Almost half the secondary schools for handicapped students are understaffed, figures from the Education Department show. The problem also hits the primary sector where nearly a quarter of schools had staff vacancies in the past academic year, prompting fears that children with special needs are not receiving enough care. Principals called on the Government yesterday to channel more resources to training to ensure handicapped children were given high quality education. Sixty-two special schools, two practical schools and three skills opportunity schools were operated by the department in the last academic year. The schools, most offering both primary and secondary sections, recruited 1,500 teachers to teach 8,000 students with different levels of ability and learning problems. Another practical school and one more skills opportunity school will be opened in Shamshuipo and Fanling respectively in the new school year. The department admitted the shortage of graduate teachers in the secondary sector was acute. More than half the secondary schools for disabled suffered understaffing of graduate teachers with 16.4 per cent vacancies. Department senior inspector Hung Ka-lok said graduate teachers preferred working in normal schools because they had little understanding of educational needs for the handicapped. He said the department had offered in-service training for those teachers. The principal of John Kennedy Centre for physically handicapped children, Andrew Tse Chung-yee, said recruiting therapists was even more difficult. He said his school required at least four therapists, but last year he could hire only one, which meant students had to wait a long time or be transferred to other clinics for treatment.