ESF - English Schools Foundation

Discovery College sizes up new ESF chief as school fees rise - again

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 8:42am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 April, 2015, 5:44pm

Three months into the new school year, parents at Discovery College on Lantau are still paying fees at last year's levels, having blocked a 7.6 per cent rise.

That changes next month with the government approving the increase from December, although questions remain over the finances of the independent school operated by the English Schools Foundation.

In adopting a financial model that it admits was flawed, the college wound up with continued deficits even as it struggled to repay a HK$170 million building loan. Its management imposed a HK$5,900 non-refundable building levy earlier this year and planned a 53 per cent fee increase over the next five years to make up for the shortfall.

Fuming at the "parents pay" solution, the Discovery College Parents Concerned Group put up a fierce fight, complaining to the Ombudsman, and lobbying legislative councillors.

And as CEO, Belinda Greer must clear up the mess she has inherited. Acknowledging what she describes as concerns raised by a small group of parents, Greer says she hopes to regain their confidence. "Our priority is to look ahead. We want to secure the future financial viability of the school, again looking at what we can do to generate income and run the school efficiently."

Parent representative Christian Mueller, who attended meetings that Greer held with college parents, was impressed by the new CEO's experience in education and willingness to listen. But Mueller says: "What was visible during the meetings was that, for the first time in her career, she is facing paying parents who have demands and objections in many areas where their money is spent."

Despite the new fees, he says parents feel they have made headway in that the rise, applied for in May, will not be backdated.