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LCQ21: Disciplinary arrangements of teachers of aided schools

     Following is a question by the Hon Ip Kin-yuen and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (October 28):


     According to the Code of Aid for Aided Schools, the Incorporated Management Committee should give advice and support to a teacher whose performance is unsatisfactory and, if there is no improvement in performance, may serve the teacher a written warning. If there is still no improvement after two written warnings have been served, the appointment of the relevant teacher may be terminated after a sufficient period of notice has been given. The Incorporated Management Committee must forward copies of the aforesaid written warnings to the Permanent Secretary for Education, so that the Education Bureau (EDB) may take note and/or follow up where necessary. Some stakeholders have relayed to me that schools often take disciplinary actions (e.g. serving the aforesaid written warnings) against the teachers concerned without giving them adequate opportunities of being heard. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of (i) the number of copies of the aforesaid written warnings received by the EDB, (ii) the number of cases in which the EDB took follow-up actions after receiving such copies, (iii) the number of cases in which the EDB concluded upon assessment that the written warning was inappropriately served by the schools (with a breakdown of the numbers of cases and the relevant reasons by whether the EDB requested the schools to withdraw written warnings), and (iv) the number of schools which withdrew the written warnings in accordance with the EDBˇ¦s requests and the number of such cases involved, in each of the past three years; and

(2) whether the EDB will, in order to safeguard the interests of the teachers concerned, comprehensively improve the disciplinary procedure against teachers whose performance is unsatisfactory by, for example, putting in place a mechanism similar to the civil service disciplinary mechanism to require schools to hold hearings before penalising the teachers concerned to enable the teachers to make representations on the allegations, and allow their lawyers and representatives to accompany them to the hearings to offer them legal advice or assistance, thereby protecting the rights of the teachers concerned?



     The Codes of Aid that are currently applicable to aided schools include the Code of Aid for Secondary Schools, the Code of Aid for Primary Schools, the Code of Aid for Special Schools and the Code of Aid for Aided Schools which is used by aided schools with an Incorporated Management Committee (IMC). Our reply to Hon IP Kin-yuen's question on the Code of Aid for Aided Schools is as follows:

(1) As the employer of teachers, the IMC of an aided school is responsible and ultimately accountable for the appointment, promotion, resignation, retirement, termination, dismissal and any other staffing matters of the school. Aided schools shall comply with the Employment Ordinance, the Education Regulations and all employment-related rules and regulations under relevant ordinances and legislations in handling matters related to termination of employment of teachers.

     The provisions on termination of employment, including serving of written warnings, in the Code of Aid for Aided Schools are applicable to teachers appointed in the school year subsequent to the incorporation of the IMC. According to the Code of Aid for Aided Schools, schools are required to submit a copy of the written warning served on a teacher to the Permanent Secretary for Education and follow-up actions will be taken by the Education Bureau (EDB) as appropriate. In the past three school years, seven copies of such written warnings (involving six cases) served to relevant teachers were received from schools with IMCs. The EDB has followed up on each case and none of the warnings need to be withdrawn.

(2) On disciplinary arrangements against teachers, it is set out in the School Administration Guide, which is applicable to all aided schools, that the staff concerned must be given adequate opportunity and reasonable time to improve their performance and to address/redress an accusation. The grievance procedures should also be clearly communicated to all staff.

     As regards the establishment of an inquiry hearing mechanism similar to that of the civil service for inclusion into the disciplinary procedure against teachers as mentioned in the question, we consider it inappropriate to put on par the two systems as the terms of employment and conditions of service of aided school teachers are different from those of civil servants.

     Unlike summary dismissal for cases of serious misconduct, gross negligence or having adverse impact on students or on their learning, serving teachers with written warnings is to, among others, give the teachers concerned an opportunity for improvement. Teachers who have been served a written warning will not necessarily be dismissed. In fact, teachers involved in the six cases mentioned above have not been dismissed by the school.

     The Government is committed to providing quality school education for students, and teacher quality is the key to effective learning of students. IMC of schools, established on the basis of participatory decision-making, transparency and accountability, is responsible for the provision of quality school education that reflect the characteristics of the school. The professional governance framework of IMC should be respected and trusted. By taking disciplinary actions against underperformed teachers to ensure quality education for students, the IMC is not only performing its management duty but also fulfilling its accountability obligation for the quality of education provided by the school. We believe this is also the expectation of the community on the Government and the education sector.

Ends/Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Issued at HKT 16:35


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