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LCQ21: Teacher Relief Grant
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     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 (November 11):

Question:

     At present, the Government provides an annual recurrent cash grant known as the Teacher Relief Grant (TRG) to aided schools established with an incorporated management committee (IMC) for hiring supply teachers.@However, some members of IMCs have relayed to me that as the amount of the Grant is often insufficient to meet the actual demand or deployed for other purposes, teachers who have fallen ill refrain from taking sick leave and continue to work, which has exerted immense pressure on both the schools and the teachers, and the learning progress of students has been affected as well. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows, in the past three years, of (i) the total number of days of approved leave lasting for less than 30 days taken by teachers of aided schools over the territory, (ii) the total number of days of approved leave lasting for 30 days or more taken by teachers of aided schools over the territory, and (iii) the total number of days in which supply teachers were hired by those schools (broken down by category of leave);

(2) whether it knows the amount and percentage of the aforesaid Grant deployed for purposes other than hiring supply teachers in the past three years, with a breakdown by purpose; and

(3) given that a teacher has told me that he took more than 20 days of sick leave but his school did not hire any supply teacher, and he was asked to make up for the missed lessons during his absence (more than 100 lessons in total) after resuming duty, which had exerted tremendous pressure on the teacher, whether the Education Bureau (EDB) is aware of that kind of incidents; and in this regard (i) what improvement measures the EDB will implement, and (ii) whether the EDB will consider allowing schools to choose, on their own, either to claim reimbursement of expenses of hiring supply teachers on an accountable basis or making use of TRG to hire supply teachers; if the EDB will not, of the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

     Before the establishment of incorporated management committees (IMCs), aided schools may claim reimbursement from the Education Bureau (EDB) on a case-by-case basis for the appointment of daily-rated supply teachers to replace teachers on the establishment who have been approved to take leave for three days or more.

     To tie in with the implementation of school-based management and to simplify the administrative procedures for the appointment of supply teachers, the Teacher Relief Grant (TRG) has been given by the EDB to schools with IMCs to provide them with flexibility in deploying their resources to enhance the quality of education effectively. These schools are no longer required to apply for reimbursement on a case-by-case basis for the appointment of daily-rated supply teachers. However, if teachers take approved leave for 30 days or more or paternity leave for three consecutive days or more, schools may still apply for reimbursement from the EDB for the appointment of supply teachers. In case the TRG runs into deficit, schools may use the Expanded Operating Expenses Block Grant (EOEBG) to top up the TRG. Individual schools with financial difficulties may approach the EDB, which will provide assistance and take follow-up actions as appropriate, taking into account the specific circumstances of the schools.

     Regarding Hon Ip Kin-yuen's question on the TRG and the appointment of supply teachers, my reply is as follows:

(1) Under the existing policy, IMCs of aided schools may grant sick leave to teachers in accordance with the provisions under the Code of Aid, the Employment Ordinance and the instructions issued by the Permanent Secretary for Education from time to time. We have not collated statistics by category on the number of days of leave, including sick leave, taken by all aided school teachers and the total number of days which supply teachers have been appointed by all aided schools.

(2) The TRG includes two components, namely, an annual recurrent cash grant and an optional cash grant. While the former is for schools to appoint daily-rated supply teachers on a short-term basis according to their needs, the latter is for schools which opt to freeze no more than 10% of their teaching establishment to employ additional teachers or other supporting staff, provide staff training or procure education-related services, etc. after seeking the consent of the IMCs, the majority of teachers and parents. Schools may combine and use the two components of the TRG flexibly having regard to their needs, and are not required to report the deployment of the Grant to the EDB. Information in this respect is, therefore, not available.

(3) With regard to the incident where a teacher claimed that no supply teacher was appointed during his more than 20 days of sick leave and he was asked to provide make-up lessons upon his resumption of duty, we are not able to verify or comment on the case as relevant information is insufficient. If a complaint or request for assistance on the case is received, we will look into it and take follow-up actions.

     The IMCs of aided schools should establish a school-based mechanism for processing leave applications from teachers. All along, the EDB has been reminding schools through various channels that they should consult their staff members when establishing the school-based mechanism. Policies and principles on processing leave applications, arrangements for teaching and other duties of teachers on leave and arrangements for make-up lessons upon their resumption of duty should be properly formulated to ensure that such arrangements are fair and reasonable, and are able to protect the entitlements of teachers without compromising students' learning.

     The EDB has been keeping in view the implementation of the TRG. To our knowledge, most schools do not have any adverse comments on the current arrangement for the TRG. According to the latest (i.e. 2013/14 school year) financial statements submitted by schools, only two IMC schools ran into deficit in respect of their TRG accounts and they were able to deploy the surplus of the EOEBG to cover the related expenses. In this regard, there is no justification to change the current arrangement.

Ends/Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Issued at HKT 11:45

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