A kindergarten yesterday admitted charging more than allowed, but blamed the Education Department for forcing its hand by setting an unrealistic fee cap. Gloria Kindergarten supervisor So Kwok-yan, 52, told the Small Claims Tribunal the maximum fee set by the department was unrealistic when it came to operating a quality school. 'Gloria Kindergarten draws less tuition fees than nearby counterparts in Kowloon Tong, but still provides quality education. That's why parents, including the claimants of this case, are so eager to admit their children into our school,' Mr So told the tribunal. 'As the department has never approved a reasonable level of tuition fee for our school, we have no choice but to admit more students and collect a higher tuition fee. This is against the law, but the department has turned a blind eye.' Mr So pleaded guilty in San Po Kong Court last August to over-enrolling students and was fined $32,000. Nine parents filed claims in the tribunal against the Norfolk Road branch of Gloria Kindergarten, claiming it had charged excessive fees for the academic years 1996-97 and 1997-98. The claimants were Ching Hong-yuen, Hui Wai-ngor, Sin Lai-sin, Sham Suk-ling, Lui Siu-ling, Ma Ming-chu, Kit Yuk-ping, Lee Shu-pui and Lam Mei-yi. The claimants said they had paid monthly fees of $1,230 for first grade and $1,350 for second grade, while the approved monthly rates were $811 and $985. The parents are seeking to have a total of $67,000 refunded because of overpayment. The parents said they had not known the department set a maximum fee. They only realised they had been paying more than required when they learned about the fee limit last year. Mr So said the kindergarten had not told parents the fees it charged exceeded the maximum, but it had placed a notice at the general office setting out the department's approved rates. The parents said they had never seen the notice. Adjudicator Katina Levy asked whether the kindergarten had taken any action to appeal against the approved rate. 'How could you just put the matter aside when you were informed of the approved school fees which you considered unacceptable?' Ms Levy asked Mr So. Mr So said he could not answer the question. So Kwok-wai, the brother of Mr So, was also named as a respondent as he had been a partner in running the school from September 1997 to April last year. The hearing continues today.