Legislators have given a mixed reception to plans to extend an early retirement scheme for primary teachers to all schools. The $700 million scheme launched in February, aims to solve the problem of oversupply of teachers in the primary school sector, where there are falling rolls, and ensure that newly qualified teachers are able to find a job. It provides primary teachers who retire early with an ex-gratia payment equal to one month's salary for every two years' of service up to a maximum of 12 months. Applicants now must be under 55, have served for more than 10 years in government, aided or direct subsidy scheme schools and be working at a school with falling rolls. The normal retirement age is 60. Education chiefs now want to extend the scheme to all schools and to teachers between the ages of 55 and 58 - with a reduced ex-gratia payment for those aged 56 to 58 - following calls from principals that it should be made more flexible. For 56-year-olds, the payment would be three quarters of a month's salary for every two years of service, for 57 year-olds it would be half a month's salary and for 58-year-olds it would be a quarter of a month's salary. At Monday's Legco education panel meeting, Cheung Man-kwong, who represents the education constituency, said: 'I support this as it hasn't actually gone beyond the limit of $700 million introduced by the finance committee. This is a modification within that particular context.' The scheme had gone down well among teachers, particularly those nearing retirement age, and would free up places in schools for fresh graduates, allowing a healthy turn-over in the profession, he said. However, he suggested that where teachers retired early within an aided school, the sponsoring body should fill the post with teachers set to lose their jobs at other schools within the group that were faced with falling rolls. Legislator Tommy Cheung Yu-yan said: 'The Liberal Party supported the idea of having the vacancies filled by the surplus teachers in the same sponsoring body. But here you are offering a fat chicken deal to everyone who is interested ... under this proposal, taxpayers' money will be passed to people not doing anything.' The government will now seek approval from the Legco finance committee for the proposed changes, due next September.