Management committees of aided schools should try to find suitable replacements before applying to keep principals and teachers beyond the age of 60, officials say. The Education Department will issue a circular urging the committees to conduct the selection exercises if a bill giving legal backing to the Government's retirement policy is passed. The bill seeks to prohibit people aged 60 or above taking a job as a teacher or principal at an aided school. It also provides that the Director of Education may, upon application by management committees, allow a teacher or principal already employed to stay on until 65. Legislators expressed concern in the bill's committee stage that rigid enforcement of the retirement policy would create operational difficulties for schools in remote areas. The Government has agreed that schools may employ teachers over 60 if they are temporary replacements for teachers who cannot perform duties or if they fill a post outside the remit of the school's teaching staff. As a one-off transitional move, the Government agrees that serving principals or teachers over 60 when the 2000-01 school year starts may continue to be employed for that school year without the need to seek the Director of Education's approval. In February last year, a principal of an aided secondary school sought a declaration from the High Court that section 57 of the Code of Aid for Secondary Schools regarding retirement of teachers at 60 contravened the Education Ordinance. The action was taken on behalf of the school's committee. In June, the court ruled the Government could not enforce the retirement policy as the administration was not a contracting party in the employment of the principal.