Almost one in three primary school social workers changed jobs in the last academic year, a survey finds. The high turnover has prompted calls for scrapping the system for hiring social workers as critics say it pushes down wages and makes the jobs unattractive. The survey conducted by the Alliance on School Guidance Service found that 41 of 127 social workers at primary schools had quit or were transferred to other positions in the last academic year - a 32 per cent turnover rate. Fifty-nine per cent of all those surveyed quit within four years. 'We hope the tendering system would be demolished as wages become lower and lower,' said lawmaker Peter Cheung Kwok-che, who represents the social welfare functional constituency. Eight education and social welfare organisations, including the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union, formed an alliance to raise awareness of the problem. Under the system, social service groups offer bids, including the full-time service of their social workers, when schools tendered for social workers. Critics say NGOs tend to offer lower salaries to win bids. They warned that high turnovers would affect counselling services for pupils and suggested that the long-term-contract system in secondary schools could be adopted at the primary level. The tender system also leads to frequent transfers. Social worker Lau Ka-yeung has worked in two primary schools in the last nine years. He left his position in July because the school could no longer pay his HK$27,000 monthly salary. His organisation gave the job to a less experienced social worker. 'I have been building a relationship of trust with students and parents, but now I have to leave,' he said. 'We're all unhappy about it.' In the last academic year, there were 290 social workers at primary schools that received government funding for counselling - almost all of them were under the tender system, according to the alliance. At 218 other schools, counselling services are provided by teachers or trained instructors who work as counsellors. At the secondary level, the government pairs schools with organisations on long-term contracts. NGOs assess the quality of service yearly and change the social worker if the school is not satisfied. The Education Bureau said it would continue to pay attention to the development of counselling services at primary schools.