ESF - English Schools Foundation

ESF explores cost-cutting, profit-making measures to cope with loss of government subsidy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 March, 2014, 2:58am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 April, 2015, 5:44pm

The English Schools Foundation is looking into ways to cut costs and generate more income to cope with the loss of its government subsidy from 2016, its chief executive officer says.

The ESF may shift professional training sessions in other countries back to its own centres in Hong Kong to save on staff travel costs, and will also consider attracting overseas professionals to train here as a means of generating more income, said foundation head Belinda Greer, who took over Heather Du Quesnay's role last September.

"Professional training is really a strength for the ESF," Greer said at a media gathering yesterday. "We believe we can reach out to Hong Kong and beyond into Asia. We can encourage people to come to us for continuous professional development."

The foundation could share its expertise in health and well-being with other schools as a way of making a profit. By doing so, it could keep its tuition fees relatively low and continue to serve middle-class families, she said.

Other ways to cut costs included digitalising staff recruitment procedures, centralising the purchase of materials and stationery, and outsourcing services such as IT, she said.

"Technology and social media is having a big impact on our society these days, so one of the things we're looking at is how to embrace this in our recruitment process," the foundation's human resources director, Charles Caldwell, said.

He said candidates could post multimedia portfolios online, including videos of classroom demonstrations, so ESF principals could get to know more about them before arranging a face-to-face interview.

The foundation had already shifted from video conferencing to Skype interviews, resulting in "significant recruitment savings", Caldwell said.

Currently, some ESF leaders fly overseas to interview candidates every year. The foundation also covers the travelling costs of candidates shortlisted for leadership positions to fly to Hong Kong for interviews. It said this was because interviewing such candidates in person could ensure the best appointments.

Caldwell said prospective candidates could now submit their résumés on the ESF website through their mobile devices. The move was expected to attract more technology-savvy applicants, he said.

ESF chief financial officer Vivian Cheung Wai-yan said many ESF schools currently bought their teaching materials and pupils' stationery separately. The foundation may centralise the process, buying both teaching materials and stationery in bulk to save on costs. It had yet to estimate how much it could save from these measures as it was still in the process of discussing all possibilities, she said.