Hong Kong’s biggest international school group will raise tuition fees for most of its primary and secondary grades by about 3 per cent after a price freeze for two consecutive years.

The English Schools Foundation (ESF), which runs 22 kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, and has more than 18,000 pupils, told parents in a letter on Tuesday that the proposed increase was to ensure it could continue to attract and retain high-quality teachers.

“The budget for 2022-23 takes into account the need for ESF to provide competitive salary levels,” said Belinda Greer, the foundation’s chief executive officer. “No one wants to pay higher fees than necessary; however, the board needs to ensure that costs are covered and that students and teachers have high-quality support and resources in their classrooms.”

Greer noted tuition fees had remained unchanged since 2020 in recognition of the economic pressure families faced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The foundation planned to raise annual fees by 2.9 per cent for Years One to Six at its primary schools, with prices potentially rising from HK$115,800 (US$14,757) to HK$119,100.

For Year Seven pupils, fees will rise 19 per cent from HK$133,800 to HK$159,300, the biggest increase among all grades, to coincide with the end of government subsidies for ESF secondary students from 2022-23.

Government subsidies for the foundation’s junior and secondary schools are expected to be phased out from 2028-29.

For students in Years Eight to 11, fees will increase by 2.9 per cent from HK$133,800 to HK$137,600. For Years 12 to 13, annual prices will rise 2.8 per cent from HK$140,700 to HK$144,700.

Increases in fees for different grades at ESF’s two private independent schools, Discovery College and Renaissance College, ranged between 2 per cent and 3.5 per cent.

Meanwhile, potential price increases for five kindergartens under the school group ranged from 3.2 per cent to 4.6 per cent, with Tsing Yi Kindergarten accounting for the highest proposed increase.

However, any increase in tuition fees for the 2022-2023 school year will require final approval from the Education Bureau.

Jonathan Lai, 41, who has a child enrolled at an ESF school, said he was disappointed by the increase in school fees. He added that the pandemic had deeply affected both the economy and people’s income, with the new prices only adding to the burden placed on parents.

Lai acknowledged the operating cost for the schools had also risen, but said he hoped the government would offer more subsidies to campuses.

“The teachers are the valuable assets of the school to ensure education quality. I saw many teachers are considering leaving Hong Kong due to quarantine measures, we should put in effort to retain them,” he said.