ESF - English Schools Foundation

ESF union letters spell out demands to restore morale

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 May, 2006, 12:00am

But chief executive Heather du Quesnay responds that dialogue should not be carried out by post

The teachers' union of the English Schools Foundation has issued the first of a series of weekly letters spelling out demands for staff morale to be restored following last year's decision to cut pay and benefits by 9.2 per cent.

The letter, sent to ESF chief executive Heather Du Quesnay and copied to principals, school councils and the media, says the union wants to open communication with her.

Julian Harniess, chairman of the Association of Professional Teachers of ESF Schools, wrote: 'There are a number of points and requests we would like to make . . . but I will spread these out over a series of letters so that no one point is lost.'

In the letter he called for teachers to be included 'proportionally' in the decision-making processes of the foundation and for management to lift the threat of disciplinary action against union members carrying out its directives, which include that teachers should not supervise children after 4.30pm unless contractually obliged to do so. He said the present 'managerial style' created 'a climate of fear'.

Mr Harniess told the South China Morning Post that teachers wanted more than one seat on the proposed board of governors.

The letter claims union members had 'not boycotted anything'. They would do anything that could be completed by 4.30pm, including running school camps, Mr Harniess said.

Ms Du Quesnay responded by saying the ESF could not conduct dialogue through such letters. However, she was willing to meet Mr Harniess on a weekly basis in order to address teachers' grievances.

She claimed regular contact was already established through meetings of the terms and conditions of service committee, which included union members. She added that she had written to Mr Harniess this week saying that management did not accept 4.30pm as a boundary for teachers to cease supervisory duties.

She rejected that there was a climate of fear. No teacher had been threatened with disciplinary action since the directive, she said. 'But any manager must have the power and duty to issue a warning if they believe there has been action that merits disciplinary procedures.'

She described the letter as 'extremely rhetorical' and unhelpful.

Meanwhile, Ms Du Quesnay clarified a comment made on last Sunday's ATV Newsline programme that the ESF could consider a two-tier fee structure, with international students paying more, in response to a suggestion by a panellist.

The ESF had no plans to implement such a policy, although there was an argument that companies wanting to keep places open for in-coming families should bear the cost of that, she said.

Mr Harniess; Damien Vance, chairman of the Native English-Speaking Teachers' Association and Katherine Forestier will take part in a further discussion on the ESF on Newsline tomorrow.