To: All Parents of children in ESF schools –
Primary, Secondary and Jockey Club Sarah Roe School
ESF School Fees 2012-13
The ESF Board of Governors met on 25 April 2012 to undertake the annual review of school fees and the remuneration of staff. The review meeting took place later this year than in previous years because the Board had set in motion a number of reviews and comparative studies of costs. Members wanted to have as much information as possible from these studies before attempting to come to any conclusion about costs for next year. The Board had also hoped that by now there would have been clearer information from the Government about the continuation and level of Government subvention in the future, but I am afraid that this has not been forthcoming. This letter explains the work that the Board has commissioned and sets out its decisions about remuneration and fee levels for next year.
The Board is acutely aware of the impact of fee increases on parents and has taken every opportunity to press the Hong Kong Government to recognise that as long as the subvention is frozen all additional costs will fall directly on parents. Discussions have now resumed with the Government about the review of the subvention and the Board is hopeful that there will be a clear decision before the budget for 2013-14 is finalised.
The Board is committed to developing a culture of efficiency and cost-awareness within ESF as a whole to ensure that the greatest possible value is derived from every dollar spent. The cost review exercises, most of which will be ongoing, include reviews of:
- the costs of ESF Centre which, over 2 years, has generated over HK$18 million in savings and will continue into the future;
- the formula by which funds are distributed to schools to meet their individual costs. This will not produce savings but will seek to ensure that money is fairly distributed in the light of the ages and needs of children and changes in the curriculum, thus minimising calls for additional funding for new initiatives;
- the way schools use the budgets delegated to them so that all can learn from the good practice developed by any one school in achieving economies and value for money can be optimised;
- the level of remuneration for ESF teaching staff in relation to those in comparable schools in Hong Kong.
The most important of the review exercises has been the comparative study of the pay of teaching staff across a range of similar schools in Hong Kong, one of the largest such studies ever undertaken by ESF. This is the first part of an ongoing exercise whereby we will be looking at our competitive position not only in Hong Kong but against the international markets from which we recruit and in which our teachers seek promotion.
The early findings of the study of teachers’ pay show that our remuneration package is competitive within Hong Kong, and that reflects the commitment of successive Boards to recruit and retain teachers of the highest possible calibre in order to ensure an excellent education for ESF students. However, there are some strategic and structural issues in the pay arrangements that need further thought. Our experience of high turnover among some groups of support staff and educational assistants makes a strategic review of remuneration for these staff an urgent priority also.
These strategic issues will require medium-to-long term resolution. In the short term, the Board is conscious that the last cost of living adjustment to pay (of 3%) was decided in January last year, rather earlier than usual. Now, 15 months later, there are a number of factors which must be taken into account in approaching the pay decisions for next year:
- the average pay increase across Hong Kong businesses as a whole is forecast by the specialist consultants who monitor pay to be 4.5% to 5.1% for 2012;
- the average Consumer Price Index for the last year was 5.2% and the monthly figure for February was 4.7%;
- there is a continuing need to maintain our competitive position with schools in Hong Kong broadly similar to ours.
Setting this information against ESF’s strategic position on pay the Board has decided on a pay increase of 4% for all staff for the school year August 2012-2013, with further selected strategic reviews to take place for a number of staff groups over the next year and into the future.
Parents are well aware that there is a very close correlation between pay and fees because 80% of ESF’s budget is spent directly on staff. However, there are a number of areas of service where improvement is needed in the coming year which will entail small increases in costs. Chief among these are enhancements of our services for children with special educational needs. The Board has agreed to fund additional spending of HK$2.6 million to open or extend Learning Support Classes at Sha Tin Junior School, Sha Tin College and Kennedy School, expenditure which should be met by the Education Bureau but this is delayed by the review of the subvention, and to spend HK$ 3 million on enhancing the provision made by the ESF Therapy Centre, which will become increasingly self-financing as it moves out of its start-up phase. Other small areas of additional expenditure include information technology and the introduction of a sexual convictions check for staff in line with Hong Kong Government policy.
ESF’s major sources of income, as you know, are Government subvention and parents’ fees. As government subvention remains frozen and has already fallen to below 19% of our budget in the present year, the impact of all financial changes must inevitably fall on fees. In the light of recommendations from the Remuneration and Finance Committees, the Board has decided on an average fee increase of 4%. The fee will be differentiated to reflect (though not perfectly) actual costs as follows:
| || Annual||Monthly|
| || HK$ % Increase||HK$ Increase|
|Secondary 7-11||98,000 3.05||290|
|Secondary 12-13||102,000 5.05||490|
The Board is very conscious of the pressure that these increases will place on families and very much regrets that this is so. The Board has done its utmost to contain spending next year. However, in a climate of rising expectations of education, it has a responsibility to maintain and improve the quality and standards offered to ESF students. We hope that this letter will have given you enough information to enable you to understand the background to the Board’s decision.
Details of the Financial Assistance Scheme offered by ESF are available on the ESF website. The decision of the Board regarding fees is, as always, subject to approval by the Education Bureau.
The Board will meet again on 8 May to approve a budget incorporating these decisions. If you wish to ask for further information or to comment, please use the following e-mail address:
Heather Du Quesnay
Chief Executive Officer