A group of sixth-formers at an elite secondary school were pressured to leave the school in the summer after failing some of their end-of-year exams, it has been claimed. The former students at Sacred Heart Canossian College in Aberdeen say the school denied them the chance to complete their A-level courses after they failed to make the pass mark in two of their school exams. It is thought that about a dozen girls - a tenth of the sixth form - were affected. Section 13 of the Code of Aid for Secondary Schools states that no student should be expelled from school on grounds of academic weakness alone. It specifies that no senior secondary student should be expelled without proper warning and notice to parents, and that the Director of Education should be kept informed of all cases at a warning stage. A spokesman for the Education Department said it had not been informed of the situation by the school or by the appropriate community branch, the southern satellite office of the Hong Kong Regional Education Office. Following inquiries by Education Post, however, it confirmed that the case had been reported by one family. It is believed that a student asked the office for advice but was told there were no regulations applicable to her case. School vice-principal Joseph Yee Kin-wah denied that the students had been expelled. 'We discussed the options available for them. It was not a termination of their studies. There is no way we can do that under the regulations,' he said. He claimed that all the students involved - which he confirmed as numbering more than 10 - would have stood almost no chance of passing their A-level exams if allowed to continue, and that the school did not have enough places for them to repeat Form Six. Their parents had been convinced it would be better to look for alternatives, and they agreed to leave the school, he said. For students initially unwilling to leave, the school had 'persuaded them further' to do so, he said. Warnings had been given at the end of the first semester, he added, stressing that it was normal for about a dozen sixth-formers to quit school or go to study abroad each year. Most students did not want to be identified, but one, Melanie Tam, said she had never been warned of any possibility that she could be asked to leave. But her mother Lee Mee-yuk said she had become concerned after the end of the first semester: 'Since then she worked harder, but she had to spend a lot of time on extra-curricular activities she was organising.' Ms Tam said that a counselling session was held after they were informed of the school's decision. 'We were told that my chance to remain in the school was close to nil,' she asserted, saying telephone calls for further discussions with the principal were ignored. 'When we managed to meet the vice-principal he only told me to try other schools,' she said. 'We had lost our pride. Many students had seen us begging, almost crying,' Ms Lee recalled. 'We did not inform the Education Department because after those attempts, I was worried that my daughter would be looked down upon by her schoolmates even if she repeated Form Six in that school. I don't think they can help anyway,' she said. Ms Tam and another girl have gone to Australia to finish secondary school, while the other girls are believed to have gone to new local schools to repeat Form Six. Ms Tam failed chemistry and biology by less than 10 per cent, she said, which she was confident she could have improved upon. Her responsibilities as the IT prefect and chairwoman of the Junior Science Club last year had taken up much of her time, she said. 'The school just wanted to solve its own problems and protect its high university entry rate. After all, it is an elite school,' Ms Lee said. The principal denied this was the case. 'It was for the good of the students, not the school. We do not have to make public the university entry rates,' said Mr Yee. An inquiry with the school had revealed no irregularities, said an Education Department spokesman, but he encouraged students who felt they had been pressured to contact the department. Stephen Hui Chun-yim, chairman of the Hong Kong Subsidised Secondary School Council, said decisions over leaving should be made by students, and said cases of persistent persuasion by principals or teachers were not acceptable. 'Some students are willing to work harder. They should be given a chance to continue, otherwise they have wasted their time and been denied the opportunity to sit A-levels,' he said.