on 12 March 1999
ITEM FOR FINANCE COMMITTEE
HEAD 40 - EDUCATION DEPARTMENT
Subhead 300 Code of Aid for primary schools
Subhead 305 Code of Aid for secondary schools
Subhead 320 Code of Aid for special schools
Members are invited to approve -
- the disbursement of a special recurrent Furniture and Equipment Grant ranging from $700 to $3,000 per class per annum to all aided schools from the 1998/99 school year; and
- delegation of authority to the Director of Education to approve future annual revisions of the rates of the recurrent Furniture and Equipment Grant in accordance with the movement of the Consumer Price Index (A).
We need to decide whether to provide all aided schools with a special Furniture and Equipment (F&E) Grant on a recurrent basis from the 1998/99 school year. At the Finance Committee meeting on 16 October 1998, Members expressed concern about the proposed rates of the Grant. We have since conducted further consultation with the parties concerned. We set out further justifications in paragraph 9 below.
2. The Director of Education (D of E), with the support of the Secretary for Education and Manpower, proposes to provide all aided schools with a special F&E Grant on a recurrent basis from the 1998/99 school year at the following rates -
- $2,000 per class per annum for secondary schools, practical schools and skills opportunity schools;
- $1,000 per class per annum for whole-day primary schools;
- $700 per class per annum for bi-sessional primary schools; and
- $3,000 per class per annum for special schools.
3. To maintain the real value of the Grant, we propose that Members delegate to the D of E the authority to adjust these rates annually in future in accordance with the movement of the Consumer Price Index (A).
4. At present, there are different arrangements for meeting the F&E requirement of aided schools. For the majority of schools which have yet to join the School Management Initiative (SMI) scheme, they are not given a dedicated subsidy for buying or replacing F&E. For the replacement of minor items of F&E (i.e. costing less than $3,000 per purchase in respect of primary schools and less than $8,000 per purchase in respect of secondary schools), these have to be met from their recurrent School and Class Grant, and only items on a standard list may be purchased. For major F&E items, schools have to apply for a non-recurrent subsidy from the Education Department (ED) on a competitive basis. In the case of the 30% of schools under the SMI, they receive a specific provision for F&E under their recurrent block grant and have the flexibility to use the provision to buy above standard or non-standard items. On average, this amounts to about $20,000 per primary school and about $100,000 per secondary school per year and is considered insufficient to meet their needs, in particular if the schools are older ones. Like the non-SMI schools, they may also apply to ED for a non-recurrent subsidy for larger scale purchases of F&E.
5. The SMI experience suggests that the availability of a reasonable and certain level of recurrent F&E subsidy, coupled with other flexible measures in school management, would be a useful incentive and necessary facility to help schools achieve school-based goals and plan for its future needs. We therefore propose to improve the F&E provision of SMI schools by introducing a special F&E Grant on a per class per year basis. As the non-SMI schools will prepare for full implementation of school-based management in due course, we propose to similarly introduce a special F&E Grant for these schools; the amount of this grant will be the same as that for SMI schools. Both SMI and non-SMI schools may use the proposed recurrent grant flexibly to purchase F&E items to suit their needs. They may also accumulate the unspent balance for future F&E use.
6. Notwithstanding the introduction of the special recurrent F&E Grant, we will continue to allow aided schools to apply for non-recurrent F&E subsidy to meet larger-scale, one-off F&E purchases or other requirements under unforeseen circumstances. To improve its support to schools, the ED will explore ways to streamline and improve the present bidding and administration of the non-recurrent F&E subsidy.
7. To maintain the real value of the proposed recurrent F&E Grant, we propose that authority be delegated to D of E to revise the rates of the Grant annually in accordance with the movement of the Consumer Price Index (A).
8. Based on the existing number of operating classes of different types of schools, we estimate that the proposal will incur an annually recurrent cost of $30,977,000, made up as follows -
of operating classes
|Proposed rate of
grant per class
|(a) Secondary,practical and skills opportunity schools
|(b) Primary schools (whole-day)
|(c) Primary schools
|(d) Special schools
9. In recognition of the specialised nature of F&E items for special schools which usually command a higher price, the rate for special schools is the highest among all types of schools. The requirements of secondary and primary schools for subject-based F&E items are very different and the prices of the items also vary greatly. A standard secondary school provides facilities for 16 subjects while a standard primary school provides for seven. In this connection, Members may wish to note that it costs twice as much to furnish and equip a new secondary school as compared with a new primary school. Hence, the proposed rate for secondary schools is higher than that for primary schools. The F&E items for whole-day, half-day and bi-sessional primary schools are basically the same but the degree of use, the length of school hours and the size of the student population all affect the frequency and extent of replacement and additional purchases arising from wear and tear. These factors have been taken into account in determining the amount of subsidy. Since whole-day primary schools have more periods and longer school hours than half-day primary schools, a higher rate is therefore proposed.
10. The Education Commission (EC) recommended in its Report No. 7 that one of the means to achieve quality assurance in education was for all schools to practise school-based management. Schools should be given greater autonomy in the use of resources and be held more accountable for their performance. In line with this recommendation, we have included an F&E component in the block grant provided to SMI schools. EC envisages that eventually all schools should practise school-based management, and that an improved recurrent F&E Grant should be provided for all schools.
11. Following the Finance Committee meeting on 16 October 1998, we submitted the proposal for further discussion at the Education Panel of the Legislative Council on 16 November 1998. We held a special meeting with representatives from the Union of Heads of Aided Primary Schools of Hong Kong, Subsidized Primary Schools Council and Hong Kong Teachers' Association on 17 December 1998, and the meeting agreed that the proposed rates in paragraph 2 above should be adopted. We also undertook to review the needs of schools in the 2000/01 school year as they implemented school-based management, with a view to further improving the funding arrangements for F&E. We would, in the meantime, simplify and streamline procedures for the administration of the existing F&E Grants to enable schools to procure their F&E items in a more timely and effective manner. The proposal was also discussed at the Hong Kong Special Schools Council meeting on 5 January 1999 and members agreed to the proposed rates.
Education and Manpower Bureau