EMB could agree to greater freedom if they delink teachers' salaries from the civil service pay scale The Education and Manpower Bureau says it will consider giving aided schools more autonomy in the use of resources and staff appointment if they agree to delink teachers' salaries from the civil service pay scale. But it is insisting it is necessary to build more Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) and Private Independent Schools (PIS) to increase educational diversity and parents' choices. Following a Legislative Council session on the provision of public school places yesterday, Cherry Tse Ling Kit-ching, deputy secretary for education and manpower, said: 'We will consider allowing aided and government schools similar autonomy to that currently enjoyed by their counterparts in the DSS scheme, but it will depend on whether the schools are willing to make some adjustments, such as reviewing whether teacher salaries should be linked to the civil service pay scale.' She added that the government had already been considering giving schools more flexibility over how they use non-salary grants. The comment was made after representatives of the 30 education groups present complained that aided and government schools could not compete with DSS and PIS ones because they had much less autonomy over resources. The Grants School Council also urged more freedom over the selection of students, but Ms Tse said that demand would be difficult to satisfy because other schools might not favour the idea. Lau Chi-keung, chairman of the Hong Kong Subsidised Primary Schools Council, said he welcomed more autonomy. 'It's like we have our hands tied by the government but are told to fight with the DSS schools,' he said. His group criticised the government for planning to build 19 DSS schools by 2009, saying new buildings should instead be given to the 400 bi-sessional primary schools to enable them to convert to whole-day. Legislator Cheung Man-kwong, said it was a waste of resources to continue building schools while supply exceeded demand - the Audit Report revealed there to be 20,000 surplus secondary school places - and alleged there was an EMB conspiracy to replace aided schools with DSS ones. Paul Yau Yat-heem, principal of Logos Academy, a DSS school in Tseung Kwan O, said DSS schools were in a risky situation because their government subsidies were based on student numbers. He urged the government to carry out a survey to assess the demand for DSS schools in each district before building new ones. Secretary for Education and Manpower Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun rejected the allegation that there was a conspiracy to replace old schools and stressed that the DSS sector would constitute only about 6.4 per cent of all schools by 2007.