After over two years of negotiation with the Education Bureau (EDB), the English Schools Foundation (ESF) has received a proposal from the government for the phasing out of its subvention to ESF which protects the subvention for existing students and for those who are currently in or about to enter the four ESF International Kindergartens in August 2013.
“As you know, the ESF Board has fought long and hard for the retention of the subvention,” said Carlson Tong, ESF Chairman. “We deeply regret that the Government has not been persuaded to agree to the long term retention of the subvention. However, we have secured an offer which protects the interests of existing (and some future) students; it also provides for the continuation of Government funding for ESF’s special needs provision pending a wider review and commits the Government to making capital subvention available for the re-building of Island School.”
The details of the proposal from EDB are as follows:
- recurrent subvention, frozen at the current level, will remain in place for three school years from 2013-14 to 2015-16 inclusive; from August 2016, subvention will be phased out year by year over thirteen years so that the last year group to qualify will be that which graduates in 2027-28;
- government subvention for Jockey Club Sarah Roe School (JCSRS) and for the Learning Support Centres (LSCs) (a total of HK$28.3 million per year) will be maintained at the existing level pending a wider government review of support for children with special educational needs in Hong Kong;
- subject to approval by the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council, a capital grant will be made available to assist in funding the re-building of Island School. The capital grant will be equal to 100% of the cost of constructing a standard design public sector school educating the same number of students. At today’s prices this would be HK$270 million. After the re-development of Island School, ESF, like all international schools in Hong Kong, will not be entitled to any financial support except for an interest-free loan for construction of a school on an allocated green-field site.
Mr Tong said that the ESF Board considered the Education Bureau’s proposals at their meeting on 21 May and decided to accept the proposals in principle but wish to invite parents’ comments before they make a final decision. Two parents’ meetings have been arranged on 11 and 14 June to explain the proposal in more detail and to give parents an opportunity to comment.
The ESF Board will make a final decision on the proposal by 18 June taking into account parents’ feedback and EDB will report to the LegCo Education Panel at a time to be fixed.
“While the outcome of the review is far from what we would have wished, the ESF Board is conscious of the long period over which the future of the subvention has been uncertain. After much thought and debate, we feel that it is time to enable the organisation to move forward,” said Mr Tong.