The advertised pay scale and job description for a new group of advisory native English-speaking teachers (NETs) for the primary sector have stirred fears over the quality of those to be recruited. The Education Department is looking for 20 NETs to work in an advisory teaching team alongside local English teachers. But the teachers, who will play an active role in curriculum development and teacher education in schools and across school districts, will be paid up to $8,000 less than NETs with comparable qualifications in the secondary scheme. The package also falls far short of those offered to expatriate primary teachers in the English Schools Foundation and most international schools. Educators and NETs fear that as a result the scheme will attract second-rate applicants who lack the experience to play the leading role envisaged. 'There may need to be some rethinking if the scheme is to be a success,' said Dr Peter Storey, head of the Centre for Language in Education at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. The advisory teachers are to be offered salaries of between $17,100 and $38,695 a month, depending on qualifications and experience, and will get a $13,000 allowance. They have to have taught in primary schools for just two years. The salary is almost identical to that of mainstream primary NETs, but significantly less than that of secondary NETs, who receive up to $46,485. 'They should recruit people with a substantial primary background, in training and experience, so they can best advise their colleagues at the chalkface. This requires experience and qualifications and yet the package does not reflect that,' said Dr Storey. 'Candidates have to be suitably remunerated or they will not get the right people.' He added that they also ideally needed experience of teaching at primary level in Hong Kong. 'Cultural factors are much more significant in primary schools than secondary,' he said. Secondary NETs have also expressed dismay. One, Rebecca Alderton, said that secondary NETs with initiative, who were used to working in Hong Kong and who had won acceptance among local colleagues could be the most suited to the advisory role. 'But on these salaries you are not going to attract the kind of people who would be really valuable to the scheme,' she said. 'I am surprised they only need two years' teaching experience. They are meant to be advising others, so should be considerably more experienced than local teachers and other NETs.' An Education Department spokesman said that the package was based on the salary scale for local teachers. 'A primary NET is on the same grade as that of an assistant primary school master. Those who want to join the scheme have to accept the fact that they will be paid lower than secondary NETs,' he said. The 20 advisory NETs should not be paid higher than other primary NETs because 'the nature of their job is similar', he added, while local teaching experience was not essential because the advisory NETs would work in partnership with 20 local teachers. In Hong Kong, primary teachers earn less than their secondary peers, while in the Western countries where NETs are recruited parity between the two sectors is the norm.