Two schools run by the Hong Kong branch of the Salvation Army are to merge – the first in the primary sector since officials appealed for educational institutions to consider joining forces because of falling enrolment, the Post has learned.
The Salvation Army in Hong Kong and Macau confirmed on Thursday it planned to merge schools in Chai Wan, in Eastern district.
The district has the highest proportion of elderly people in the city and a declining number of young children.
“The detailed merger plan will be announced after Education Bureau approval,” the religious organisation said. “We are not in the position to supply further information at this point in time.”
Sources said the schools earmarked for merging were the Salvation Army Ann Wyllie Memorial School and the Salvation Army Centaline Charity Fund School.
They added the plan had been discussed at recent meetings, with the suggestion that Ann Wyllie Memorial should be the home of the combined school, although no firm date has been announced.
The district where both schools are located is expected to see a 11 per cent drop in the number of six-year-olds entering primary education in the next school year.
Both schools have suffered as the school population has contracted over recent years.
Ann Wyllie Memorial downsized from three Primary One classes to two this academic year.
The Centaline Charity Fund school has had just a single Primary One class in the last two years.
The number of pupils in the three classes is not known.
Schools must enrol at least 16 children before it can operate a Primary One class under Education Bureau regulations.
The bureau can cease subsidies to schools that fail to meet the criteria after three years and can transfer pupils elsewhere.
There are about 3,700 six-year-old children in Eastern district expected to start primary school at the start of the new academic year in September and the figure is predicted to fall by 400 to 3,300 next year.
The early childhood sector has lost a total of 21 kindergartens in the last school year, eight of them in Eastern district.
The total number of Primary One age pupils across Hong Kong is expected to be about 57,300 in September and 53,400 in the same month next year.
The Post last Tuesday reported that five primary schools faced closure after they failed to enrol enough children to operate even a single Primary One class.
These include St Charles School in Kennedy Town, Po Yan Oblate Primary School in Wong Tai Sin and the Church of Christ in China Cheung Chau Church Kam Kong Primary School.
Secondary schools are also under threat of merger or closure.
The Catholic Caritas Charles Vath College in Tung Chung last month announced that it would join forces with Pok Fu Lam’s Caritas Wu Cheng-chung Secondary School, both in Southern district, for the 2024-25 academic year.
Caritas Wu Cheng-chung Secondary School is expected to move its pupils to Tung Chung under the merger proposals.
A spokesman for the bureau said it had discussed school development plans with sponsoring bodies and the education sector and the discussions had included closure of institutions with long-term under-enrolment, as well as mergers or relocations to areas where there was a demand for places.