Discovery College parents win fee review

Education Bureau promises it will discuss the hefty rise with ESF

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 5:25am

Discovery College parents fuming over the school's application to raise its fees about 8 per cent for the coming academic year met government authorities for the first time yesterday to voice their concerns.

After the meeting, the parents said the Education Bureau promised to discuss the issue with the English Schools Foundation, whose affiliate ESF Educational Services runs the school, and that the bureau would get back to them within a month.

The concern group of parents said the increase was part of a broader plan to raise school fees by 53 per cent over the next five years. Under the plan, parents would have to pay more than HK$130,000 a year for primary school pupils and HK$180,000 for those between Year 7 and Year 11.

Another heavily opposed plan to introduce a non-refundable annual building levy of HK$5,900 was approved in March.

Group spokesman Phillip Baldwin said although the college provided good education, ESF's management and planning for the school was responsible for its poor financial position.

In a presentation to parents, the principal admitted that a "flawed and uncertain financial model" was the cause of its continued annual deficit.

Baldwin, whose two children are at the school, said it should not force parents to pay the price for its miscalculations while ESF owned about HK$2 billion worth of properties it could sell if necessary. "You can't just tell us that you've got it wrong but parents need to pay for it," he said. "It's just not right."

An Education Bureau spokeswoman said officials were processing the school's application in accordance with established practices and would take parents' views into account.

New People's Party lawmaker and executive councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who attended the meeting, said the government "did not [initially] know the seriousness of the situation". "It did not know there was no prior consultation before the fee hike, nor did it know there were alternative funding options," she said.

Ip said the fees were so high because the campus was extragavant and there were only about 1,000 students to share the building and maintenance costs.