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HKPNET Resources - www.hkpnets.org
Resources, links and ideas for PNETs in Hong Kong.
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NET Scheme Information Sheets
 *** Also available in PDF format: Guide to the NET Scheme ***
For aided and special schools, the EDB does not set rules for PD. Under school-based management schools are responsible for formulating and managing PD policy. Government schools are different as they are managed by the EDB so will have rules defined by the EDB.

For the same school-based management reason, the NET Scheme does not set any rules about PD other than saying in the Deployment Guidelines that one of our professional duties should be "Attending professional development activities" and that "NETs and LETs should be encouraged to attend professional development programmes". The NET Scheme does not state that new PNETs must attend a certain amount of PD - even the NET Section Induction course is voluntary.

Some schools choose to apply the same PD rules for NETs as for LETs, some do not.

In 1993 an advisory board was set up called Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Qualifications (ACTEQ) "to provide a single source of authoritative advice to Government on teacher education programmes, and on qualifications acceptable for teaching purposes". In 2013, the committee was renamed Committee on Professional Development of Teachers and Principals (COTAP).

The ACTEQ/COTAP Committee has produced three reports (2003, 2006, 2009) containing a framework of rules with a recommendation of 150 hours of PD over 3 years. The latest version from 2009 states the following (it's a long quote, but worth reading to fully understand what counts as PD hours):

"The Teachers' CPD Framework
2.1 To foster a culture of teachers' CPD, ACTEQ released "CPD Document 2003" in November 2003 and proposed a teachers' CPD framework. The aim was to institutionalise the practice of teachers' CPD to encourage all teachers to engage in learning in various domains and so enhance their professionalism. Salient features of the framework include:

- an objective target for CPD participation - A "soft" target of 150 CPD hours in a three-year cycle is set, within which teachers can deliberate on the direction and content;

- a broad definition of CPD - Teachers' CPD refers to all kinds of learning opportunities that help them strengthen their professional practices. Teachers in general embrace formal training programmes, which are broadly categorised as "structured learning". More importantly, they should also take on CPD activities that encompass various types of informal learning taking place within and across schools. These CPD activities are broadly categorised as "other CPD modes". "Structured learning" includes long-term or short-term courses, conferences, symposia, workshops, higher academic studies and offshore study visits. "Other CPD modes" include job enrichment activities, mentoring, action learning, and service to education and the community See Appendix [E] of "CPD 2003".

- varied and balanced professional learning experiences - It is recommended that teachers spend no less than 50 hours in a three-year cycle on "structured learning" and no less than 50 hours on "other CPD modes" so that they can benefit from rich and balanced professional learning opportunities;

- a spirit of "professional judgement" and "school-based decisions" - The effectiveness of teachers' CPD hinges on the extent to which teachers and schools find their CPD needs are satisfies. The CPD framework therefore attaches considerable importance to giving teachers and schools discretion to decide on the CPD strategies and plans which are most appropriate for their contexts;

4.4 It is recommended that:
the "soft" approach put forward in "CPD Document 2003" should continue viz.
(a) a target of about 150 CPD hours over three years;
(b) the modes and content of the CPD activities to be defined by schools; and
(c) schools to exercise professional autonomy in monitoring the implementation of teachers' CPD."

In summary:

The 150 hours over 3 years is a recommendation not a rule.
It is up to schools to decide whether and how to apply the recommendation.
It may apply to NETs, it may not.
Teachers and schools should decide together what is appropriate for a given context.
It is not just courses that count but also lots of different PD activities.

What counts as PD?
If you're struggling to find PD to fill in your 50 hours its worth reading the 2003 report Appendix E and the Principals' Induction Programme - CPD to Support School Development (2013).

These state that a whole range of activities, other than just courses, can count toward PD hours:
- mentoring other teachers
- running PD at school
- sharing good practice
- school visits
- school-based projects
- voluntary work
- lesson observation
- and co-planning.

Some schools may place a maximum number of hours that can be counted for some activities e.g. 10 hours' co-planning.

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All application forms together with details as to when they should be completed, who they should be completed by and to whom they should be sent are listed below at Which Forms, When and By Whom.

The standard application procedure for Passage, SA, RI and Medical fringe-benefits forms in aided and special schools is detailed below together with suggestions as to when and where delays may occur that may need monitoring or following up to ensure timely payment.

Government schools process forms in a similar fashion but have a separate set of forms provided direct to schools with completed forms being sent to the Administrative Division rather than the NET Admin Team.

Payment Timescales
The amount of time taken before fringe benefit payments are received is dependent upon the various possible delays highlighted in the standard application procedure below. As a broad guideline, if you apply for SA and RI before 1 Sep then payment is typically in the November salary if starting at a new school or in the September or October salary if renewing at the same school. Passage and Medical typically take 3 months regardless of when applications take place through the year, although passage may sometimes only take 2 months.

It is worth highlighting that the past experience of PNETs (e.g. Nov 2018, Mar 2019: 1, 2, 3) indicates that delays in receiving fringe benefit payments (see below) are almost always the responsibility of schools due to internal delays in the authorisation of applications, a misunderstanding or misapplication of the application process, or a failure in communication internally or with the EDB NET Admin Team.

If you do not receive payment or wish to check that your application is progressing as it should, phone the NET Admin Team to check:
 - Whether your application form has been received,
 - Whether the application is on hold awaiting further information from the school, or,
 - Whether the form has been passed to the relevant EDB Finance Division for payment to the school.

You can also then contact the relevant Finance Division to ask whether and when payment has been made to the school.

Standard Application Procedure and Delays
1. The NET completes the first part of the form and gives it to the school along with any original documents needed to support the application. Where a NET claims for a spouse and/or children, marriage and/or birth certificates should be given to the school to support claimed family status - these need only be provided once only so long as the school keeps certified copies in its personnel records for future use.

2. The school completes the second part of the form and keeps certified copies of original documents. Standard EDB certification practice to confirm that original documents have been viewed is for copies to be stamped with a school chop (or any stamp indicating a certified copy) together with an authorising signature.
    - If copies of documents are not certified, this step may cause a DELAY later as originals may need to be viewed again and certified by the school before the application can be authorised by the EDB.

3. The form is authorised by the school supervisor or principal.
    - This step may cause a DELAY as it may take some time (possibly weeks) for a supervisor to visit a school to authorise the application.

4. The school sends the original copy of the form by post to the NET Admin Team. The school retains in its own records a copy of the form and all original documentation (tickets, receipts etc.) that support the application. If the NET Admin Team specifically requests it be sent a copy of such supporting documentation certified copies should be sent.
    - In some cases, forms sent by post are not received by the NET Admin Team which causes an indefinite DELAY until followed up by the school.

5. The NET Admin Team processes received forms in order of receipt.
    - At the start of the year, the later the form arrives, the longer the backlog of forms received and the longer the DELAY before it is processed.
    - If the NET Admin Team is understaffed at the start of the school year there may be a DELAY in processing any backlog of forms.

6. If the NET Admin Team identifies the form has been completed incorrectly or if more information is needed it will inform the school. The form returns to the backlog of forms awaiting processing and processing of the form is put on hold until relevant information is received from the school.
    - If amendments or corrections to the form are needed then steps 1-4 may need to be repeated with an inevitable associated DELAY.
    - If school staff receiving the communication from the NET Admin Team do not pass it to the relevant person in the school there may be an indefinite DELAY until it is followed up by the school.
    - Similarly, if further information is needed from the NET but that communication is not passed on to the NET by the school then a DELAY may occur.

7. In 2018, the NET Admin Team started to request schools provide copies of certified marriage/birth certificates for applications involving claims for a spouse and/or children to prove that schools have checked family status eligibility.
    - This may cause a DELAY due to the three factors listed in 6. above.
    - If schools have not kept certified copies of certificates in their records this may cause a further DELAY whilst original documents are obtained again and certified.

8. Once NET Admin is satisfied with the form they complete part three and pass the form on to the relevant Finance Division for payment to be made to the school.

9. The relevant Finance Division completes part four of the form and either processes it for inclusion in the school's Salaries Grant for the next month (RI, SA) or for direct ad hoc payment to the school via the school's Recurrent Subventions (Flights, Medical Allowance, Baggage).
    - Salaries Grant processing has a cut-off date of the 10th of each month by which time forms must be processed if they are to be included in that month's salary. If this date is not met there will be a DELAY in payment until the following month.

10. Once money is received by the school it is the responsibility of the school to make payment to the NET. RI and SA should be included in that month's salary. Passage and Medical Allowance are done via cheque or bank transfer requiring authorisation by the Principal or Supervisor except for government schools where payment is typically included alongside that month's salary.
    - Payment by cheque or transfer may cause a DELAY as it may take some time (possibly weeks) for a supervisor to visit a school to authorise payment.

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At the end of March every year, the EDB publishes an Appointment/Re-appointment Circular Memorandum for aided and special schools with relevant forms attached.

The Circular states the deadline by which aided and special schools should inform the EDB NET Admin Team of the school's decision whether or not to renew their NET using Form A attached to the circular. It also states schools and NETs are requested to discuss and reach an initial agreement as to whether they wish to have their contracts renewed and early discussion would enable NETs to make their own future plans and schools to arrange for recruitment or staff deployment.

In 2019, the Circular was released on 29 March and the deadline was Friday 3 May.

Government schools usually have a deadline of one week after aided schools, but in 2019 the deadline was 4th April. Government schools have their own version of the Appointment/Re-appointment Circular which is normally released direct to schools a week later than the aided version. It should be noted that due to a difference in management structure NETs moving between a government schools and an aided/special school, or vice versa will forfeit accumulated sick leave, will have to reapply for Special Allowance eligibility, will undergo salary assessment and will have to obtain new conviction checks and a chest X-ray. Full details are here.

It is worth noting, also, the Code of Aid which states a deadline of 15 May:

57(d) A teacher employed for a period of not less than two years as specified in a contract of service or letter of appointment shall, at least three months before the expiry of such specified period [May 15 for NETs], inform the School Management Committee whether or not he wishes to seek a renewal of the contract of service. The School Management Committee school shall similarly, at least three months before the expiry of such specified period, inform the teacher whether or not it intends to propose renewal of the contract of service relating to his employment.

As a school based employment issue, if the May deadline is not met NETs should firstly contact the school principal before then contacting their REO if further support is needed. The NET Section (ATs/RNCs) has no direct involvement in recruitment, contract renewal or vacancy lists which are under the purview of the NET Admin Team. The NET Admin Team has said it cannot provide NETs with any information regarding the renewal decision form returned to it by the school as that information is confidential, but if Form A is not returned they will remind schools by fax the day after the May deadline asking it to be returned within one week.

The Circular is not faxed to schools. It is published via the EDB website. It is the responsibility of all schools to look for the Circular on the EDB website in line with the standard approach for releasing all circulars to schools, to return Form A attached to the Circular (see below) and to "bring this circular memorandum to the attention of their NETs" as requested in the circular. If the latter is not done within a week, it may well be worth bringing the Circular to the attention of your school.

The Circular states that schools are advised to check the EDB website in May for publication of the latest version of contract documents before signing a formal contract with their NET, but it should be noted that contracts signed earlier than this using old versions of contract documents are valid under version priority rules. Details of this as well as what happens next in the contract signing process are listed in the Contract Signing Information Sheet.

Vacancy List and CV Distribution Options
If your school has said your contract will not be renewed:

1. NETs recruited via the EDB Candidate Pool at any time in the past regardless of how the current contract was obtained can ask for EDB support in finding a new position by completing "Form B - Application of Serving NETs for New Appointment on Completion of Contract" asking for a CV to be distributed to schools by the EDB and/or for a copy of the vacancy list to be provided. Contact the Recruitment Officer in the NET Admin Team for any queries regarding this application.

Note: Until 2018/19, it was only possible to ask either for a CV to be distributed to schools by the EDB or for a copy of the vacancy list to be provided - it was not possible to ask for both. This policy changed in 2019/20 to make it possible to ask for both.

The Vacancy List is usually published in the 2nd week of May when it is emailed to those who have requested it using Form B.

CV distribution is undertaken using a "fair system", the EDB has stated. In early May, CVs provided by NETs to the NET Admin Team are randomly distributed to schools that have requested them in batches of 20-30. CVs are distributed in their entirety with a standard EDB factual overview and any covering letter provided by the NET. Schools can state a particular requirement, such as drama, if they so wish and can request additional batches of CVs if those they have received are unsuitable.

Note: In 2015 the EDB stated that CVs were provided to schools in batches of "more than five". In 2017, from PNET experience, this seemed to rise to twenty. In 2019 the EDB confirmed that batches of 20-30 are initially distributed to schools. This was confirmed via the experience of PNETs (1, 2).

It is not known to how many schools a given CV is distributed. The situation seems to be that a given CV is sent out to a number of schools once in early May, but may only then sent out again if a school requests more CVs or if the Recruitment Officer can be persuaded to make a special case on an individual's behalf.

2. NETs who have never been recruited through the EDB Candidate Pool i.e. have always been recruited via a school, cannot request CV distribution nor be provided with a copy of the vacancy list by the NET Admin Team.

If your school has said it will renew your contract or if you are mid-contract, the EDB provides neither recruitment assistance nor a copy of the vacancy list.

If you are an ex-NET originally recruited via the EDB Candidate Pool and now re-joining the NET Schemes, you can request CV distribution and/or a copy of the vacancy list having first reapplied to re-join the Candidate Pool (see below).

If you are a new NET recruited via the EDB to the Candidate Pool and seeking a first NET contract, the EDB will provide support by CV distribution only and will not provide the vacancy list.

Forms
Form A must be returned to the NET Admin Team by fax by all schools. Schools with mid-contract NETs complete parts I and IV whilst those with end-of-contract NETs complete sections I, II/III and IV.

Form B should be completed by end-of-contract NETs who are not being renewed and who have been recruited via the EDB Candidate Pool at any time in the past regardless of how the current contract was obtained. NETs can ask to be given a copy of the vacancy list and/or ask for their CV to be distributed to schools. The NET should send Form B to the NET Admin Team by fax or email.

Form C is only completed by NETs who have never been recruited through the EDB Candidate Pool and who are instead recruited directly by the school. It should be completed by both the NET and the school after a contract has been signed. The school should send it to the NET Admin Team by fax.

Remaining in the Candidate Pool
NETs recruited to the Candidate Pool who are unable to find a position in a school can remain in the Candidate Pool on a year-by-year basis for as long as they wish. In the first year the EDB will contact the NET by email in Mar/Apr to ask if they want to remain in the pool for another year. After that the NET should contact the EDB before May each year to request a further year in the pool.

Re-Joining the NET Scheme After a 1 Year or More Break
If you are an ex-NET originally recruited via the EDB Candidate Pool who has left the NET Scheme and now wishes to return to employment in the NET Scheme, you can re-enter the Candidate Pool by submitting a fresh application form to the EDB NET Admin Team and by providing them with any updated documentation necessary to support salary assessment such as new qualifications documents. You do not need to go through the interview and written test process again. Contact the Recruitment Officer in the NET Admin Team.

On re-joining the NET Scheme, employment benefits may change depending upon the length of break as follows.

Salary
For an absence of less than 1 year, salary is not re-assessed. After 1 year, salary re-assessment is required that uses the latest pay scales and bars to determine salary pay scale based upon current qualifications and experience. This may result in a lower salary pay scale level than before due to a lowering of the non-PGDE salary bar by two salary pay points in 2010.

If you are considering taking a break from the NET Scheme, note that schools are required to provide a Certificate of Service on leaving employment but it is advisable to ensure they are aware of the requirement and of the content required by the EDB for future salary assessment on re-joining the NET Scheme.

Sick Leave
Accumulated sick leave is retained for a break in service of less than 1 year and forfeited for a break longer than that.
Accumulated sick leave is forfeited upon switching between a government and aided/special/caput school, and vice versa, as different rules apply in EDB-run government schools where most staff are employed as civil servants.

Special Allowance
Form A [Declaration on Normal Place of Residence] does not have to be completed again unless you leave the NET Schemes for 1 year or more, or you switch between an aided/special school to a government school. 

Retention Incentive
For a NET rejoining the NET Scheme after an absence of less than 1 year, e.g. resigning in October and rejoining the next August, the EDB has stated that eligibility for RI is discretionary and requires the school to provide a letter explaining the reason for the break in service of less than 1 year a NET and expressing satisfaction with references/past appraisals. Eligibility for RI is not affected by switching between a government and an aided/special school, or vice versa.

Conviction Checks / Chest X-Ray
The EDB NET Section considers an absence from the NET Scheme of 1 year or more to be a "break in service". For such a break in service, it is necessary to obtain a new Certificate of No Criminal Conviction, and a school may also require a Sexual Conviction Record Check (see Appointment/Re-appointment Memo paras 4 and 5). It is also necessary to undergo a Chest X-Ray (see Letter of Appointment; MOCS para 2.3).

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Normally, a contract is renewed for a two year period. See the Contract Signing Information Sheet for details of standard contract documentation, signing procedures and version priority.

There are, however, two situations in which a 1-year extension to the existing 2-year contract is possible.

60+ Extensions

Extension of service beyond the retirement age is not possible in government schools.

Where a NET in and aided or special school is going to reach the retirement age of 60 before the start of the next school year, the school must apply for a one-year extension to the current contract.

Where a NET is going to reach retirement age during the first year of a two-year contract, the school must apply for "approval in advance" before a two-year contract can be agreed otherwise only a 1-year extension to the current contract will be possible.

In November, for both cases, the EDB NET Admin Team issues an "Extension of Service Beyond the Retirement Age" letter to schools by fax outlining the application process, what schools need to do along and the deadline date for application (see below). Documentation must be provided by the school in support of the application including showing that efforts have been made to recruit an alternative NET. On request from the school, the EDB will provide CVs from the Candidate Pool to support these recruitment efforts.

18 Jan 2019 is the current deadline for application (past deadlines: 19 Jan 2018, 1 Feb 2017, 15 Jan 2016). Late applications are not processed.

At the end of April, the EDB publishes its "Specimen - Extension of Contract Period Beyond Retirement Age" applicable to the coming school year. Subsequently, typically in the second week of May, schools are informed of the outcome of their application after which they can use the specimen to officially agree a contract extension with their NET. If publication of the specimen document is delayed, then notifications to schools are also delayed e.g. in 2019 publication was 17 May with schools being informed of the outcome of their application on 21 May.

Gratuity for the period of service completed before the extension commences is paid as for the completion of a standard two-year contract. The rate of Special Allowance for the extension period is the prevailing rate at the start of the extension period. Passage is not available until the completion of the extension period or the completion of subsequent extension periods.

Enquiries about contract extension beyond the retirement age should be directed to the NET Admin Team.

Before 2016/17, in light of EDB policy being that under school-based management schools are responsible for staff employment matters and decisions, applications were rarely, if ever, declined provided the application process had been completed satisfactorily.

In 2016/17, it appears that the EDB NET Admin Team started to phone schools and apply a level of discouragement to schools by stressing the complexity of the application process. This was somewhat at odds with actual experience of NETs who said the process was certainly long-winded but not complex and also at odds with the track record of the EDB which had rarely, if ever, refused an application.

In 2017/18, schools wishing to apply for an extension received multiple phone calls from the EDB NET Admin Team as well as a school visit from the head of the NET Admin Team and a Curriculum Development Officer from the EDB NET Section. The suggestion was made that applications are now dealt with more strictly with only 1 extension now being allowed, possibly due to the appointment of a new head of the NET Admin Team. Schools must have a detailed succession plan in place and, after one year, it was suggested the EDB would find a new NET on behalf of the school, although this went against standard school-based employment practices. Pressure applied by the EDB led to some schools opting not to apply for an extension even though they initially wanted to retain their long-term NET and repeatedly informed their NET as such. For some schools though, application for a third extension for their NET was successful.

In 2018/19, it appears that all 60+ extensions applications were approved.

In Jan 2019, the EDB stated to LegCo its intention to adopt the latest civil service retirement guidelines from June 2015 and allow new teachers to retire at 65 instead of 60. This adoption will probably not affect 60+ contract extensions, but this will not be known until after the necessary update to the Education Ordinance has been submitted to and approved by LegCo and the "Extension of Service Beyond the Retirement Age" letter subsequently issued to schools in the following November.

Other Extensions

It is also possible for contracts to be extended by one year owing to reasons other than extension of service beyond the retirement age. The EDB has stated that this should by mutual agreement between the school and the NET and should not be regarded as an option available to schools instead of a standard 2-year re-appointment contract.

Schools should apply in writing at any time of the year to their SSDO in the REO stating reasons and justifications along with supporting documentation. The SSDO will reply stating no objection to the extension.

Schools can then use the "Specimen - Extension of Contract Period" published on the EDB website to provide contract extension documentation to the NET. The specimen is not updated annually and was last updated in June 2016. Gratuity for the period of service completed before the extension commences is paid as for the completion of a standard two-year contract. The rate of Special Allowance for the extension period is the prevailing rate at the start of the extension period. Passage is not available until the completion of the extension period.

Typically, the decision to extend a contract by one year should take place after due consultation between a school and their NET and may require the NET to write a formal request letter to the school. The experience of PNETs (1, 2) indicates, however, that there are occasions where the school initiates a 1-year extension without such consultation, without the agreement of the NET and without providing an alternative choice of a two-year contract.

Enquiries about extensions of services not involving retirement age should be directed to your school's SSDO in the REO.

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In the last week of March, the EDB publishes an Appointment/Re-appointment Circular Memorandum for aided and special schools. The circular encourages schools to discuss renewal of contract with NETs and provides a deadline by which schools must inform the EDB of their decisions - usually the first week in May.

In the first week of May or before, schools inform the EDB of the renewal decision. The EDB collates the responses and compiles a vacancy list that is distributed in the second week of May to those NETs who have requested it. The CVs of new NETs and those NETs who have not been renewed and have requested CV Distribution support are randomly sent in batches of 20-30 to schools that wish to fill a NET vacancy and have requested EDB support so to do. See Vacancy List and CV Distribution Options above for full details on this process.

In the third week of May (2019: 4th week, 2018: 3rd week, 2017: 1st week), the EDB publishes the latest versions of contract documentation (Letter of Appointment, MOCS).

Once this has been done:
 - for NETs renewing at the same school, the school can use the latest published versions to provide contract documentation to the NET with no further EDB involvement.
 - for NETs who have never been recruited via the EDB Candidate Pool, whether renewing or being offered a new position, it is the school's responsibility to obtain and check all necessary paperwork from the NET without EDB involvement and to then use the latest published versions to provide contract documentation to the NET.
 - for NETs who were recruited via the Candidate Pool at any time in the past and are offered a position at a new school, there is an additional step that should take place before a contract can be provided:

- Once a job offer from a school has been initially offered to and agreed by a NET, the school will inform the EDB NET Admin Team.
- The NET Admin Team contacts the NET by email to ask if they wish to serve at the school with a reply deadline of 3-4 days.
- If the NET does, the NET Admin Team collates and checks statements of service and teaching qualifications, and conducts salary assessment.
- If anything is missing the NET Admin Team contacts the NET by email requesting relevant documentation.
- The NET Admin Team emails a "provisional offer of appointment" including an assessment of salary and a Proforma of Acceptance to the NET with a reply deadline of 3-4 days.
- The NET returns the signed Proforma of Acceptance to the NET Admin Team who acknowledges receipt by email to the NET.
- The NET Admin Team prepares the provisional offer, signed Proforma of Acceptance, salary assessment and all relevant collated qualifications/teaching documents to the school. This is sometimes known as the 'personal file'. It must be collected by the school from the EDB office in Wanchai.
- The school checks salary assessment and other information including that provided in the 'personal file'. Note: as the employer issuing the contract of employment, it is the school's responsibility to do this even for information provided by the EDB.
- The school uses the information together with the latest published versions of standard contract documents published on the EDB's Website to create contract documentation for the NET. Contract documentation is normally passed to the supervisor for authorisation signature before being passed to the NET. 
- Experience of PNETs in the past indicates this process may take 3/4 weeks and that further delays may be caused whilst obtaining supervisor authorisation.

Enquiries about progress made during this stage and reasons for any delay should be passed to the NET Admin Team.

It should be noted that whilst this is the standard approach to contract signing, some schools choose to do everything themselves rather than making use of NET Admin Team services, necessitating direct communication with the NET.

There is no deadline by which schools have to provide contract documentation to a NET. Under school-based management it is up to the school to determine how soon after the EDB publishes the latest versions of contract documentation they wish to issue contract documents. It is also possible for schools to issue contract documents before the latest version are published (see "version priority" below) if they so wish.

If concerned by a delay in receiving a contract, NETS should contact their Principal in the first instance. To pre-empt any delay, NETs may find it useful to inform their Principal when the latest versions of contract documentation become available on the EDB website.

The process for government schools is broadly the same, but contract documentation is typically not published until 3rd/4th week of June (2019: 4 July), and must be collected from and returned to the EDB offices in Wanchai.

Contact the Recruitment Officer in the NET Admin Team for aided and special schools or the Administration Division for government schools for any queries regarding the contract process.

Signing a Contract Early (Version Priority)

Standard contract documentation issued by the EDB must adhere to and is superceded by principles laid out in the Code of Aid, the Education Ordinance and relevant Circular Memorandums. Equally, any alterations or deletions made by a school to the sample contract documents downloadable from the EDB website must adhere to and are superceded by those same principles as well as established terms and conditions laid out in the sample contract documents published by the EDB. As such, the latest version of published contract documentation supercedes any already signed contract documentation.

If a NET has signed a letter of appointment with an attached "Memorandum on Terms and Conditions" (MOCS) early, i.e. using an old version before this year's new sample MOCS has been issued by the EDB, then, when that new MOCS is subsequently published, the EDB has advised that the NET and school can either agree to sign a new set of documents or replace the old MOCS with the new MOCS as an attachment to the already signed letter of appointment.

The NET Admin Team can be contacted for clarification if needed.

Reporting for Duty on 16 August

The start date stated in contract documentation is not necessarily the date on which it is necessary to report for duty; if renewing a contract at the same school then that school has flexibility in deciding the date on which to report for duty.

If contacted by a school, the EDB NET Admin Team will provide the same EDB policy advice as the REO:

Salary payments for a new contract should start on the report for duty date. This applies to all staff not just NETs. Under school-based management, flexible report for duty dates for all staff are a decision for the school.

In practice, most schools allow teachers to report for duty on a date later than that of the contract start date with no loss in salary. Summary advice provided by the EDB NET Section to support schools in adopting this school-based approach is:

The basic rule is that if you sign a new contract at a new school and your contract starts on 16 August you need to report for duty on the 16th. But if you are signing a second contract at the same school [or third, fourth etc.] then the school has the flexibility to say we only start on the 22nd so its ok to report on that date.

It is worth noting that reporting for duty on a date later than that of the contract start date is not a right, is dependent on the good will of the school and the relationship between management and teachers, and may be affected by any advice given to the school by the EDB.

Start Date When 16 August is a Sunday

For NETs newly appointed under the NET Scheme in Primary Schools the contract will start on 17 August and end on 16 August two years later.

For serving NETs with their existing contract ending on 15 August 2015 who renews contract in the same school or signs a new contract in another school the contract should retain 16 August as the contract start date in order to maintain continuity of service.

Ref: Letter to School Principals, 23 June 2015.

Start Date If Previous NET's Contract Finishes 16 August

For NETs newly appointed under the NET Scheme in Primary Schools the contract will start on 17 August.

For an existing NET who is moving schools and whose current contract ends on 15 August, the EDB has stated that the new contract should start as normal on 16 August i.e. a one-day overlap of contracts for the old/new NET is possible to maintain continuity of employment.

Contract Length if Not Starting on 16 August

Typically a contract runs for a two year period from 16 August this year to 15 August two years later. Where the start date is not 16 August, a principle of a contract running within a two-year cycle and ending on 15 Aug two years later is typically (1, 2) applied:

Example Start Date Contract Dates
1 Sep 2019 1 Sep 2019 - 15 Aug 2021
15 Jan 2020 15 Jan 2020 - 15 Aug 2021

When the NET Scheme was first established, contracts would typically include a minimum of a two-year cycle and extend beyond that two-year period e.g. 10 Jan 2005 - 15 Aug 2008, but this seems to no longer be the case.

X-rays, Visas

The Letter of Appointment states that the offer of appointment is conditional upon satisfying a medical examination including a chest X-ray. This applies only to NETs newly joining the NET Scheme, to those moving between and aided and government school, or vice versa, and to NETs taking a break in service from the NET Scheme of 1 year or more.

X-Rays can be undertaken at government chest X-ray centres.

The offer of appointment is also conditional upon obtaining a necessary employment visa. More details on the process needed to obtain a working visa can be found at HKPNET Resources - Visas.

Terminal Leave

In 2008, the official EDB position was:

- At the end of a 2 year contract the NET is entitle to Terminal Leave.
- Terminal Leave is usually from the 'commencement of the school summer vacation' to the end of the contract
- The 'commencement of the school summer vacation' date is the date stated in the School Calendar for the start of the summer holidays.
- Any change to the start date of Terminal Leave must be by mutual agreement between the school and the NET.

Up until 2017, this was documented on the EDB Website as follows:

Q19: What is the terminal leave?
A: The NET shall be granted the terminal leave in the school summer vacation at the end of the contract and each renewed contract (if any). The terminal leave usually covers the period from the commencement of the respective school summer vacation to the end of the contract. Any variation is subject to the mutual agreement between the school and the NET concerned. For enquiries, please contact Mr. Stephen Lai at 2892 6525.

Q20: Is the summer vacation commencement date specified?
A: The specific date may vary depending on the school plan and schedule of individual schools, but it usually falls on mid July each year. A copy of the School Calendar would be provided to the NET upon his/her assumption of duty at the school.  Should there be any subsequent variation affecting his/her terminal leave, this should be mutually agreed between the two parties.   Any unilateral decision to the detriment of staff relationship is highly undesirable.

Q21: Many schools hold student activities after the normal school term has lapsed, are NETs required to stay behind to help in these activities like other local teachers?
A: The summer vacation is for teachers to have a break and to refresh, and for NET in specific it is for them to travel home to reunite with families at the end of the contract. We trust school heads will deploy teachers in a reasonable and considerate manner given the different circumstances of teachers. We expect school heads to arrange a sufficiently long and continuous terminal leave for the NET, and discuss with the NET early on the summer plan if the contracts of the NET are renewed.

Up until 2010, it was also stated in contract documentation:

16.5 The NET shall be granted a terminal leave in the school summer vacation at the end of the Contract and each renewed Contract (if any).

In 2011, contract documentation and the NET Scheme FAQ were updated to remove this specific entitlement to Terminal Leave and place the onus on schools and NETs to come to an agreement as to what constitutes terminal leave:

16.5 The NET shall be granted a terminal leave in the school summer vacation at the end of the Contract and each renewed Contract (if any). The commencement date of the terminal leave is to be determined by the schools in consultation with their NETs.

Q. 25 What is terminal leave? Are there any suggestions for schools on the provision of terminal leave and leave at Christmas, Chinese New Year, Easter and other holidays?
A. 25 NETs shall be granted terminal leave in the school summer vacation at the end of the first contract and each renewed contract (if any). The commencement date of terminal leave is to be determined by the schools in consultation with their NETs. Since most NETs do not reside permanently in Hong Kong, when working out a leave plan for their NETs, schools are requested to give due consideration to their NETs' needs for reunion with families in their home countries at Christmas, Chinese New Year, Easter and other holidays. Though the commencement date of terminal leave is negotiable between schools and their respective NET(s), a continuous block of at least four weeks' holiday is strongly recommended during the summer break to facilitate a more practicable and useful period of leave for the NETs.

Intention to Renew

Before 2011, the Terms & Conditions of the Letter of Appointment said NETs should write a letter to their schools by February 16 asking for the school to inform them of the school's intention to renew or not:

24.2 Further Employment
24.2 If the NET so requests, the School will inform him/her in writing whether it intends to offer him/her further employment on Contract, subject to satisfactory completion of his/her current Contract. Such a request shall be made at least six months before the expiry of his/her current Contract. Otherwise, it will be assumed that the NET does not wish to apply for further employment and will leave the service upon expiry of his/her current Contract.

In 2011, this was removed from the Terms & Conditions.

Since 2011, there is no obligation for schools to inform their NET of an intention to renew or not. Instead schools are expected to discuss renewal with the NET as aerly as possible as stated in the annual Appointment/Re-appointment Circular Memorandum:

2 . Schools and their serving NETs with contracts due to expire at the end of the 2015/16 school year are requested to discuss and reach an initial agreement as to whether they wish to have their contracts renewed for another two years. Early discussion on contract renewal matters would enable NETs to make their own future plans and schools to arrange for recruitment or staff deployment.

It is worth noting, also, the Code of Aid which states a deadline of 15 May:

57(d) A teacher employed for a period of not less than two years as specified in a contract of service or letter of appointment shall, at least three months before the expiry of such specified period [May 15 for NETs], inform the School Management Committee whether or not he wishes to seek a renewal of the contract of service. The School Management Committee school shall similarly, at least three months before the expiry of such specified period, inform the teacher whether or not it intends to propose renewal of the contract of service relating to his employment.

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August
- 11th: Gratuity 2nd payment due (4 days before end of contract). See Gratuity Information Sheet.
- 16th: Standard start date for contracts. See Contract Signing Information Sheet - Start Date When 16 August is a Sunday.
- Last Week: EDB Induction Programme commences. See HKPNET Resources - Recruitment.
- Application forms for this year can be submitted. See HKPNET Resources - Application Forms.

September
- Schools Speech Festival commences. See HKPNET Resources - Competitions.

October
- Schools Drama Festival commences. See HKPNET Resources - Competitions.
- 15th: Last posting dates for airmail published by HK Post. See HKPNET Resources - Living in HK - Post.
- 18th: New session starts for LegCo Panel on Education. See HKPNET Resources - EDB Information - LegCo Panel on Education.

November
- EDB issues 60+ extension letter to schools. See Contract Extensions Information Sheet.

January
- Last Week: Deadline for 60+ Extensions Applications. See Contract Extensions Information Sheet.

March
- Last Week: EDB publishes Appointment/Re-appointment Circular with deadline for schools to inform them if they wish to renew their NET's contract. See Appointment Reappointment Information Sheet

May
- 1st Week: Deadline for schools to inform EDB if contract to be renewed. See Contract Signing Information Sheet.
- 1st Week: New contract and contract extension documents released. See Contract Signing Information Sheet.
- 2nd Week: EDB Vacancy List issued. See HKPNET Resources - Recruitment - Vacancy List.
- Civil Service Pay Adjustment triggered. See Pay Adjustment Mechanism Information Sheet.
- Special Allowance Adjustment Mechanism triggered. See Special Allowance Information Sheet.
- Typhoon season starts. See HKPNET Resources - Typhoons.

June
- 3rd Week: Tax self-assessment due. See HKPNET Resources - Tax.
- Application forms for next year can be submitted. See HKPNET Resources - Application Forms.
- Payment of tax (tax clearance) due if leaving HK permanently or for more than 4 weeks. See HKPNET Resources - Tax.

July
- 2nd Week: Gratuity 1st payment due (4 days before end of semester). See Gratuity Information Sheet.

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The NET Schemes were first proposed in 1996 by the Education Commission (Report No. 6). It was implemented in two stages.

The Enhanced NET Scheme in secondary schools (SNET Scheme) was formally proposed as government policy by the Chief Executive in 1997. As government policy, details were presented to the LegCo Finance Committee which rubber-stamped recurrent funding for an SNET in every Secondary School as part of the 'staff establishment' (the number of LETs, NETs, ancillary staff funded by the EDB in each school as part of the Salaries Grant). The EDB didn't "ask" for funding, it was rubber-stamped as for all government policy. The implementation of the SNET Scheme fell to the EDB Professional Development and Training Division (PDDT) which already administered salary and fringe benefits for LETs. They set up the NET Admin Team to recruit SNETs and administer their salary and benefits. Funding for the NET Admin Team did not require Finance Committee authorisation as it was covered within the EDB's own civil service budget.
[Note: at this stage, the NET Section did not exist]

In 2001, the government set up a Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (SCOLAR) and tasked it with evaluating the effectiveness of the SNET Scheme. Research was commissioned by them from HKIEd known as the MENETs Report.

The PNET Scheme was formally proposed as government policy by the Chief Executive in 2001. As the LegCo Education Panel Committee had now been established, the details of the proposal were presented to the Panel. As a result of recommendations made in the MENETs Report the proposal included the establishment of the EDB NET Section within the EDB's Curriculum Development Institute to support the implementation of the two NET Schemes. Following Education Panel discussion, details were presented to the LegCo Finance Committee which rubber-stamped recurrent (annual) funding for a PNET in every primary school again as part of the 'teaching establishment'. Funding for the NET Section, as for the NET Admin Team did not require Finance Committee authorisation as it was covered within the EDB's own civil service budget. This distinction is important because it separates "The NET Scheme" from both the NET Admin Team and the NET Section.

There are therefore 4 separate entities with 3 different fundings:
- the SNET Scheme with recurrent funding from LegCo as part of the teaching establishment;
- the PNET Scheme with recurrent funding from LegCo as part of the teaching establishment;
- the PDDT NET Admin Team with internal non-LegCo civil service funding.
- the CDI NET Section with internal non-LegCo civil service funding.

The cost of the SNET and PNET Schemes are regularly reported to LegCo.
The cost of the PDDT NET Admin Team, a civil service department, is subsumed under recurrent expenditure of the EDB and not reported.
The cost of the CDI NET Section was not reported until April 2018 when the EDB stated that "total expenditures on curriculum development, school support services, PDPs, learning and teaching resources development, organisation of competitions for students and ad hoc projects" in 2017/18 was $685k with work carried out by staff being "subsumed under the overall expenditure of the EDB".

NETs are funded - together with all teaching and non-teaching staff covered under the EDB approved Staff Establishment of the school (the number of staff allowed at each grade for a given number of classes, including both NETs and LETs) - via the EDB's recurrent Salaries Grant paid monthly to schools. The only requirement placed on schools to receive NET funding is to have 6 classes or more; any less than that and a school is only entitled to peripatetic support from ATs. If a school goes from 6 classes to 5 then it can retain funding for the NET for one more year if that NET is mid-contract. Other than this there are no constraints placed on schools by the EDB (such as formally being required to adhering to deployment guidelines) that may result in them having NET funding withdrawn.

NET Admin Team vs NET Section

The NET Admin Team is responsible for all administrative aspects of the NET Schemes: recruitment to the EDB Candidate Pool, vacancy list and CV distribution procedures and management, standard contract documentation, memorandum on terms & conditions, 60+ and ad hoc contract extensions, FAQs, fringe benefit forms and processing, qualifications assessment, special allowance review etc. It provides support to schools and NETs on these issues on request and issues circular memorandums on behalf of the Education Secretary as required through the year. The team is made up of 5-6 civil servants and is also tasked with responding to LegCo members' questions about the NET Schemes and contributing to EDB policy documents concerning the NET Schemes. Issues relevant to all teachers such as salary, gratuity, leave and salary assessment are within the remit of the Regional Education Office (REO) rather than the NET Admin Team (although advice will be provided to NETs where possible).

The NET Section focuses on curriculum and deployment aspects of the NET Schemes in schools and on providing services such as competitions, centralised professional development, seed projects, literacy programmes etc.

The NET Section is split into two support sections:
1. The AT Team (ATT) provides curriculum and deployment support to PNETs and primary schools. There are around 35 ATs who are allocated around 12 schools each with the intention of a hands-on role in schools as needed. ATs are tasked with visiting schools at the start, middle and end of the year to establish, implement and review an Advisory Support Plan (ASP) with schools. As part of that plan ATs provide school-based support as requested by the school. Issues relating to ATs can be escalated to their respective line manager listed at the top of the ASP or the respective project manager listed on the ATT Contact Details sheet provided to schools at the start of the year and listed here. The ATT was established at the very start of the NET Scheme in 2002.

2. The Regional Net Coordinating Team (RNCT) has 8 RNCs who are allocated geographical regions rather than specific secondary schools. Their role is hands-off and involvement in secondary schools including school visits is triggered at the request of the school. The group's main function is much more general than ATs and described as being to organise competitions, conduct PD workshops, support schools with collaborative research and projects, hold regional cluster meetings, and develop resources. RNCT promotional literature sent to schools every year provides information on support options. The RNCT was not established until 2006/7 after a Melbourne University review of the PNET scheme highlighted the importance of the ATT.

A list of who to contact for which issue is available at HKPNET Resources - EDB Contacts.

Government Schools

Government schools are operated and managed by the EDB. Senior EDB civil servants are appointed to serve on one or more government schools' School Management Committee (SMC). Whilst being within the public sector, they operate under a different set of rules and procedures to those of aided/special/caput schools which operate under the principle of school-based management.

Staff in government schools are employed by the government and are generally classed as civil servants. NETs in government schools are employed by the government, but are not classed as civil servants.

The NET Schemes operate in government schools, but due to this difference in management structure NETs moving between an aided/special school and a government school, or vice versa will encounter the following:

- The forfeiture of any accumulated sick leave.
- The forfeiture of any accumulated service needed to be entitled to maternity leave.
- The necessity to resubmit a Declaration on Normal Place of Residence using Special Allowance application Form A to confirm the possession of permanent resident status in a country/place outside Hong Kong and social ties outside Hong Kong.
- The re-assessment of salary to re-establish salary pay scale point.
- The requirement to obtain a new Certificate of No Criminal Conviction and Sexual Conviction Record Check.
- The need to undergo a Chest X-Ray.
Note: eligibility for RI is not affected by switching between a government and aided/special school, or vice versa.

Special Schools

Special schools are split into 9 categories:

Visual Impairment  2 schools
Hearing Impairment  2 schools
Physical Disability  7 schools
Intellectual Disability Mild  11 schools
Intellectual Disability Moderate  14 schools
Intellectual Disability Mild to Moderate  6 schools
Intellectual Disability Severe  10 schools
Social Development   7 schools
Hospital Schools  1 school

Until 2016, the NET scheme was only implemented in the 19 special schools NOT catering for Intellectual Disability. "Schools Catering for Intellectual Disability" (ID Schools) who applied to join the NET Scheme were refused by the EDB on the grounds that "the NET Scheme does not cover special schools for ID students in light of their special curriculum, different educational needs, and not being included as schools offering English Language as part of the Basic Education Curriculum".

In 2011, a court case was brought by a student at HHCKLA Buddhist Po Kwong School (a Mild ID School) arguing that this was discriminatory and that NETs should be provided to ID schools.

In 2016, the high court ruled that the EDB was wrong to refuse to implement the NET Scheme in HHCKLA Buddhist Po Kwong School because the school had implemented an English curriculum guide developed by HKU in collaboration with ID Schools known as the SAME Project which was equivalent to the ELCG and he objectives of the NET Scheme are better addressed by a full-time NET than by a peripatetic AT. A full summary of the High Court's decision is available here.

In March 2017, the EDB stated to schools that:

Provision of NETs for Schools
... Such provision has been extended to cover schools for children with intellectual disabilities (ID schools) implementing an appropriate school-based English Language curriculum as adapted from the English Language Education Key Learning Area Curriculum Guide prepared by the Curriculum Development Council. This adapted curriculum should, as assessed by EDB, have the necessary elements according to the requirements stipulated in EDB's letter of 24 January 2017 on "Development of School-based English Language Curriculum and Provision of Native-speaking English Teachers (NETs) for Schools for Children with Intellectual Disability (ID schools)".

In April 2017, the EDB stated during liaison with the HKPNETs Forum that having a suitable school-based English curriculum is a prerequisite for the provision of a NET under the NET Schemes and that schools implementing an English curriculum require English teachers who have attained the Language Proficiency Requirement (LPR/LPAT); the EDB will work with ID schools in the coming years via two Seed Projects:

1. SEN Division, Curriculum: support ID schools to develop a school-based English curriculum.
2. NET Section, Puppe Tech (Puppetry and Technology): resource development to support tactile/visual learners through kinesthetic activities

In 2017/18, four special schools joined the NET Scheme. In 2018/19 a further 4 schools joined the NET Scheme. It is unclear how many more of the 41 ID Schools will join the NET Schemes, but only 1 school applied to join in 2019/20.

In 2019, the EDB stated to LegCo:

Since the second term of the 2016/17 school year, the NET Scheme has also covered schools for children with intellectual disability (ID schools) running a secondary section that offers an appropriate school-based English Language curriculum and ID schools running a primary section that operates six or more classes and offers an appropriate school-based English Language curriculum. The EDB also provides school-based support and professional development programmes for ID schools that hire a NET.

and also published a NET Section newsletter outlining curriculum activities implemented in ID Schools.

DSS (Private Sector) vs Aided (Public Sector)

The EDB NET Schemes cover all public sector schools: government, aided, special and caput schools. They do not cover Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) or private schools that operate within HK's private education sector (confirmed during liaison with the EDB in 2012 and 2015).

DSS schools have flexibility in choosing how to spend their budget. The government supports them via a Direct Subsidy grant based upon the number of students attending a school with DSS schools able to supplement that income by charging fees, seeking donations and having rental income. DSS Schools are free to use total income as they see fit and can choose how many teachers to employ and the remuneration package offered. The remuneration packaged offered by DSS schools to DSS NETs therefore varies from schools to school: some choose to offer DSS NETs a similar remuneration package to PNETs and SNETs on the NET Schemes; some do not.

The implementation of employment terms for schools whilst they transition from the public sector to DSS is somewhat unclear, but should be addressed by teacher representatives during the consultation process preceding any such transition.

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Schools receive funding for curriculum activities and resources in three main ways:
- Annually from the government on a per student, per class and per school basis. Known as Recurrent Grants (see EOEBG Rates in particular), funding is paid automatically to schools without application being required.
- On an ad hoc basis from the government depending on latest spending commitments. Known as Non-recurrent Grants and requiring application before funding can be authorised and paid to schools.
- Annually and on an ad hoc basis from a school's sponsoring body or associated organisations.

Some funding has specific rules on how money must be used, whilst some is left to the Principal to allocate amongst school departments (known as panels) as needed to support a school's annual and five-year plan.

Funding for English curriculum activities and resources comes from a school's department allocation as well as from specific recurrent and non-recurrent grants as listed below.

1. English Panel Budget
- At the start of the school year, the Principal allocates a budget to the English department with spending purposes agreed with the English Panel Chair (EPC) based upon budget requests made by the EPC toward the end of the previous school year and curriculum goals laid out in the current year's English annual school plan. Money remaining unspent at the end of the year is not retained until the following year, so it is typically the case that toward the end of any given school year spare money may be available for the purchase of books in both the English department budget and the library budget.

2. English Panel Recurrent Grants

Promotion of Reading Grant (PRG): $20,000 (1-12 classes), $30,000 (13-24 classes), $40,000 (25+ classes).
- This annual grant supports all reading activities in the school, not just English, so is available to other departments such as Chinese and STEM. Discussion and agreement within a school is therefore needed every year as to how much funding may be available for English curriculum activities.

Life-wide Learning Grant (LLG): $150,000 per school + $25,000 per class.
- This annual grant can be spent across a school on any project/resource supporting life-wide learning including teacher expenses for trips. Discussions need to take place annually within a school to determine any suitable English activities that may be funded.

Composite Furniture and Equipment Grant (CFEG): $9,732 per class.
- Typically, a school does not allocate this annual money to department budgets, but instead uses it as part of the school's ongoing building maintenance strategy. Should budget be required for items such as English Room furniture, though, it is a possible source of occasional budget funding, especially given that unspent money can be retained by a school for subsequent years up to the total value of five times the annual grant.

English Extensive Reading Scheme Special Domain Grant (ERS) Until 2016: $8,300 per school
- This grant is no longer available and has been replaced by the PRG above. It aimed to allow schools "to buy English reading materials for their students at any level(s) ... purchase of materials, including library books, journals and multi-media reading materials", but ended in 2016.

3. English Panel Non-recurrent Grants

Promoting Effective English Grant Scheme (PEEGS) 2017-2020: $350,000 per school
- This is a one-off government funded grant co-ordinated by SCOLAR and available to all schools to "enhance the capacity of schools for further strengthening the learning and teaching of English Language and to achieve sustainable effects after completion of the Scheme". The final application deadline for schools to apply for this funding is November 2019.

Quality Education Fund (QEF): Up to $2,000,000 per school project, but typically up to $200,000 per school project
- The QEF is an ongoing multi-billion dollar government funded programme to "support innovations, enrich students' learning experiences and encourage school-based initiatives". Applications must be targeted toward "priority themes" that encompass English activities and teaching. A streamlined application process is in place for funding up to $200,000.

English Enhancement Grant (EEG) 2009-2014: $500,000 per school
- This grant is no longer available and has been replaced by the PEEGS above. It aimed to provide schools with "additional resources to build up their capacity for raising students' English proficiency and to achieve sustainable effects after the completion of the scheme", but ended in 2014.

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Upon satisfactory completion of a contract, a NET may be paid a gratuity for the period of service completed, including school holidays taken within the period of service, but excluding any days of unpaid leave or unpaid sick leave taken.

Gratuity payable is the sum together with employer's contribution to the MPF Scheme that equals 15% of the total basic salary drawn during the period of the Contract i.e. Gratuity = 15% salary - total MPF payments. This 'MPF offset' is legal in HK and is standard practice across industries.

Gratuity should be paid in two instalments equivalent to 95% and 5%:
- The first instalment, known as the interim gratuity, should be paid "not earlier than four clear working days before the commencement of the summer vacation", the first day of students' school holiday as per school calendar. There is no specified latest date by which it must be paid (confirmed by REO). The interim gratuity covers the "completed period of resident service" i.e. the period from the start of the contract to the start of the summer vacation. This is approximately 23 months of the 24 month contract, equivalent to 95%.
- The second instalment, known as the balance, should be paid "not earlier than 4 clear working days before the expiry of the Contract". It is assumed that the last day of the contract is the date by which payment must be made. The balance covers "the period of the summer vacation" which is the remaining 1 month of the 24-month contract, equivalent to 5%.

Gratuity is not granted upon resignation.

Application and Processing
For aided and special schools, an application for gratuity payment should be made by the school to the EDB Funds Section via their SSDO (Senior School Development Officer) in the REO at least 4 weeks before payment is due.

Money is not sent to the school unless they apply for it. It is the school's responsibility to apply. No reminders or such like are given by the EDB, but gratuity payment is part of a typical school's standard, end-of-year administrative activity:
- The school fills out the gratuity application form for 15% gratuity minus an MPF payments i.e. gratuity is not 15%, it is 15%-MPF.
- The school sends the form to the REO SSDO who verifies it and passes it on to the Funds division.
- The Funds division issues a payment to the school via a "Payment Voucher"
- The school then passes that money on to the NET via cheque (seemingly most common) or bank payment.

Refs:
www.edb.gov.hk/attachment/en/sch-admin/admin/about-sch-staff/appointment/app_form_teaching_pri_sch_e_%28rev._2015%29.pdf
www.edb.gov.hk/attachment/en/sch-admin/admin/about-sch-staff/net-scheme/Gratuity-PNETs.pdf
(See small print of the two forms)

NETs in aided and special schools may contact the REO for all issues regarding gratuity. It is the experience of PNETs that the REO has stated to schools that the split should be 95%/5% and that application should be 4 weeks before payment is due. Where gratuity payment procedures are not being followed, the NET Admin Team can also be contacted for additional support.

For government schools, gratuity paperwork is handled internally by the EDB with application not being required.

Gratuity MPF Offset Will Not Be Abolished
In 2018, the government policy address announced the "Abolishing of the 'Offsetting' Arrangement under the Mandatory Provident Fund Scheme". Initially, this was interpreted by many to apply to the gratuity offset, but details of the policy indicate this is not the case and NETs should not expect the 'Gratuity MPF Offset' to be abolished. This has been confirmed by the EDB:

We have not been informed of any changes on the arrangement for "offsetting" arrangement of the severance payment/ long service payment under the MPF system.  However, it seems that the current arrangement of the gratuity provided under the NET Scheme does not have any correlation with the proposed arrangement about severance payment/ long service payment.  Anyhow, for any changes announced in the future, the EDB would review relevant arrangement as appropriate.

The following is a summary of the offset abolition and how it relates to the gratuity MPF offset as currently understood.

The policy address (para. 205) and earlier LegCo proposal document (Para.8, Note 2) specifically refer to only two types of MPF offset, severance and long-service payment:

For the purpose of enhancing employees' retirement protection, the arrangement for "offsetting" severance payment (SP) and long service payment (LSP) with MPF benefits will be abolished.

Under the existing "offsetting" arrangement ... employers need to top up the payment for paying SP/LSP after netting the accrued benefits of their MPF contribution.
The LP/LSP definitions contained in the EDB's Guidelines for Processing SP and LSP (Para 1) indicate that they are not equivalent to, and are entirely separate from, a 2-year contract gratuity:

(a) Severance Payment
In continuous employment for not less than 24 months prior to dismissal by reason of:
(i) redundancy; or
(ii) not renewing an employment contract of a fixed term due to redundancy ; or
(iii) lay-off.

(b) Long Service Payment
In continuous employment for not less than 5 years prior to termination of service by reason of:
(i) dismissal for reasons other than redundancy or summary dismissal; or
(ii) not renewing an employment contract of a fixed term; or
(iii) death; or
(iv) resignation on ground of ill health; or
(v) resignation at the age of 65 or above on ground of old age.

The LegCo proposal (Para.4, Note 1) additionally states that gratuity is treated as employee income whereas SP/LSP are not and also states (Para.14) that gratuity should actually be offset against both SP and LSP, reinforcing the indication that gratuity is a separate entity to SP/LSP.

With regard to NET Scheme employment Terms and Conditions, this suggests that the gratuity MPF offset will continue to be applied because it relates to employee income rather than retirement/severance and because it is not included in the government's "Abolishing the 'Offsetting' Arrangement" proposal which relates only to the 'Severance Payment' and 'Long Service Payment' offsets.
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Liaison with the EDB for matters relating to the NET Schemes is undertaken by two organisations: The HK Primary Native-speaking English Teachers Forum (HKPNETs Forum) and the Native English Speaking Teachers Association (Nesta).

The HKPNETs Forum is the primary NET association that represents the views and interests of PNETs in Hong Kong. It is a registered association with a constitution, a Representative Committee of 5 PNETs and a membership of approximately 410 PNETs working in the NET Scheme. It holds regular liaison meetings with the EDB under the authority of Kevin Yeung, the Under Secretary for Education. Summaries of liaison meetings, submissions to LegCo, and discussions with LegCo members are publicly available here.

Nesta represents the views and interests of primary and secondary NETs under the HK Government NET Scheme (up until June 2018, it was NETs in the "Enhanced NET Scheme" [SNETs]), ATs, RNCs, DSS NETs and Ex-NETs awarded lifelong membership. It is a registered association with a constitution, an Executive Committee of 5 SNETs and a membership that is not made public, but was 120 in 2017 and is believed to be around 80 in 2019. It holds regular liaison meetings with the EDB under the authority of the Principal Education Officer of the Professional Development and Training Division. Summaries of liaison meetings and discussions with LegCo are not publicly available.

The final report of the "Evaluation of the NET Scheme in Primary Schools in HK 2015-2016" study (published in June 2019) recommended that the EDB "continue to establish communication channels with NET organisations and seek out their support to provide insight into NET issues and potential solutions." Details of the 20-page paper submitted to the study by the HKPNETs Forum and the follow-up meeting between representatives of the study team and the HKPNETs Forum can be found here. Nesta made no recorded submission.

Liaison on Fringe Benefits

Please refer to the Medical Allowance, Retention Incentive and Special Allowance Information Sheets. Information on an historical proposal for an Education Allowance is available below.

History of Liaison

In May 2019, the EDB stated that CV distribution to schools is now undertaken in batches of 20-30 rather than the previous "more than 5" and that differing policies between government and aided schools, such as maternity leave entitlement when switching schools, are now outlined to new NETs during the EDB's Induction Programme. These issues were raised with the EDB by the HKPNETs Forum in November 2015 and April 2018.

In March 2019, the EDB altered its Appointment/Re-appointment policy to allow NETs to request a copy of the vacancy list AND also to ask for CV distribution. Previously, it had been not been possible to ask for both. This issue was raised with the EDB by the HKPNETs Forum in November 2015.

In November 2018, following discussions with the HKPNETs Forum, the EDB stated that the government's proposal to abolish the MPF offsetting mechanism applies to 'severance and long service payment' offsets and does not apply to the NET Scheme 'gratuity' offset.

In November 2018, following seed-project discussions with the EDB, Dr Marija Todorova, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, invited members of the HKPNETs Forum to participate in research on Children's Literature in English Language Teaching for Primary Students in Hong Kong.

In July 2018, the EDB contacted the HKPNETs Forum regarding its consultation on the Extension of Retirement Age for Newly-joined Aided School Teachers. The HKPNETs Forum responded by "asking as many PNETs as possible to provide personal submissions in support of an extension of retirement age to 65 for ALL teachers and by liaising with the PTU in support of their own submission, highlighting the different arrangements between teachers in government and aided schools and also highlighting that the full 2018 civil service guidelines giving all civil servants a choice of 60/65 were not going to be implemented by the EDB". Nesta responded by writing to the EDB asking for their views, asking (due to a misunderstanding of the legal background of the consultation that was highlighted to them before their response) that the consultation be halted and requesting a new consultation take place in the future.

In July 2018, the HKPNETs Forum attended a Professional Code for the Education Profession of Hong Kong consultation session arranged by HKPTU and contributed to their subsequent submission to the Council on Professional Conduct.

In July 2018, the HKPTU invited members of the HKPNETs Forum to participate in their English-language briefing cum consultation on revisions to the Professional Code for the Education Profession of Hong Kong [Code of Conduct].

In Jun 2018, the Council on Professional Conduct in Education contacted the HKPNETs Forum and Nesta to participate in the second consultation on revisions to the Professional Code for the Education Profession of Hong Kong [Code of Conduct].

In May 2018, Nesta stated that fringe benefits would remain unchanged; the EDB said suggested changes would need to be approved by LegCo and may trigger a review of the benefit package possibly reducing benefits in some areas.

In May 2018, following the earlier consultative focus group meetings in December, the EDB invited the HKPNETs Forum to attend a follow-up meeting to discuss the draft Deployment Guidelines; deployment hours were stated as remaining the same and recommendations on 4 weeks' holiday periods were retained.

In April 2018, following discussions with the HKPNETs Forum in July 2016, the EDB stated that issues resulting from a switch between an aided/special school and a government school, or vice versa, such as forfeiture of accumulated sick leave are discussed with new NETs during the EDB Induction Programme for New NETs.

In March 2018, following discussions with the HKPNETs Forum in April 2016 and February 2017, the EDB included clarifications in the annual Appointment/Re-Appointment Circular Memorandum indicating that Form B is intended for any NET who has been in the EDB Candidate pool at any time in the past regardless of how the current contract was obtained, indicating that 1-year extensions should be done with reference to the special circumstances listed in the Memorandum on T&Cs rather than being an alternative option available to schools instead of a standard 2-year re-appointment contract and indicating that Vacancy List/CV Distribution request is an either/or choice (it is not possible to ask for both).

In December 2017, following discussions with the HKPNETs Forum in Nov 2015, July 2016 and April 2017, the EDB conducted two consultative focus groups on the proposed update of Deployment Guidelines with the HKPNETs Forum and Nesta invited to attend. The HKPNETs Forum asked for deployment hours to remain as they were and for the section on 4-weeks' summer holiday to be retained. Nesta asked for more EDB involvement in schools as NETs are employed by the EDB (this misunderstanding was corrected at the time), for NETs to attend all meetings held in Cantonese and for NETs to set exam papers.

In May 2017, following representations from Nesta and the HKPTU, LegCo Councillor Michael Tien submitted a LegCo Council Question asking for the NET remuneration package to be reviewed and for the Medical Allowance to be increased. The EDB responded that "The existing remuneration package for the NET Scheme is adequate", that the EDB "will follow the established and effective practice and review the remuneration package for NETs from time to time to attract quality teachers to become NETs", and also stated - for the first time on public record - its intention to consider the long-term financial implications of the NET Schemes.

In April 2017, following earlier discussions in Nov 2015 and July 2016, the HKPNETs Forum discussed the issue of consultation for the proposed update of Deployment Guidelines; the EDB stated that invitations to participate in a consultative focus group will be issued to the HKPNETs Forum and to Nesta.

In Feb 2017, the Council on Professional Conduct in Education contacted the HKPNETs Forum and Nesta to exchange views on the consultation being undertaking for revisions to the Professional Code for the Education Profession of Hong Kong [Code of Conduct] and Case [of Misconduct] Handling Procedures.

In late 2016, Nesta asked the EDB for a Medical Allowance adjustment mechanism similar to that for SA and an increase in the allowance. The EDB responded saying that any revision of the allowance needs to be approved by LegCo and any increase could result in less money being allocated for the SA or passage allowance. Subsequently, Nesta re-submitted the request via a LegCo Councillor and the HKPTU with a view to obtaining a 570% increase in the allowance. The EDB rejected the request.

In mid-2016, Nesta submitted a letter to the EDB re-introducing the request to change the Special Allowance Mechanism to address "unfair" implementation and petitioned the EDB "for NETs to be paid the same Special Allowance as they used to be". Subsequent to this, PNETs sent a letter to the Secretary for Education stating that Nesta does not represent the views of PNETs and that the HKPNETs Forum is the organisation that represents PNETs; the EDB stated its desire to continue communication and collaboration with the Forum through the various channels. The EDB disregarded Nesta's proposal and petition and increased the special allowance in line with the Adjustment Mechanism.

In May 2016, Nesta discussed with the EDB the issue of NETs attending meetings held in Cantonese. Subsequent to this, the EDB updated its Frequently Asked Questions to state that "schools may need every teacher to be in staff meetings and that the NET's presence in meetings may matter to other teachers. Therefore, schools are requested to give due consideration when requiring their NETs to attend meetings conducted in Cantonese, and do so as appropriate."

On 14 December 2015, CHAN Ka Ki, Catherine, Deputy Secretary for Education, confirmed to LegCo that the EDB would maintain close communication with different stakeholders in the implementation of the NET Scheme.

In November 2015, the HKPNETs Forum discussed with the EDB its plan to update and issue new Deployment Guidelines without consulting PNETs. Subsequent to this, the EDB committed to "consult stakeholders, including NETs using focus groups, established channels of communication and [a] online survey" with a view to issuing new Guidelines by the end of the 2017/18 school year.

In November 2015, the HKPNETs Forum discussed with the EDB the issue of contract documentation not having update dates or reference numbers and the issue of the checklist distributed to Principals of forms that need to be submitted not being easily available to NETs. Subsequent to this, the EDB now includes an date of update on all updated documentation including contract terms and conditions and has published the Notes for Applications checklist on its website.

In September 2015 the HKPNETs Forum and representatives of the EDB began to hold regular meetings to discuss issues relating to the NET Scheme.

In July 2015, the HKPNETs Forum discussed with the EDB the issue of improving NET communication channels. Subsequent to this, the EDB now sends emails as standard practice to both the HKPNETs Forum and Nesta with details of any updates made to NET Scheme documents available on its website.

In early 2015 the EDB commenced a $1.3million NET Scheme Evaluation Study conducted by Azusa Pacific University. The EDB informed Nesta of the details of this study in November 2014, but this information was not passed on to PNETs. Subsequently, the HKPNETs Forum submitted a formal paper to the Study Team detailing questions raised by PNETs and discussing relevant NET Scheme issues to support the objectives and terms of reference of the evaluation study. The HKPNETs Forum also met with a representative of the research study team to discuss PNET views on the implementation and effectiveness of the NET Scheme.

In November 2014, Nesta asked the EDB to introduce an education allowance and to increase in the Medical Allowance and proposed a Medical Allowance adjustment mechanism similar to that for SA. The EDB said an education allowance is not viable especially given the political climate typified by the recent LegCo meeting that had discussed the high salaries of NETs. The EDB said that there are affordable medical insurance packages with reference to the present rate of Medical Allowance as well as the services of public hospitals being available.

In November 2014 LegCo held a review meeting which focussed on the NET Scheme.

Following this meeting, the HKPNETs Forum made a formal submission to the LegCo Education Panel to respond to questions and concerns raised by LegCo members. The Hon Regina Ip, GBS, JP and Hon Michael Tien, BBS, JPT subsequently invited the HKPNETs Forum to a meeting to discuss the effectiveness of the NET Scheme which in turn led to an invitation to meet with Kevin Yeung, the Under Secretary for Education to discuss NET Scheme related matters.

Also following this meeting, LegCo Councillor Ip Kin-yuen published an article in the HKPTUNews newsletter containing the results of NET Scheme survey he had conducted. The HKPNETs Forum made a formal submission to the HKPTUNews responding to concerns raised.

In August 2014, Nesta requested a change in the Special Allowance Mechanism to address "unfair implementation". The EDB rejected the request as, being the gatekeeper to public money, the EDB is obliged to follow the established LegCo-approved mechanism. Subsequently, Nesta re-submitted the request via LegCo Councillor, Emily Lau. The EDB rejected the request for the same reason.

In June 2014, Stephen Krashen, Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California, wrote a letter to the SCMP suggesting the NET Scheme should be abolished. Members of the HKPNETs Forum wrote to Prof. Krashen expressing disagreement with his position given that the NET Scheme implements his own research recommendations and pedagogical approach and inviting him to visit schools in HK on his next visit. Subsequently, Prof. Krashen wrote to the SCMP clarifying he does not wish the NET Scheme to be abolished.

In 2013 LegCo held a review mtg of the NET Schemes. NET representatives were not invited to attend.

In April 2012, members of the HKPNETs Forum liaised with the EDB to establish that the NET Scheme is implemented in public sector schools (government, aided, special and caput schools) and not in DSS or private schools that operate within HK's private education sector.

In March 2012, Nesta asked the EDB to increase the gratuity to 17.5%. The EDB disregarded the suggestion.

In February 2011, Nesta asked the EDB to change the remuneration package: backdated SA adjustment; a different baseline for the SA Mechanism; an increase in baggage allowance and further increases based on years of service. The EDB disregarded the suggestion and advised that such a proposal would require LegCo Finance Committee approval and would likely trigger a full review of the overall remuneration package.

In March 2010, Nesta proposed to the EDB that the SA Mechanism be changed to "take into account the actual rental price applied to the calculation of the adjustment, which is the current special allowance rate" and that there to be a review of the remuneration package. The EDB disregarded the proposal.

In April 2008, Nesta asked the EDB to change the remuneration package: 45% SA increase, 15%/17.5% RI for 6/8 years' service, gratuity increase to 18% to compensate for change in $HK, education allowance of 50%/25% school fees for 1st/subsequent child, 257%/177% increase in single/married medical allowance, baggage allowance of 1 cubic metre. In May 2008, Nesta submitted a petition to the EDB asking for the same. In July 2008, Nesta approached LegCo with the same request. In Aug 2009, the EDB disregarded all suggestions and said that Nesta had agreed that it was not a suitable time to conduct a comprehensive review on the remuneration package of NETs under the NET Schemes in the foreseeable future. The EDB also said there is no separate adjustment mechanism for non-SA benefits, which follow that for the civil service.

In January 2008, Nesta met with the Secretary for Education, Michael Suen, and asked for the remuneration package to be changed: SA increase, PNETs and SNETs to be paid the same, 60% increase in medical allowance, 53% increase in baggage allowance.

Between 2007 and 2008, Nesta petitioned the EDB to increase entry qualifications for PNETs to ensure only "qualified and experienced teachers" were recruited so that the integrity of the Enhanced NET Scheme would not be affected. The EDB introduced a mandatory TEFL for PNETs from 2009/10 with a strict requirement of 100-hours' tuition and a practical teaching component.

In Apr 2007, LegCo held a full review of the NET Scheme policy. The views of fourteen associations were sought: thirteen attended the meeting; all supported the NET Scheme Policy. Nesta proposed teaching degrees be mandatory; that the "wrong type of NETs" be weeded out; increases in SA, baggage and medical allowances; removal of school-based management for NETs; a new education allowance and an increase in salaries. Lee Weston and Craig Boswell attended and repeated their petition. Other associations asked for contracts to be five-year and schools with a good track-record of NET retention be given priority; asked for two NETs per school, Induction for new NETs and a cash allowance in lieu of a NET. The EDB disregarded all suggestions.

In Mar 2007, two SNETs, Lee Weston and Craig Boswell, petioned LegCo in their own right on behalf of all NETs for the the 2005 SA increase to be backdated for all NETs and for $29,500 compensation to be paid to NETs signing contracts in 2004. This led to LegCo initiating a full review of the EDB's NET Scheme Policy and seeking the views of principal association.

In 2006, the HKPNETs Forum was established by PNETs as an association for NETs working in the NET Scheme.

In November 2005, the EDB's proposal to introduce a new retention incentive was authorised by the LegCo Finance Committee. The EDB stated they had "reviewed the adequacy of other components of the remuneration package for NETs and do not find it necessary to make any change at this stage".

In July 2005, the LegCo Education Panel held a meeting to discuss NET Scheme cost-effectiveness and recruitment issues. Nesta submitted its petitions again and attended the LegCo meeting. The EDB argued against the petitions. LegCo expressed concern about the increasing turnover rate of NETs and asked the EDB to consult Nesta on improvements to the NET Scheme and to make recommendations to enhance the competitiveness of the NET Scheme. In Oct 2005, the EDB disregarded the petitions and instead instituted the Retention Incentive. The EDB stated that it would continue to consult with NETs through various channels including the parent-teacher associations; in 2006/7 the Principal Education Officer of the Professional Development and Training Division, EDB, began to hold regular meetings with Nesta to gauge views and feedback from NETs.

In June 2005, the "Allnets" Yahoo discussion group was established as an adjunct to Nesta's Special Allowance and Gratuity Committee to "to help disseminate pertinent information to all NET teachers in Hong Kong" to NETs "on the Hong Kong Government's Enhanced NET Scheme".

In May and June 2005, Nesta petitioned LegCo to change the remuneration package: 25% gratuity, 43% increase in SA, 5-year long-service award of 4 mths salary and an increase in medical allowance justifying them through rental and moving costs, tax increases, rising school fees, local health issues, bird flu, sars, challenges of living in hk, family outings costs, rising salaries of domestic helpers, and reduced earning power etc.

In 2003, a year after the NET Scheme started in primary schools, the EDB asked LegCo to approve a new SA Adjustment Mechanism. LegCo Education Panel members encouraged the EDB to consult with NETs with the help of the HKPTU. The EDB said it would consult with NETs through various channels.

In 2002, LegCo raised concerns about the difficulty in recruiting and retaining SNETs. In response, the EDB designated an Education Officer to act as a contact point for resolving issues.

In 2001, Nesta was established by SNETs as an association for NETs working in the Enhanced NET Scheme.

In 1998, the Enhanced NET Scheme was established in secondary schools.

Liaison on a Proposal for an Education Allowance

In 2007, Nesta proposed to EDB and to LegCo that an Education Allowance be added to the fringe benefits package.

In 2008, Nesta asked the EDB (April) and LegCo (July) for an Education Allowance of 50% school fees for a first child and 25% school fees for subsequent children was submitted . The EDB responded in 2009 saying that there is no justifiable reasons to revise fringe benefits of NETs in light of stringent policy considerations on the fringe benefits of the civil service and that it had been agreed with NET representatives that a comprehensive review of remuneration would not take place in in the foreseeable future.

In late 2014 Nesta asked the EDB for an Education Allowance with the EDB responding that such an allowance is not viable, especially given the political climate typified by the Nov 2014 LegCo Education Panel meeting that had highlighted perceived high salaries of NETs.

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In December 2018, the EDB announced that maternity leave would be extended for all female teachers from 10 to 14 weeks starting from 1 Jan 2019. Necessary changes to the codes of aid and the School Administration Guide have taken place, but the employment ordinance has not yet been updated. Further information can be found here.

As of 2019, the NET contract MOCS states,

"13.3 A female NET who ha s completed 40 weeks of resident service prior to the commencement of maternity leave may be grant ed 14 weeks full - pay maternity leave"

Up until 2019, the term "continuous service" was used instead of "resident service". Continuous service was the same term used in retention incentive documentation which the HKPNETs Forum confirmed during liaison with the EDB in July 2016 refers to continuous employment on the NET Schemes rather than at a particular school. "Resident service" is the term used in the Code of Aid which clearly refers to employment regardless of school or contract.

If switching between an aided/special school and a government school, or vice versa, any accumulated service is forfeited requiring a further 40-weeks service to be completed to re-establish entitlement for maternity leave.

Rules for maternity leave for all teachers in aided and special schools are detailed in Appendix 11 of the Code of Aid and 7.10 Appendix 10 of the School Administration Guide. They state that maternity leave that continues into the summer vacation will be on full pay. There is nothing there stating it is necessary to 'clock in' to school between maternity leave and a vacation. Under school based management that sort of rule is left to the schools who "should formulate policies and principles in processing leave applications in consultation with staff to ensure impartiality and consistency.  However, the procedures involved in handling leave matters should be kept to the minimum." The rules apply to all teaching staff.

The start date of maternity leave is normally 4 weeks before the expected date of confinement (due date), but, "with the agreement of her employer, a pregnant employee may decide to commence her maternity leave from 2 to 4 weeks before the expected date of confinement". Maternity leave must start a minimum of 2 weeks before the expected date of confinement. If the date of confinement occurs before the scheduled maternity leave, then the date of confinement that is the start date.

If the actual date of confinement is later than the expected date of confinement, then maternity leave can be extended by the number of days it is late. This is however unpaid unless the extension period falls within a major school holiday when the holiday days are paid. If the date of confinement is late, certified sick leave may be a preferable option.

Sick leave and statutory holidays take precedence over maternity leave. If, for instance, your doctor prescribes sick leave via a medical certificate whilst you are on maternity leave (for bed rest or to recover from C section or breast feeding issues etc.), then maternity leave is postponed until the day after the medical certificate has expired i.e. certified sick leave days do not count towards the allowed 14-week maternity leave. Only 4 weeks of such sick leave are allowed.

School holidays, such as the summer holiday, however, do not take precedence over maternity leave so maternity leave starting during such holiday is taken as maternity leave i.e. maternity leave cannot be postponed until after a school holiday.

The Employment Ordinance says it is illegal to dismiss an employee once pregnancy has been confirmed by medical certificate until after maternity leave has been completed. PNET experience is that it has never been necessary to refer maternity leave entitlement to the Labour Department, but on other issues such as pay the Labour Dept has been effective in enforcing the law, so the threat of getting them involved should help out if necessary. Q5 and Q6 of their FAQ are worth reading.

Referenced details of the above are in the Labour Dept Concise Guide on Maternity Leave and FAQ. The EDB has also stated:

"According to the Codes of Aid, which are applicable to aided schools, female teachers who have completed 40 weeks of resident service prior to the commencement of maternity leave may be granted 10 weeks [14 weeks from Jan 2019] full-pay maternity leave. If the confinement occurs later than the expected date of confinement, a further period equal to the number of days beginning on the day after the expected date of confinement up to and including the actual date of confinement is to be taken immediately following the 10 weeks of maternity leave.  However, the entitlement to pay is limited to the period of 10 weeks [14 weeks from Jan 2019].  For those female teachers whose maternity leave exceeds 10 weeks [14 weeks from Jan 2019] due to actual date of confinement after the expected date of confinement, with the excess portion of maternity leave falling wholly or partly within a major school holiday such as Christmas, Chinese New Year, Easter and Summer Vacation, they will be eligible for full pay for any part of that excess portion of maternity leave falling within the major school holiday."

Leave matters are dealt with by the REO; contact your school's School Development Officer to confirm maternity leave arrangements.

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The Medical Allowance facilitates the reimbursement of medical insurance scheme costs to the value of HK$1,400 per year for a single NET and HK$5,400 per year for a NET accompanied by spouse and/or children. Whilst the two reimbursements are often referred to as single/family there is no requirement to be married to claim for a child; single NETs with children are entitled to the "family" reimbursement.

Participation in a medical insurance scheme is not mandatory and there are no restrictions regarding the choice of insurance provider, the choice of policy provision and cover, or the actual cost of a chosen policy. Where a chosen policy costs in excess of the allowance value, reimbursement is possible to the amount of the allowance value. Double-benefits arising from employment or from a spouse's employment are not allowed and must be declared during application.

Application for reimbursement should be made every year and reimbursement is provided on a pro-rata basis should insurance policy coverage not coincide with the contract period. It is also possible to make retrospective applications for reimbursement of previous years. Reimbursement is typically made by the school via cheque or bank transfer rather than via automated monthly salary payment.

The Medical Allowance is taxable (see EDB FAQ Q20 and Government Schools Memorandum on T&Cs, 2015,  Section 14.2).

Enquiries about the Medical Allowance should be directed toward the EDB NET Admin Team for aided and special schools and the Administration Division for government schools.

Adjustment
Medical Allowance reimbursement is provided on a fixed-sum basis as determined by LegCo when the NET Schemes were established (see Review of the Medical Allowance below). There is no separate adjustment mechanism for the medical benefit, which follows that for the civil service.

Changes in living expenses, such as those due to changes in medical policy costs, are supported through the index-based, annually-adjusted Special Allowance which is "provided on a non-accountable basis so as to provide the NETs with the flexibility to dispose the allowance in meeting other living expenses of their own choosing".

NET-Specific Medical Insurance
All teachers can make use of medical insurance schemes available through the HK Professional Teachers' Association (HKPTU).

Local and international insurance providers are unwilling to provide NET-Specific medical insurance policies to groups of NETs:

- Group schemes are usually compulsory such that the insurer's risk can be spread over a range of ages, sexes and general levels of health. Where there is no compulsory participation, companies' experience is that the older or less healthy are more likely to take up policies which skews the risk profile. Given that NET insurance coverage is not compulsory and uptake is likely to be limited in number and high-risk in nature companies are generally not willing to take on NET-specific group-policy business. HKPTU insurance coverage is able to overcome this though an extremely large membership encompassing the 53,000 primary and secondary teachers eligible to join its schemes. Policies provided by the English Schools Foundation to its staff overcome these issues by making enrolment mandatory for the 1300 teachers at its 22 schools.

- NETs in government schools are employed by the government, but are not classed as civil servants. NETs in aided and special schools are employed individually by a given school. Insurance companies will not provide specialised insurance coverage to a school with only 1 employee requiring dedicated insurance. They are similarly unwilling to provide coverage to associations with low-numbers of employees such as the EDB with only 64 NETs in government schools under its control, to a sponsoring body with multiple but small numbers of schools under its remit, to Nesta with its 130+ members or to the HKPNETs Forum Primary Association with its 400+ PNET members.

The HKPNETs Forum has sourced two companies willing to provide NET-specific policies:
 - ACE Life Insurance policy includes life, accident, hospital and critical illness cover.
 - ALC/Village International Insurance policy based on standard international ex-pat insurance coverage with associated higher-level premiums
   (Policy withdrawn in 2017 due to lack of uptake after being established in 2015)

*** Many thanks to the PNET who spent many months investigating this issue and to the PNETs who facilitated the NET-specific policies mentioned. ***

Review of the Medical Allowance
In May 2018, Nesta stated that fringe benefits would remain unchanged; the EDB said suggested changes would need to be approved by LegCo and may trigger a review of the benefit package possibly reducing benefits in some areas.

In May 2017, LegCo Councillor Michael Tien submitted a LegCo Council Question on behalf of Nesta and the HKPTU asking for the Medical Allowance to be increased. The EDB responded that "there are alternative medical insurance plans available in the market which are under the maximum rate of medical allowance. We have also shared such information in the liaison meetings with the NET association concerned. Just like local residents, NETs are also entitled to public healthcare services. Besides, the special allowance provided by the EDB for NETs is flexible. They can flexibly use the allowance for meeting various needs."

In Nov 2016, Nesta asked the EDB for an increase in the Medical Allowance and proposed an adjustment mechanism similar to that for SA. The EDB responded "any revision of the allowance needs to be approved by LegCo. EDB has looked at plans in the market and some are within the allowance e.g. HKPTU basic plans. NETs are also eligible for public medical services. NETs have other allowances e.g. SA, which NETs have the flexibility to use to cover other living expenses. The medical allowance is not intended to provide full coverage of private health insurance. Priority is given to the SA and passage allowances. A lot of work would need to be undertaken to achieve increases in the medical allowance and even if increases could be achieved these could result in less money being allocated for the SA or passage allowance." Nesta also asked for doctor receipts to be used in lieu of the allowance. The EDB disregarded the request. Nesta approached LegCo Councillor Regina Ip and HKPTU President Fung Wai-wah proposing an increase to the Medical Allowance and an adjustment mechanism linked to inflation with a view to obtaining a 570% increase in the allowance. In response to the letters they subsequently sent, the EDB rejected the proposal.

In 2014, Nesta asked the EDB for an increase in the Medical Allowance and proposed an adjustment mechanism similar to that for SA. The EDB stated that it "had conducted a market search and found that there were affordable packages with reference to the present rate of allowance. NETs could consider the basic medical insurance plans and avail themselves of the service of public hospitals."

In April 2008, Nesta asked the EDB for a 257%/177% increase in single/married medical allowance and asked LegCo for the same in July 2008. The EDB said there is no separate adjustment mechanism for the medical benefit, which follows that for the civil service; given the stringent policy considerations on the fringe benefits of the civil service, it would not warrant any justifiable reasons for EDB to revise the medical allowance; this was presented to Nesta in a liaison meeting on 8 July 2009 at which full understanding was expressed that it was not a suitable time to conduct a comprehensive review on the remuneration package of NETs under the NET Schemes in the foreseeable future.

In 2007, Nesta proposed to LegCo an increase in the Medical Allowance. The EDB stated the attrition rate of NETs in the 2005-2006 school year had improved to 32% and 25% for primary NETs and secondary NETS respectively and adopt appropriate measures to improve the competitiveness of the remuneration package if the attrition rate increased in the 2006-2007 school year.

In 2005, Nesta proposed to LegCo an increase in the Medical Allowance. The EDB stated, "The provision was originally made in 1997 to reflect the average government cost of medical benefits paid to comparable civil servants. As NETs are on valid work visa and they enjoy the public sector medical services just like every member of the public, we consider that there is no case to improve on this medical provision as at present."

In 2002, the fixed-rate Medical Allowance was approved by LegCo as part of the reimbursement package for primary NETs at the commencement of the NET Scheme.

In 1997, the fixed-rate Medical Allowance was approved by the LegCo Finance committee as part of the reimbursement package for NETs at the commencement of the Enhanced NET Scheme.

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Subject to the approval of the IMC in aided and special schools or subject to the recommendation of the Principal and approval of the Secretary for Education in government schools, no-pay leave may be granted to a NET (see Letter of Appointment section 13.6/15.5 respectively).

Rules governing no-pay leave are detailed in the Code of Aid (section 28) and apply to all Ts, not just NETs

The key difference between no-pay leave and sick/special leave is that abutting holiday periods/weekends affect salary and also affect salary increment dates as detailed in the code of aid:

28.
...
(b) ... Such no-pay leave shall not be counted for the purposes of increments.

(c) When the last day of such no-pay leave is followed by a Sunday or a gazetted public holiday, such Sunday or gazetted public holiday will be regarded as an extension of the period of no-pay leave.

(d) When the last day of such no-pay leave is followed by the major school holidays, i.e., Christmas, Chinese New Year, Easter and Summer Vacation, payment of salary will resume on the day the staff reports to school for duty, provided that it is neither a Sunday nor a gazetted public holiday.

(e) When the last day of such no-pay leave is followed by a school holiday, other than the major school holidays, payment of salary will resume on the day following the last day of such no-pay leave provided that it is neither a Sunday nor a gazetted public holiday.

(f) Where, however, no-pay leave has been granted as no-pay maternity, sick, or special tuberculosis leave, payment of salary will resume on the day following the last day of such no-pay leave, notwithstanding that the day following the last day of such no-pay leave may be a Sunday or a gazetted public holiday.

The EDB also stated during liaison with the HKPNETs Forum in Nov 2015 that, due to the code of aid rules above, it is normally not possible to take special leave immediately after no-pay leave.

Schools must send a notification of the granting of no-pay leave to the respective SSDO in the respective REO.

For issues regarding leave, the EDB advises NETs to talk to the school Principal in the first instance and if further assistance is needed to contact the school REO.

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Salary pay scales are assessed based on qualifications attained: degree, teaching qualifications and post-degree teaching qualifications.

There are two main occasions on which qualifications assessment takes place: assessment to determine local equivalence of non-local qualifications both on joining the NET Scheme and subsequently on gaining further qualification such as a PGDE via distance learning; re-assessment upon gaining local qualifications such as a PGDE to attain a higher pay scale.

Non-local Qualifications Assessment
All non-local qualifications must be submitted to the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications (HKCAAVQ) to establish whether the qualifications are equivalent to local qualifications. This applies to all teachers not just NETs. Qualification certificates together with transcripts showing details of courses taken must be submitted together with a fee of $3,000 and typically takes 15 days. A summary of the process is listed here.

For NETs joining the NET Scheme via the EDB interview process, the EDB will arrange and pay for HKCAAVQ assessment to ensure qualification requirements are met before the NET can be included in the EDB Candidate Pool. The EDB will retain the resultant HKCAAVQ Certificate of Assessment in their records and will provide a copy to all future schools at which the NET obtains NET Scheme employment as part of standard Contract Procedures.

For NETs not recruited via the EDB Candidate Pool, either the school or the NET must arrange and pay for the HKCAAVQ assessment. If the NET pays for the assessment, the Certificate of Assessment will be delivered to the NET who can then provide it to all future schools in which employment is gained. If, however, a school pays for the assessment, that school is entitled to keep the Certificate of Assessment and is not obliged to give it to the NET should they leave the school to seek employment elsewhere on the NET Scheme. In such cases, the assessment must be undertaken again either by the NET or a new school.

Refs: EDB Circular 1/2005, FAQ Q2, FAQ Q9; HKPNETs Forum/EDB liaison meeting minutes, Item 5 and Items 27-31.

Schools who opt to recruit a NET directly without the assistance of the EDB can claim a recruitment subsidy to pay for assessment costs.

If a non-local qualification, such as an overseas PGDE, is attained once a NET has already started on the NET Scheme then HKCAAVQ re-assessment must be arranged and paid for by the NET, before the qualification is then re-assessed for a higher pay scale (see below).

Re-assessment for a Higher Pay Scale
Upon obtaining a local qualification, such as an HKU PGDE, the school sends a letter together with authenticated copies of the qualification and course transcripts to the SSDO in their local REO asking for the qualification to be re-assessed and any associated salary scale increase awarded. Documents submitted with the letter must be officially stamped by the school as being authentic copies and the school submitting the letter must be the one at which you were employed when the qualification was obtained. This is standard procedure for all teachers.

For a PGDE, the transcripts must state that the subject is English. If not, a testimonial letter from the course supervisor stating the major subject is English needs to be provided.

Any salary increase will be backdated to the date stated on the qualification certificate.

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On resignation the main relevant section of the contract Memorandum of Terms and Conditions is:

15.1 The NET may terminate his/her service by giving the School one calendar month notice in writing of his/her intention to resign or one month's salary in lieu of notice.

Salary and SA payment are paid pro-rata up to the effective date of resignation i.e. last day of duty at the end of the notice period. If, however, that last day of duty falls within the school holiday, salary and SA will be paid to the end of July. There is no stated requirement to work to the end of the first year of contract (Aug 15).

19.3 A NET with service of less than one academic year but more than 59 days and his/her appointment terminates, with due notice given, on a date no earlier than the beginning of (b) the summer vacation will be paid to the end of July.

MPF is paid on a monthly basis into a NET's MPF account with personal and employer contributions deposited every month. These remain in the account regardless of resignation. Payments should be listed on the latest MPF statement.

A 'catch-all' statement is included to allow the EDB to reclaim any money that has been over-paid to a NET at any time in the contract as well as on resignation. Whilst NET contracts are technically with the school, all the money is provided to schools by the EDB via the salaries grant. It is therefore the EDB that determines any money what is owed and any monies that need to be paid back.

5.13 The School may require a NET to refund any amount that it may have overpaid to the NET; any advances of salary; any charges that the NET may have incurred in respect of any facilities or benefits provided to the NET or his /her family by the School.

Upon resignation, don't forget to immediately ask the school to provide a Certificate of Service, a sample of which is available here. Under the Employment Ordinance, an employer is legally required to provide the certificate once it has been requested. This is outlined in the following documents:
- Education Bureau Circular No. 5/2005, Appointment of Staff in Schools, Section 10
- School Administration Guide, Section 7.10

Under school-based management, for issues regarding employment the EDB advises NETs to talk to the school Principal in the first instance and if further assistance is needed to then contact the school REO.

Fringe Benefits Clawback

Special Allowance is paid to the salary account (see Annex B). Terms of payment on resignation are therefore detailed in section 19: It does not have to be repaid and is paid pro-rata in the same way as salary is.

Flights and baggage must be repaid if resignation is "within the first 12 months of the Contract Period" (see section 18). This is interpreted as being the last day of duty, so a last day of duty of Aug 15th would be within the first 12 months of the contract necessitating repayment of passage. A last day of duty of 16 Aug would avoid repayment.

For Retention incentive, "cumulative retention incentive paid for the months prior to the effective date of resignation in that school year will be clawed back" (see section 6.10 of the contract MOCS and also section 6 (viii, ix) of the RI application form completed at the start of the school year). A last day of duty of Aug 15th being the effective date of resignation, would necessitate claw back of RI for the whole preceding year; a last day of duty of 16 Aug would avoid repayment (see the Retention Incentive Information Sheet for more details on this).

Gratuity is not granted upon resignation regardless of last day of duty (see section 6.9 of the MOCS).

Note: The exact difference between 15th and 16th of August is a little unclear. It's also worth noting also that, technically, the school year runs from 1 Sep whereas the RI application form states that "the exact end date for payment of the retention incentive to a NET depends on his/her current contractual terms under the NET Schemes." It is therefore also a little unclear as to whether it is the 16th Aug or the 1st Sep that act as the role-over school year date for RI repayment although past experience of PNETs seems to indicate 16th Aug. See the Retention Incentive Information Sheet for more details on this.

Holiday

Holiday is a slightly tricky issue because in Hong Kong holiday is seen as being awarded at the school's discretion rather than as by right. The NET contract also states, "The NET is required to assist with ... other school duties including duties outside school hours and during school holidays at the discretion of the Principal/Supervisor of the School."

The standard professional approach following resignation would be for agreement to be reached between the school and NET regarding holiday to be taken. Where there is some antagonism however, it is more than possible based on past NET experiences that a school may state duties must be undertaken until the last day of duty at the end of the notice period. Certainly, though, there can be no requirement to take unpaid leave after the last day of duty: schools must seek the prior approval of the Permanent Secretary before granting such unpaid leave and permission is impossible if employment has already ceased following completion of a notice period.

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A Retention Incentive is available for anyone having completed two or more consecutive years of employment to the value of 5% base salary for the third and fourth years' of service and 10% base salary for fifth year of service onwards.

The Retention Incentive provides an additional incentive for serving NETs to continue their service in Hong Kong.

An application for the Retention Incentive should be made every year. Forms can be submitted before the start date of the contract, i.e. before the summer holiday, or at any time during the contract. In government schools, forms are provided to the NET by the school or can be obtained from the EDB Appointment and Personnel Section.

Eligibility for the Retention Incentive is subject to a school's satisfaction with performance as stated on the application. On moving to a new school, the intention of the application form is that for the first year of a new contract at a new school that new school should take the successful completion of a previous contract and their own decision to offer the new contract in the first place as sufficient reason to be satisfied with performance. However, under school-based management, when a NET moves to a new school, the new Principal is entitled to not support an application and to implement a probation period before authorising an application. In such cases, when the application is eventually received it is backdated to the start of the school year. This should not be standard practice though and the EDB NET Admin Team will do their best, if contacted by a NET, to explain to the school that the standard approach to authorising application should be based on past experience at the previous school.

Payment is typically made by the automated monthly salary payment. Initial payment is dependent on form processing times and processing being completed by the 10th of any given month for payment in that month. Payment is backdated to the start date of the contract or to the actual start date employment should that be later (e.g. due to visa issues) - this may be made in the initial payment, or in the following couple of months.

Eligibility for RI is not affected by switching between a government and an aided/special school, or vice versa.

The Retention Incentive is taxable (see EDB FAQ Q20 and Government Schools Memorandum on T&Cs, 2015,  Section 7.11) and should appear on the end-of-tax-year return of payroll emoluments issued to you by the school in April.

Enquiries about the Retention Incentive should be directed toward the EDB NET Admin Team for aided and special schools and the Administration Division for government schools.

Adjustment
The Retention Incentive is provided on a percentage of base salary basis. Adjustment to base salary is provided via the LegCo approved Civil Service Pay Adjustment Mechanism.

There is no separate adjustment mechanism for the retention benefit, which follows that for the civil service.

Break in Service
The latest EDB circular from 2013 containing details of RI arrangements states,

"Under normal circumstances, NETs have to serve continuously in the Schemes in order to be eligible for the retention incentive. However, if they have completed their previous contract on 15 August and start a new contract on or before the first day of the coming school year, they can also apply for the retention incentive;" (Para. 2a)

So, if, having left the NET Scheme at the end of a contract, a NET rejoins before the first day of the next school year, a NET remains eligible for the RI despite the break in continuous service. Rejoining at any time after this, such as 18 months, a NET is no longer eligible for the RI until 2 new years of continuous service have been achieved.

For a NET rejoining the NET Scheme after an absence of less than 1 year, e.g. resigning in October and rejoining the next August, the EDB has stated that eligibility for RI is discretionary and requires the school to provide a letter explaining the reason for the break in service of less than 1 year a NET and expressing satisfaction with references/past appraisals.

The standard Guide to Salary Assessment in aided schools defines,

"a break exceeding one year [as being] considered as a break in service for the purpose of salary assessment of teachers" (page 8)

which was referenced in original RI documentation from 2006 which stated,

"If NETs have served previously but rejoined subsequently with a break in service, the relevant years of service are not treated as continuous service. However, if they have completed their previous contract on 15 August and start a new contract on or before the first day of the coming school year, they can apply for the retention incentive"

Resignation
If leaving employment before the end of any school year, where premature resolution or termination of a contract is initiated by the NET, the cumulative incentive paid for the months prior to the effective date of resignation in that school year will be clawed back.

The exact definition of 'school year' is, however, a little unclear. A school year usually runs from 1 Sep to 31 Aug suggesting that an effective resignation date of 1 Sep would not entail any RI repayment whereas an effective resignation date of 31 Aug would result in repayment of the whole year's RI. However, for the purposes of RI the school year is effectively 16 Aug - 15 Aug:

"The incentive is payable on a monthly basis in advance starting from the beginning of the third year of service until the end of that school year or the end of contract (whichever the earlier)" Ref: RI Circular section 2c.

"Under the NET Schemes, the retention incentive is payable to the NET each school year ... However, the exact end date for payment of the retention incentive to a NET depends on his/her current contractual terms under the NET Schemes. If his/her current contract ends on 15 August or 31 August, the payment of the retention incentive should cease on 15 August or 31 August respectively." Ref: Application Form, Note 1(3).

Given that RI payments for standard contract dates cease on 15 Aug, this suggests that resignation would result in payments being clawed back up until that date; an effective resignation date of 16 Aug would not entail any RI repayment whereas an effective resignation date of 14 Aug would result in repayment of the whole year's RI.

The past experience of PNETs indicates that the latter is correct. The EDB NET Admin Team will not confirm this however and instead have advised that it all comes down to the relationship between the NET and the school regarding the last agreed day of service and what constitutes (in the school's mind), one completed year of service.  If the school is happy that both have been fulfilled, then the RI doesn't have to be paid back.

Review of the Retention Incentive
In 2005, the Retention Incentive was proposed by the EDB and authorised by the LegCo Finance Committee for introduction in the 2006/7 school year.

In April 2008, Nesta asked the EDB to introduce a 15%/17.5% incentive for 6/8 years of service. The EDB responded in 2009 saying that Nesta had agreed that it was not a suitable time to conduct a comprehensive review on the remuneration package of NETs under the NET Schemes in the foreseeable future.

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The de-facto role of a PNET, established when the NET Scheme was first proposed, is:

NETs are to
(a) enrich the language environment in schools;
(b) act as a resource person to bring in effective teaching methods from overseas; and
(c) assist in school-based teacher development.

Proposed duties of NETs in primary schools:
1. To undertake teaching duties and try out good teaching models/practices related to the learning, teaching and assessment of English;
2. To provide support for the English panel, including contributing to school-based curriculum development and professional development of fellow teachers, as well as developing and preparing learning/teaching materials;
3. To organise and conduct extra-curricular activities related to English learning and teaching, such as plays/skit performances, school-based English camps, English language games (day), story-telling activities, songs and dances, verse speaking, and extensive reading; and, if applicable, to contribute to other extra-curricular activities such as IT, art and craft activities and sports;
4. To act as an advisor on language teaching and learning for the principal and teachers in the school

When the NET Scheme was first implemented, the phrase "Agent of Change" was used to indicate the anticipated role of PNETs in schools. In 2009, the evaluation of the NET Scheme undertaken by Melbourne University stated "NETs were not regarded as 'agents of change' in school" and the anticipated role no longer applies.

The de-facto role of an SNET, established when the Enhanced NET Scheme was first proposed, is:

NETs will act as English language resource teachers in the schools. They will assist in school-based English teacher development programme and help foster an enabling environment for students to speak English and practise their oral skills. They will share the heavy burden shouldered by the existing English teachers.

Proposed duties of the NETs:
It is proposed that the duties of NETs should cover the following -
1. to be responsible for classroom teaching and assessment;
2. to provide support to the English Panel Chairperson, including assisting in the tailoring of the curriculum and preparation of teaching materials;
3. to assist in conducting extra-curricular activities related to the English language, e.g. speech, drama, debates, choral speaking and extensive reading;
4. to assist in running more oral activities for students after school, especially Chinese-medium schools;
5. to assist in setting up an English corner in the school where students can come together to practise oral English and read English books under their guidance; and
6. to act as an English language resource person for other teachers in school.

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Under school-based management, aided and special schools (specifically, their IMCs) are responsible for formulating school-based policies on sick leave management (including the submission of medical certificates, means of notifying school that the sick leave ends etc.) in accordance with provisions under the Codes of Aid, the Employment Ordinance and instructions issued by the Permanent Secretary for Education. Leave policies are intended to apply equitably to all staff. Schools are supported in this by their respective EDB REO (Regional Education Office), but the actual policies adopted are up to each school to determine.

Refs:
- Primary Code of Aid: Leave, Appx 10, Appx 11
- Secondary Code of Aid: Leave, Appx 11, Appx 12
- Employment Ordinance: Concise Guide
- Instructions issued by the Sec Ed: Full List, EDB Guidelines for Granting Leave, Guidelines Attachment 4 Notes
- LegCo Update: Press Release, Nov 2015
- School Administration Guide: Chapter 7.5.3, Supplement Appx H
- Common Administrative Isses: Checklist

In aided and special schools, sick leave exceeding two days should be supported by a valid medical certificate. There is no rule for less than two days so it is a school-based decision as to whether a medical certificate is required for one or two sick day(s).

The EDB School Administration Guide states a rule for sick leave of 2+ days:
"Appendix 8 Leave entitlement for staff in Aided Schools
Sick leave application exceeding 2 days must be supported by a valid medical certificate"

The 2012 NET contract was altered to explicitly state what should happen for 2+ days:
"22. Absence from Duties
If a NET is absent from his/her duties for reasons of ill health, he/she shall report immediately to the Principal/Supervisor of School and shall, if the period of absence exceeds two days, forward to him/her an acceptable medical certificate."

Under school-based management in aided and special schools it is also up to the school to determine what is classed as requiring sick leave to be taken. Some schools allow time to be taken during the school day to attend a doctor appointment without sick leave being necessary (although a letter of attendance may be required). Others do not.

Government schools differ as they are governed directly by the EDB in accordance with Civil Service Regulations, the Employment Ordinance and instructions issued by the Permanent Secretary for Education with schools supported by the EDB's Appointment and Personnel Section.

In government schools, every day of sick leave must be supported by a valid medical certificate and attending school for less than four hours in a school day requires a half-day of sick leave to be taken.

For all schools, statutory holidays do not count as sick leave and NETs may continue to receive the Special Allowance whilst on sick leave for a maximum period of 60 days on each occasion (see Letter of Appointment Annex B).

For all valid sick leave taken, days are initially taken from the accumulated sick leave balance and only if that balance expires does it become necessary to classify leave as no-pay sick leave with a loss of salary. (See Guidelines Attachment 4 Notes).

There is no specific statement anywhere that foreign medical certificates are valid. Instead, the employment ordinance implies it by omission through its non-geographically-limited definition of a valid medical certificate as being one "supported by a medical certificate (The medical certificate should specify the number of days on which, and the nature of the sickness or injury on account of which, the employee is unfit for work.) issued by a registered medical practitioner, a registered Chinese medicine practitioner or a registered dentist." It is the past experience of PNETs that foreign medical certificates are valid.

Referenced details of the above are in the Labour Dept Concise Guide on Sickness Allowance.

For issues regarding leave, the EDB advises NETs to talk to the school Principal in the first instance and if further assistance is needed to contact the school REO.

Accumulated Sick Leave Balance
The accumulated sick leave policy is contained within the Code of Aid and applies to all teachers, not just NETs. (See Code of Aid Appendix 10 and Guidelines for Granting Leave Attachment 4).

During the first year of employment on the NET Scheme, sick leave of up to 28 days can be granted by schools. Typically, school policy for all teachers is for these days to be available pro-rata in the first year of service i.e. 2-3 days per month completed. Unused sick leave is accumulated and carried forward to the next year.

At the start of the second year of service, and at the start of every subsequent year, 48 days' sick leave is added to the accumulated balance up to a maximum of 168 days. Typically, school policy is for these days to be available as needed rather than pro-rata.

See Guidelines for Granting Leave Attachment 4 for an example of how schools are expected to allocate sick leave entitlement, as the arcane wording in the Code of Aid is a little unclear.

Accumulated sick leave, up to the maximum 168 days, is retained year-on-year, is retained for a break in service of less than 1 year, but is forfeited for a break longer than that. Accumulated sick leave is also forfeited upon switching between a government and aided/special/caput school, and vice versa, as different rules apply in EDB-run government schools where most staff are employed as civil servants.

Schools are required to maintain records of leave for all teachers and submit them to the EDB in August. You may contact your school's administration staff to enquire as to your current accumulated sick leave balance at any time.

Abutting Holiday Periods or Weekends
For Aided and Special schools, sick leave is counted only for those days taken. Sick Leave taken before or after other types of leave does not affect the classification of that leave i.e. holidays/weekends/special leave abutting sick leave is not classified as sick leave. This is a school-wide policy not just for NETs. Sick leave rules are detailed in the Codes of Aid and the School Administration Guide (SAG).

The EDB stated in May 2019 that for aided schools:

The sick leave period is determined solely by the medical certificate no matter whether sick leave is taken before or after a weekend, gazetted public holiday, school holiday, special leave or unpaid leave.

This is supported by the past experience of PNETs in aided schools:
- Sick leave is counted only for those days actually taken.
- Sick on Friday is one day only and Sat/Sun are not counted.
- Sick on Friday and Monday is four days as Sat/Sun are counted
- Sick on the last day before or the first day after a school holiday is one day only and the holiday period is not counted.
- Sick leave supported by a medical certificate is counted for every day stated on the certificate

You can contact your REO to confirm standard rules for aided and special schools if your school is unclear on the rules or claiming that the rules are different to the above.

Note: In the past, based on various worst-case experiences, NETs used to believe that sick leave affected abutting holiday periods and that taking sick leave before a holiday might result in no salary for the whole holiday period. Liaison between the HKPNETs Forum and the EDB in May 2019 established this to be incorrect for aided and special schools and confirmed that such past worst-case experiences applied only to government schools.

For Government schools, sick leave is counted for those days taken and any abutting types of leave including weekends i.e. holidays/weekends/special leave abutting sick leave is classified as sick leave. This is a school-wide policy not just for NETs.

The EDB confirmed in May 2019 that sick leave rules in government schools are detailed in the Civil Service Regulations (CSR), section 1270(b) of which states:

Any intervening Sundays, Saturday afternoons, gazetted general holidays and, for staff on the alternate Saturday-off system, any Saturday mornings on which they are not due to attend for duty, are counted as sick leave.

This is supported by the past experience of PNETs in government schools:
- Sick leave is counted to include days until you next report.
- Sick on Friday is counted as three days including Sat/Sun.
- Sick on Friday and Monday means that Sat/Sun are counted.
- Sick leave is counted to include abutting holidays.

It also appears, although this has not been confirmed, that governments schools may have the ability to be much stricter on checking up as to whether sick leave is real or not:

CSR 1273: Grant of sick leave.
The Secretary for the Civil Service is the authority for the grant of sick leave to substantive or acting Heads of Department and officers occupying posts of equivalent status. All other officers may be granted sick leave by their Heads of Department according to the following rules:
(i) as a concession, sick leave not exceeding two working days may be granted without the production of a medical certificate. However, unless the authorising officer is reasonably confident that the officer is genuinely sick, he has discretion to withhold the grant of sick leave not supported by medical certificates, particularly where the officer concerned applies for sick leave frequently or in a regular pattern;

CSRs 1282 and 1283: Prolonged sick leave.
If an officer is still unfit to perform his duties after being granted 91 consecutive days sick leave, the Head of Department will request the Chief Executive, Hospital Authority, to appoint a Medical Board to examine the officer. Further sick leave may be granted only with the Medical Board's recommendation. If the officer is still unfit for duty after being granted 182 consecutive days' sick leave, a further Medical Board should be arranged, and thereafter at intervals of three months.

Substitution
For sick leave of less than 30 days, schools are allowed to appoint temporary supply teachers using a Teacher Relief Grant provided to schools by the EDB. For leave longer than 30 days' reimbursement must be claimed from the EDB. Under school-based management policies for the use of the Teacher Relief Grant, substitution and make-up lessons are determined by the school as stated to LegCo by the EDB in Dec 2015:

The IMCs of aided schools should establish a school-based mechanism for processing leave applications from teachers. All along, the EDB has been reminding schools through various channels that they should consult their staff members when establishing the school-based mechanism. Policies and principles on processing leave applications, arrangements for teaching and other duties of teachers on leave and arrangements for make-up lessons upon their resumption of duty should be properly formulated to ensure that such arrangements are fair and reasonable, and are able to protect the entitlements of teachers without compromising students' learning."

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A Special Allowance is available the value of which is fixed over the contract period. The value is subject to adjustment according to the prevailing rate upon entering into a new contract or upon commencing an extension contract period.

The Special Allowance is provided on a non-accountable basis to provide NETs with the flexibility to dispose the allowance in meeting other living expenses of their own choosing (see Definition of the Special Allowance below).

On joining the NET Schemes, a Declaration on Normal Place of Residence should be made using application Form A to confirm the possession of permanent resident status in a country/place outside Hong Kong and social ties outside Hong Kong. Documents provided as evidence to support the application need to be stamped "Certified true copies" by the school. If you have been living in HK for some time before becoming a NET, documents such as flight tickets need to be supplied to show regular visits to your home country. Form A does not have to be completed again unless you leave the NET Schemes for 1 year or more, or you switch between an aided/special school to a government school.

An application for the Special Allowance should be made at the start of every contract using application Form B and reimbursement is provided on a pro-rata basis should insurance policy coverage not coincide with the contract period. Forms can be submitted before the start date of the contract i.e. before the summer holiday or at any time during the contract.

Payment is typically made by automated monthly salary payment. Initial payment is dependent on form processing times and processing being completed by the 10th of any given month for payment in that month. Payment is backdated to the start date of the contract or to the actual start date employment should that be later (e.g. due to visa issues) - this may be made in the initial payment, or in the following couple of months.

A NET on full-pay leave may continue to receive the Special Allowance for a maximum of 60 days on each occasion. Those on maternity leave receive the allowance for the whole period of maternity leave. (see Terms & Conditions Annex B)

If leaving employment before the end of any school year, cumulative Special Allowance already paid is not repayable.

The Special Allowance is taxable (see EDB FAQ Q20 and Government Schools Memorandum on T&Cs, 2015,  Section 13.2) and should appear on the end-of-tax-year return of payroll emoluments issued to you by the school in April.

Enquiries about the Special Allowance should be directed toward the EDB NET Admin Team for aided and special schools and the Administration Division for government schools.

Adjustment/Review of the Special Allowance
Index-based adjustment to support ongoing changes in living expenses is provided by the LegCo approved annual Special Allowance Adjustment Mechanism.

Any adjustment to the rate of Special Allowance is only applied to newly-singed contracts and to those extending their contract. Mid-contract NETs remain on the existing rate stated in their contract until signing a new/renewed contract in the following year. 

See the Special Allowance Adjustment Mechanism Information Sheet for more details.

Summary adjustments listed by year of rental price change:

A full history of annual reviews, rate adjustments, the method of implementation and liaison is available in the Special Allowance History of Reviews Information Sheet.

The latest review data and summary status is available here.

Definition of the Special Allowance
In 2003, the EDB stated to the LegCo Education Panel that the SA was:

"to cover mainly the expense on meeting housing needs, and also other incidental expense (like meeting the education cost of the NETs' accompanying children)".

In 2005, the EDB stated to the LegCo Finance Committee that the SA:

"aims to assist NETs in meeting cost of living (mainly accommodation cost) in Hong Kong" and
"is basically an allowance to help NETs meet accommodation cost. However, it is provided on a non-accountable basis so as to provide the NETs with the flexibility to dispose the allowance in meeting other living expenses of their own choosing. The use of the Special Allowance is a personal decision for NETs, but it has never been the intention of the Administration to provide the Special Allowance to cover all living expenses of NETs in Hong Kong on top of the salary."

In 2011 and 2014, the EDB informed schools that:

"The SA aims to assist NETs in meeting cost of living (mainly accommodation) in Hong Kong on condition that their normal place of residence has been established as outside Hong Kong."

In 2016, the EDB stated that:

"SA is meant to provide sufficient incentive to attract qualified NETs who would have to meet additional household expense in Hong Kong."

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A school "Supervisor may grant special leave with pay for a maximum of 2 days per academic year to teachers on grounds of urgent private affairs of grave importance".

Under school-based management, aided and special schools are responsible for defining what is classified as urgent private affairs. Schools are supported in this by their respective EDB REO (Regional Education Office). Government schools differ as they are governed directly by the EDB and therefore follow rules set by the EDB that seemingly do not include things such as weddings, family gatherings, deaths of non-immediate family, casual leave etc.

Special Leave rules for all teachers working in primary, secondary and special schools are detailed in the respective Codes of Aid (sections 29a, 28a and 31a) and additionally, in the Compendium to Code of Aid for Aided Schools (Section 8). These rules apply equitably to all teachers in those schools.

The NET Schemes inherit the special leave rules from the Code of Aid. This is evidenced as follows:
1. The original NET Scheme and Enhanced NET Scheme proposals placed before LegCo in which NET-specific terms and conditions were defined, agreed and authorised made no mention of special leave rules; and
2. The standard Memorandum on the Terms and Conditions of Service for Appointment as Teachers under the NET Scheme/Enhanced NET Scheme (section 13.4) for aided schools make specific reference to special leave being "Subject to the rules governing such leave in the respective Code of Aid".

Abutting Holiday Periods, Sick Leave or Weekends
Pre 2015 and based on various worse-case experiences of some NETs, it used to be the understanding of NETs that special leave affected abutting holiday periods and that taking special leave before a holiday would result in no salary for the whole holiday period.

Since 2015, liaison between the HKPNETs Forum and the EDB regarding leave has shown this past understanding to be incorrect for aided and special schools with past worse-case experiences applying only to government schools.

For Aided and Special schools, the EDB confirmed during liaison with the HKPNETs Forum in July 2015 and Nov 2015 that:

There is no impact on payment of salary if special leave is taken, whether or not it is taken before or after holidays (i.e. Sundays, gazette public holidays, major school holidays or school holidays).

This is a school-wide policy, not just for NETs, and also applies to abutting sick leave.

Under school-based administration, schools are responsible for formulating school-based leave policies. Special leave rules are detailed in the Codes of Aid and there are no stipulations regarding abutting leave; the only leave for which such stipulations are stated is no-pay leave. You can contact your REO to confirm standard rules for aided and special schools if your school is unclear on the rules or claiming that the rules are different to the above.

It is the experience of PNETs (Oct 2016) that the REO has stated to schools that it is possible for special leave to be taken that abuts sick leave. The case in point also confirmed that a medical certificate issued abroad is acceptable. It is also the experience of PNETs (Feb 2018) that special leave abutting and preceding leave can be taken without that leave being classified as no-pay leave.

Government schools are different. They operate their own rules for all teachers as detailed in the standard Letter of Appointment for Government School NETs:

15 Leave Entitlement
15.4 ... Special Leave with pay shall be granted in accordance with the rules and practices governing the granting of such leave for government school teachers.

These rules appear not to be publicly documented, but current understanding is that special leave in government schools is counted to include abutting holidays i.e. holidays and sick sick leave that abut special leave in government schools is classified as no-pay leave. It is the recent (Nov 2016) experience of PNETs that these are the rules applied in government schools.

If you are in a government school and need to take special leave, it is worth clarifying the rules as they stand by contacting the EDB Administrative division (responsible for gov't schools) as there was a case in 2010 of a leave period of a NET in a government school being retrospectively classified as no-pay leave due to a misunderstanding of the rules.

Changing the Rules
To change the special leave rules for NETs requires a change to the Codes of Aid with the change being applied to all teachers. There are 53,000 primary and secondary teachers. Given the financial and logistical implications of granting an extra days' leave to those teachers, the EDB would not consider proposing such a change. The EDB would similarly not consider proposing a change for the sole benefit of 870 NETs, given that it would only apply to 0.016% of teachers covered by the Codes and would require a fundamental change in the way the Codes are written equitably for all teachers.

Should this analysis be incorrect, it should be noted that any change to the Codes of Aid or the NET Schemes Remuneration Packages requires the oversight and agreement of the LegCo Education Panel and the LegCo Finance Committee. Whether any such change be proposed by the EDB, or anyone approaching LegCo directly, it would inevitably result in a full LegCo review of all aspects of NET Schemes remuneration (including SA and RI). It would probably also be argued that remuneration as it currently stands compensates NETs for agreeing to work and live in Hong Kong, and therefore also already compensates for the suggested hardship suffered should close family members not in Hong Kong become sick or pass away, harsh though that may seem.

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