Po Kok Primary wants to overturn a decision that will halt first-year classes at some aided institutions The government is facing a new legal challenge to its attempts to close under-enrolled schools, with the Po Kok Primary School in Happy Valley seeking a judicial review of the policy. The school's supervisor, Vera Joyce Hui Lo, yesterday filed a High Court writ seeking a review of the decision to phase out Primary One classes for aided primary schools that attract fewer than 23 first-year pupils. 'It is submitted the intention of the Education and Manpower Bureau to bring about the quick demise of the APSs [aided primary schools] in question and its subsequent acts and conduct are anything but promoting education,' the writ says. The school is asking for a quick hearing, before the allocation of pupils is announced next month. In March, parents from two schools in Tai Po and Sheung Shui filed writs demanding the government allow the schools to continue to accept Primary One pupils. Yesterday's writ also seeks a declaration that the previous criteria for aided primary schools to maintain a Primary One class be reinstated. Before the bureau's decision in January last year to increase the limit, the minimum enrolment was 16. The writ says the school was Hong Kong's first free school for girls and was founded by the late Lady Clara Ho Tung as the Po Ko Free School. It says the school receives government funding for the salaries of three teachers. The writ is challenging the new criteria on the basis that there are no express provisions in the bureau's guidelines allowing it to refuse grants if a particular class' enrolment falls to a certain level. The school is also claiming that the bureau's decision contravenes article 56 of the Basic Law. That article states that the chief executive shall consult the Executive Council before making important policy decisions. 'It is submitted that the tightened criteria, in so far as it will lead to the certain, permanent demise of so many APSs in due course, and also with its adverse effect on the employment of a large number of teachers in the APSs, is an important policy decision in which ... the administration ought to have consulted the Executive Council before its being made,' the writ says. The writ also attacks the decision on the basis of 'unreasonableness'. It says the bureau should have taken advantage of Hong Kong's declining birth rate to implement smaller class sizes. 'In the absence of any other circumstances, one can only infer that the [bureau] and its predecessors have either failed to anticipate the problem and come up with proper solutions or turned a blind eye or buried its head in the sand.' The writ questions whether it is reasonable to deny a school the right to operate a Primary One class and 'hence drive the school to extinction'.