Call for early EMB decision on the number of classes next year so schools can absorb surplus teachers Educators are worried that the number of teachers made redundant next year could increase sharply after the latest Audit Report revealed there were more than 20,000 surplus secondary school places. Tso Kai-lok, vice-president of Education Convergence and a secondary school principal, said it was likely that the report would drive the government to cut classes and staff in some secondary schools to save resources. The report said that 50 secondary schools had a total of 145 vacant classrooms because of the decline in student intakes, and school managers have been asked to submit a list of surplus teachers to be laid off by the end of March next year. Last year, about 500 primary school teachers were made redundant as the population dropped. The problem did not affect the secondary sector at that time. 'The Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) should let both secondary and primary schools know how many classes they can run next year as soon as possible so they can make proper arrangements for absorbing redundant teachers,' Mr Tso said. Patrick Lai Shu-ho, committee member of Hong Kong Subsidised Secondary Schools Council, said the weaker schools might have some surplus places, but the government also had to consider other schools that were taking in over 40 students per class. 'It's likely that no resources have been wasted if the government looks at the overall situation in each district rather than each school,' he said, adding that schools with weaker students should have more teachers and smaller classes. Leung Shiu-chuen, president of Hong Kong Aided Primary School Heads Association, agreed with Mr Lai. He urged the EMB to allow schools to reduce class sizes, particularly in districts where the birth rate was lowest. 'In recent years, the EMB has saved a lot of money on primary education as the number of students has decreased, but it never explains where the savings go,' he said. Surplus teachers would be given priority for vacant teaching posts from February 1 to June 30 next year, according to the EMB. . Cheung Man-kwong, president of Professional Teachers' Union, warned that such a tight timeline could stir unrest in schools as most of the surplus teachers might not be able to find a new job so quickly. 'There are going to be hundreds of surplus teachers next year as the Primary One admission rate continues to drop,' he said. 'I don't think the EMB should set the deadline so early.' But an EMB spokesman said the timeline should serve both surplus teachers and fresh graduates looking for teaching jobs. 'We understand it is going to be a very tough year ahead, but if we prolong the freeze period to July, the fresh graduates from universities and Hong Kong Institute of Education would not be able to teach,' he said.