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Hong Kong schools

Troubled Hong Kong school illegally sacked two teachers, new board member says

Veteran educator makes revelation after pair are reinstated and he says conflict with other staff can be resolved

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 7:17pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 10:44pm

It was illegal for a school accused of inflating pupil numbers to have sacked in June two teachers who protested at a parents’ symposium, a new board member said on Wednesday.

Lui Ki-cheung made the remarks after Hing Tak School in Tuen Mun decided in a meeting late on Tuesday to reinstate the pair.

Lui, who was appointed by the Education Bureau two months ago to manage the crisis, said the school was on the road to mending strained relations with teachers with the new academic year beginning in less than a month.

Veteran educator defends Education Bureau’s handling of school with ‘permanently absent’ pupils

Speaking on a radio programme, Lui said lawyers hired by school supervisor Chung Kai-wing had explained during the board meeting on Tuesday that it was against employment laws to fire staff while they were on sick leave.

The lawyers added there were no minutes of the board meeting in which the sacking decision was made and that the dismissals should not have been executed without minutes being confirmed, Lui said.

Fourteen teachers stormed the symposium in February to protest after principal Chan Cheung-ping ordered them to go to Shenzhen to hand out fliers to promote the school. Some then went on sick leave.

The government-subsidised school was accused on Tuesday of exaggerating the number of pupils enrolled in order to avoid a funding cut. Many of these lived across the border with mainland China and some had been absent for up to two years but remained on the roster.

Two of the teachers were sacked in June, while others received warnings or suspensions, or took extended periods of sick leave. The school stressed that the suspension of teachers was due to their conduct and was not related to their behaviour at the symposium.

Lui, an experienced educator who has handled management issues in many schools, said he was shocked by a conflict between two groups of teachers.

“I attended a resource meeting in early July and saw around 30 teachers who signed a petition to tell us they did not want 12 [teachers involved in the protest] to come back to school,” he said.

“A representative even said they did not want to work with the 12 teachers, while some parents raised placards saying they did not welcome those teachers.”

But he believed the problem could be resolved and that the board had talked to both groups. He said the board was confident it could unite the teachers.

With the school set to have 26 classes next year, Lui believed there should be enough teachers with those on leave likely to to return.

He said the future of principal Chan would be discussed at a meeting on Friday next week.