No break for sick teachers under poor relief scheme

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 June, 2009, 12:00am

Teachers are hesitant to take sick leave because many schools have limited resources to hire substitutes, education lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong claimed yesterday.

Schools with incorporated management committees (IMCs) - ruling bodies made up of 40 per cent teachers, parents and alumni, and 60 per cent sponsoring body members - are given money yearly by the Education Bureau to cover the cost of hiring supply teachers to replace those on sick leave.

However, Mr Cheung, who raised his concern during a Legislative Council meeting this week, said the funding - called the Teacher Relief Grant - was insufficient.

As a consequence, schools had to meet the shortfall, and some sick teachers refrained from taking leave as a result.

'Some schools with IMCs have relayed to me that the amount of the Teacher Relief Grant is often insufficient to meet the actual demand which exerts pressure on both the schools and the teachers,' he said.

The grant is calculated using a formula that assumes each teacher will take 2.5 days of sick leave each year.

Schools that have yet to set up IMCs are in a different position. They apply for government funding on a case-by-case basis to cover the cost of hiring substitute teachers.

The Education (Amendment) Ordinance 2004 requires schools to set up incorporated management committees by 2012 and schools originally had to hand in draft constitutions before July 1. But because so many schools have yet to reply, the deadline has been extended to July 1, 2011. As of March 1, 380 aided schools had set up committees, with 62 pledging to do so before July 1. More than 430 schools have yet to set a timetable for the establishment of committees.

Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung said in a written reply that about 10 per cent of all IMC schools experienced a shortfall in the relief teaching grant during the school year of 2006-7.

He said the grant gave IMC schools more financial support and greater autonomy to flexibly deploy resources and simplified administrative procedures for the appointment of substitute teachers.

According to government statistics, the maximum substitute teacher reimbursement granted to one IMC secondary and one IMC primary school, with at least 31 classes, was HK$806,764 during the school year of 2008-9. This figure compared with HK$1,189,067 for non-IMC schools.

Mr Cheung said the figures showed more teachers in IMC schools had suppressed their need to take sick leave than those at non-IMC schools. He said reimbursement for substitute teachers should be targeted at schools' actual demand, and urged the government to abolish the Teacher Relief Grant and allow schools to claim money for substitute teachers on an actual needs basis.

Under the weather

Many sick teachers are refraining from taking leave

The percentage of IMC schools that experienced a shortfall in the Teaching Relief Grant during 2006-7 was: 10%

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