Teachers at Hong Kong's ESF schools could be punished for refusing to take Covid-19 tests

  • The city’s largest international school group said educators would face unpaid leave or disciplinary action if they won’t take coronavirus tests every two weeks
  • Some parents have started an online petition against students returning to the classroom full time
Amalissa Hall |

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The English Schools Foundation runs 22 kindergartens and schools, with more than 18,000 students. Photo: SCMP/ May Tse

Teachers at Hong Kong’s biggest international school group could be put on unpaid leave and face disciplinary action if they refuse to take regular Covid-19 tests.

The news follows the English Schools Foundation’s (ESF) decision last week that more than 2,600 staff members at kindergartens and schools must be screened by this week. This will fulfil an Education Bureau condition for bringing all students back into the classroom.

But more than 400 people have signed an online petition started by a group of ESF parents urging management to reconsider the plan, saying a full return to campus could increase children’s risk of being exposed to the virus.

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Under existing infection control measures, ESF schools, like most others in the city, have been able to allow up to one-third of their total student population to return for classes on a half-day basis. Only schools which get all staff tested every fortnight could apply for a full return to class.

ESF, which runs 22 kindergartens and schools with 18,000 students, told staff last Thursday they would have to undergo regular virus tests to fully resume face-to-face lessons. ESF plans to bring back all students from as early as next Monday, but two sources close to ESF schools said teachers were divided over the mandatory testing plans.

While students aren’t convinced the testing will help, they are keen to return to school as soon as possible.

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“I personally think although this may avoid the spread of Covid-19, it may not be very effective. There is a chance that students can spread the virus, not just the teachers,” said Teresa Kwok, 16, from South Island School. “Also, I really want to go back to school full time because the teaching schedule is quite tight now and I am afraid we do not have enough teaching time. Moreover, we can receive more support from teachers when we go back to school full time.”

Julie Lee, 13, from King George V School, added: “The teachers testing every two weeks may inform us whether they are sick, but it will most likely not prevent the virus from spreading because they can infect students during that period.

“I would like to go back to school full time as this would make sure that we have the same learning experience as in other years.”

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