On 6th to 8th February 2021, the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools (HKAHSS) conducted a survey regarding the arrangement of class resumption after the Chinese New Year (CNY) holiday. 338 responses from secondary schools were received in 3 days, which was over 70% of the total number of secondary schools in Hong Kong. This reflected that principals are very much concerned about the policy.
Below are the data collected regarding the arrangement of class resumption after the CNY holiday:
1. In the COVID-19 Targeted Group Testing Scheme implemented by the Education Bureau (EDB) earlier, did your school attain 100% participation rate?
96% of the principals replied that they did not attain 100% participation rate in the COVID-19 Targeted Group Testing Scheme implemented by the EDB earlier.
2. How will your school arrange the half-day face-to-face classes after the CNY?
94% of the principals responded that they would arrange not more than one third of the total number of students to be back to school after the CNY. Only 9 secondary schools, which was about 3%, said that they would arrange all of their teachers and staff to take regular virus tests for full resumption of face-to-face classes.
3. Regarding EDB’s “Further Option for Individual Schools”, will your school conduct any survey on your teachers’ and staff’s intention to take regular virus tests?
34% of the principals expressed that they would not conduct any survey on their teachers’ and staff’s intention to take regular virus tests whereas 25% said they would. 41% said that they were not certain whether they would conduct any survey.
4. Does your school have any worries when considering whether your school would fulfil the criterion for “Further Option for Individual Schools” for whole school’s full resumption of face-to-face classes? (You may choose more than one option.)
Most of the principals had many different worries on EDB’s “Further Option for Individual Schools”. The majority of the principals (89%) had doubts over whether 100% of the teachers and staff could take virus tests every two weeks continuously. 85% of the principals worried whether there was any legal justification to request teachers and staff to take virus tests. 82% opined that parents, staff and the school management might have different views. 51% worried that it would increase the risk of cross infection in the school premises.
5. Other opinions
Below were the other opinions from 69 principals:
- Anti-pandemic measures should be based on scientific data and professional advice. The planning and arrangements for such measures should be made through thorough communication and with respect.
- During the pandemic, students’ health should be our first priority. The arrangements for resumption of face-to-face classes without scientific justification and medical experts’ advice will put students’ health and safety at risk.
- Whether schools could have full resumption of face-to-face classes should depend on the situation of the pandemic and not whether staff would take virus tests. Besides, the resources for virus test should be used on the groups which have the greatest need.
- The risk of students infecting one another was much higher than that of teachers and staff infecting students.
- Arranging full resumption of face-to-face classes at present might increase the risk of cross infection in the school premises. This would subsequently affect the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE) to be held later.
- Different bodies had reflected that it was inappropriate to implement this policy for schools in general, but it was disappointing that the EDB did not accept any opinion or make any amendment.
- During the pandemic and school suspension, teachers and staff did not suspend work. On the contrary, they did their best to maintain student learning and cater for students’ needs. They are the group who want to have full resumption of face-to face classes the most. No other groups than education practitioners would hope to have students and teachers seeing and interacting with one another in schools every day. We are not worried about being infected or shouldering responsibility. What we worry are Hong Kong’s fight against the pandemic, our students and colleagues.
- It is absolutely unreasonable for the EDB to make regular virus tests as the criterion for full resumption of face-to-face classes. This will put the school management in a very difficult situation when making a decision, which may eventually not be able to satisfy the wish of different stakeholders.
- “Further Option” would get the school caught in the middle of confrontation amongst different stakeholders who hold different views and this will pose a lot of difficulties for school administration.
- The “Further Option” for whole-school’s full resumption of face-to-face classes actually splits the different stakeholders, which is the opposite of the spirit of uniting Hong Kong citizens to fight against the pandemic at this critical time.
- We hope the EDB can listen to different opinions and suggestions, and will not be hard-headed.