HKSSC would liaise with ED to provide justifications on the improvements required. ED would also consult school principals on the provision of toilets near junior classrooms. HKSSC

Enlarging the classrooms from 45m2 to 60m2

17. Mrs LING expressed objection to ED's approach in reporting progress of this item. She said it would be impractical for special schools to justify larger classrooms with measurements of furniture and equipment. Dr YEUNG Sum and other members agreed that the classrooms in the special schools visited were rather congested. As PH children required wheelchairs or supporting equipment in their movement, more space would be required for circulation and special seating arrangements.

18. AD of E(S) explained that the standard provision of classrooms was 45m2 for 10 PH children, and the space should be adequate. However, ED would further examine whether it would be possible to provide additional space for computers in classrooms.

19. To enable the Subcommittee to have a better understanding of the space requirements for classrooms in special schools for PH children, the Chairman suggested and members agreed to pay a visit to special schools after ED had reviewed the calculation of classroom requirements. Clerk

(Post-meeting note : The Subcommittee visited two other special schools on 5 May 1999.)

Kitchen facilities

20. AD of E(S) informed members that ED was not in favour of providing kitchen facilities to special schools for safety reasons, apart from accommodation and resource considerations. To solve the problem of providing special diet to PH children with chewing and swallowing difficulties, ED had made enquiries with a number of private caterers and obtained quotations from two caterers who were willing to provide special meals at reasonable costs.

21. The Chairman advised that it would be worthwhile to have a trial of the catering service before considering other options. At the request of the Chairman, representatives of HKSSC and ED agreed to follow up the suggestion, although Mrs LING of HKSSC had some reservations as regards the cost and reliability of private catering. In this connection, Mr HO Mun-ka proposed that the Subcommittee could also explore the possibility of making use of the Food Chill Service of HA. Mrs LING expressed interest in the idea. Members supported the proposal and the Chairman asked the Clerk to write to HA on the suggestion.HKSSC


(Post-meeting notes : The Clerk wrote to HA on 17 March 1999. A meeting was subsequently held among ED, HA and HKSSC to discuss the arrangements for using the Food Chill Service.)

Design and facilities for the physiotherapy room etc.

22. Mr HO Mun-ka suggested that the physiotherapy rooms should be designed as multi-purpose rooms and requested further information from ED on the space and facilities of physiotherapy rooms in special schools. Mrs LING and AD of E(S) undertook to provide the information. HKSSC

Hydrotherapy pool

23. In response to the Chairman, Senior Inspector of ED (SI of ED) explained the survey findings of ED on the use of hydrotherapy pool in special schools. SI of ED said that there were on the average about 20 students requiring hydrotherapy service in each of the seven special schools for PH children. Two sessions of half an hour each were arranged every week, and three children attended as a group at one time. According to the calculation of ED, a hydrotherapy pool in special school would be used for about seven hours per week. Mr TSE of HKSSC disagreed with the calculation and undertook to provide a breakdown of the utilization of hydrotherapy pool in his school.

(Post-meeting note : Mr TSE had subsequently provided the information in the appendix.)

24. The Chairman inquired why ED did not provide a hydrotherapy pool for each special school if hydrotherapy was considered beneficial to physically handicapped children. SI of ED responded that the special schools without a hydrotherapy pool currently made use of the hydrotherapy service of HA in the vicinity. He said that most of these HA facilities were in close proximity to the special schools and the travelling time was only a few minutes.

25. Mr TSE of HKSSC reiterated that hydrotherapy pool was a basic requirement of special schools. In this connection, Dr YEUNG Sum urged the Administration to consider providing a hydrotherapy pool for each special school to obviate the need for PH students to travel to HA premises for hydrotherapy service. AD of E(S) advised that there would be substantial resource implications in providing a hydrotherapy pool for each special school. Mr HO Mun-ka was of the view that special schools should make use of the HA facilities if they were close to the schools. Mrs LING clarified that HKSSC only sought to include the provision of hydrotherapy pool in the design of new special schools, while existing schools had already accepted the reality and would continue to make use of the community facilities.

26. To enable the Subcommittee to take a view on the proposal, the Chairman suggested HKSSC to survey the current usage of hydrotherapy service by PH children and the total travelling and preparation time required for using HA facilities. Mrs LING agreed to provide further information in this respect. AD of E(S) suggested the survey of HKSSC should also include the time spent on study and other activities, in order to provide a complete picture of the daily or weekly activities of PH students in special schools.HKSSC

(Post-meeting note : The Subcommittee subsequently recommended HKSSC to further discuss with ED the possibility of providing a smaller pool in the future design for special schools, while existing schools would continue to make use of the community facilities.)

School bus service

27. Representatives of HKSSC and HKSR expressed concern about the continued provision of school buses in case there was a cessation of donations. AD of E(S) replied that there had not been any difficulties for schools to acquire school buses through private donations so far. He said that while ED had the responsibility to provide nine-year universal basic education, ED would examine which department would be able to assist in the transport of PH children to schools in case the schools had problems in acquiring school buses through donations.

28. With regard to the design and facilities of school buses, SI of ED advised that the schools concerned could specify their requirements when placing orders for replacement. On the suggestion of providing more 20-seater coaches to replace the large coaches, Mrs LING pointed out that the schools would have to consider the implications on driver requirements and the availability of parking space in schools.

29. At the request of the Chairman, Mrs LING of HKSSC agreed to follow up with special school principals to see if they had difficulties in acquisition of replacement school buses and in their applications for restricted zone permits. The Chairman said that the Subcommittee could write again to the Transport Department on the granting of restricted zone permits if necessary. HKSSC


30. The Chairman said that the Subcommittee would review the progress in about three months. He thanked members and representatives of the Administration, HKSSC and HKSR for attending the meeting.

31. The meeting ended at 6:30 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
24 June 1999


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