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HKBU scholar’s study shows that only 23% of secondary and primary schools open their sports facilities for community use

15 Jun 2016

Professor Lau (middle) suggests that the government provides more support to encourage schools to open up their facilities for community use
Professor Lau (middle) suggests that the government provides more support to encourage schools to open up their facilities for community use

Only 23% of secondary and primary schools open their sports facilities to the public, a figure that lags far behind some other countries according to a research conducted by Professor Patrick Lau Wing-chung, Department of Physical Education of Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) released today.

 

There are many concerns hindering schools from opening their venues, such as a possible clash in the schedule between leasing time of sports facilities and teaching activities, potential safety risks and the effect on normal school operations. Professor Lau suggested that the government and District Council could provide financial support and set up related policies to encourage schools to open up their facilities for community use and to promote a closer school-community relationship. 

 

With an aim to gauge the current situation as well as the merits and demerits of opening school sports facilities for community use, Professor Lau accepted invitation from the Hon Ma Fung-kwok, Legislative Councilor (Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication) to conduct “Policy study on the opening of school sports facilities for community use”.

 

A total of 138 secondary and primary schools responded to the survey questionnaire and only 23% of the respondents said they open their sports facilities for community use, and the main reason for opening is to strengthen the connection between the school and the community (56%). The other reasons cited are: to promote holistic community development (29%) and provide more sports resources to the community (15%). The percentage of schools that open their sports facilities for community use is far less than the percentage in some other countries, such as the US where 57% open their facilities, Japan with 99% and mainland China with 29%.

 

According to the schools which responded by saying that they open or are willing to open their sports facilities for community use, the success rate of venue booking applications is 82%, with the main reason for successful approval being their familiarity with the applicant (76%). The reasons for rejecting applications stem from issues over insurance, legal liability and compensation (31%), security consideration and crowd control (24%); and concerns over more people unrelated to the school entering the campus (15%).

 

Regarding the schools’ concerns when considering whether to accept applications, topping the list is the extra demands it places on schools’ resources and manpower (17%), then comes issues of safety of persons and legal liability (15%), and insurance (15%), followed closely by concerns over more people entering the campus (14%). Despite these concerns, most agreed that opening sports facilities for community use is beneficial, such as strengthening the connection between the school and the community (26%); providing more sports resources to society (20%) and promoting a culture of sports for all (17%).  

 

The most attractive incentive for schools to open up their sports facility for community use is financial related support, including the provision of additional funding by the government to schools which are willing to open their facilities (24%), to resolve insurance issues (22%), and to disburse payment on additional security work needed (15%). They expect the government and District Council to fully or partially subsidise the cost arising from opening the sports facilities to the public (29%), setting up policies related to venue booking (22%) and providing operating modes for reference (15%).

 

Professor Lau pointed out that modern society is exploring how secondary and primary schools, as one of the core groups in community, could contribute more to community building and blending. He suggested that schools should proactively consider ways to open more facilities for community use provided that their teaching demands have been satisfied. At the same time, the government should establish guidelines for writing disclaimers, provide guarantee on insurance limits and sufficient financial support to schools, so that schools do not need to worry about the additional cost arising from facilities maintenance, security, cleaning and so forth. 

 

Mr Ma said that Hong Kong sports organisations have been facing a shortage of sports venues and facilities for a long time. If the government could consider and adopt the recommendation made by the report, it would help release more idle venues to sport and recreation organisations and subsequently improve the quality of life of its citizens. Mr Ma said he would call for follow-up actions suggested by the study through the Legislative Council.

 

Professor Lau will submit the findings of the study to the related government departments for their reference.