Lack of management skills is hindering school administration and development Lack of training for deputy principals and panel head teachers in schools is hampering education reforms, according to experts. Tso Kai-lok, chairman of concern group Education Convergence, said the middle managers were in urgent need of human resources management training. 'Human resources management may seem irrelevant to teaching, but it will affect the effectiveness of education reform in terms of deployment of school manpower, co-ordination of different subjects, and professional development of teachers,' Mr Tso, also a secondary school principal, said. 'Middle managers in schools are desperate for management training, but the many training programmes available are only for teaching and curriculum development. It's high time the government provided management programmes to teachers for more effective implementation of education reforms and school policies.' His comments followed the release of the latest school inspection reports earlier this week. A total of 293 schools were inspected in 2003/04 by the EMB. They were assessed for management and organisation, learning and teaching, student support and school ethos, and student performance. Fifteen of the schools were subject to a full quality assurance inspection, 99 went through an external school review, and 179 underwent a focus inspection of specific aspects. The report noted that of the 92 non-specialist schools that underwent an external school review, more than half had not addressed areas of concern or drawn up comprehensive school development plans. It found that middle managers did not have a good grasp of the development of education reform. 'The professional leadership of deputy school heads and middle managers has yet to be strengthened,' the report stated. Of the 22 schools assessed in the two areas in focus inspections, 36 per cent were rated as 'acceptable' or below in planning for the professional development of staff and more than half did not take a sufficiently strategic approach to training their middle managers. Nearly all the schools lacked specific criteria for evaluating their staff development programmes. And fewer than half performed well in promoting staff development through appraisals, with a quarter 'unsatisfactory' in this regard. The report urged schools to review the professional development needs of their middle managers and called for a more transparent and liberal culture of staff appraisals than the top-down system found in some schools. Lillian Chan Lui-ling, a part-time lecturer of principal professional training programmes at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said there had been widespread frustration among principals, who found it difficult to pass their messages to teachers. 'When the principals set the direction for a school, they communicate with panel head teachers, who will then instruct their teaching team,' Ms Chan said. 'However, panel head teachers may not have the skills to co-ordinate and motivate their subordinates and lay out long-term professional development plans for them in line with the vision of the school. As a result, there is chaos and ineffectiveness in school development.' William Yip Kam-yuen, chairman of the Association of Heads of Secondary Schools, said principals were under great pressure and middle managers needed training to provide support in school administration and development. 'The job nature of panel head teachers is actually changing under the series of education reforms,' Mr Yip said. 'They need to carry out administrative duties, as well as formulating and implementing strategies in school development. 'There should be systematic training for middle managers to equip them for their new role.'