He attacks reasoning behind the decision and says court failed to consider the needs of parents The High Court was criticised yesterday for not taking parents' needs into consideration after it turned down a request to rescue a Sheung Shui primary school from closure. In her judgment yesterday, Madam Justice Carlye Chu Fun-ling said: 'I accept that the present case does not involve questions of fundamental human rights in the sense that the applicant's daughter is not being denied free and proper primary education.' The case was brought by parent Lam Yuet-mei, who said her daughter would face great inconvenience in having to travel to a distant school if Kin Tak Public School in Chiu Keng village, Sheung Shui, had to close. Kin Tak was one of 31 schools barred from operating classes because it failed to find the minimum 23 pupils for Primary One. School principal Fong Hong-kwong, who launched an 80-hour hunger strike in January to protest against the Education and Manpower Bureau's decision, said he was gravely disappointed that the court ruled against the bureau's need to reconsider. Speaking outside court after the verdict, Mr Fong said: 'I don't think parents' needs and expectations have been taken into consideration. Many parents want their children to remain in our school because of the distance and the kind of education we provide.' In an affidavit read out during a court hearing last month, Ms Lam said her daughter used to have a five-minute walk to her old school. Now she had to wake at 6am to catch a bus to get to her new school, where she had to wait 90 minutes before classes started. Mr Fong said he was also dissatisfied with the court's reasoning that it was too late to ask the bureau to reconsider the closure decision because the school would open next month. 'I don't think the judge is very familiar with the way a school operates. We will have no problem reopening our school next month if the bureau changes its mind now,' he said. The principal said the most urgent task for him now was to resettle his 18 students in other schools and to help the four teachers to find new jobs. But he added he also needed a rest before considering other steps to save the school. Sung Wing-wah, who has been the school supervisor for more than three decades, fought back tears outside the court. He said the closure was a great loss. The court had been asked for an order restoring the school's right to recruit Primary One students and to allow all existing students to finish their studies. An order to quash the decision to stop giving grants to the school was also sought. Madam Justice Chu said although the school had 'not been afforded a proper opportunity to take a considered view and make representations before the decision was taken', she could not rule in its favour. She said the decision maker had fulfilled the duty to 'act fairly' and the overall procedure was a 'fair one and in the light of the purposes and objectives of consultation' in reaching the decision. Madam Justice Chu also ruled the school failed in its bids regarding the students' completion of studies and the reinstatement of grants to enable this. She said she accepted that before the decision was made, 'the principal, supervisor, school managers and the parents, including the applicant, had an opportunity to and did express their views on the cessation of grants'. Madam Justice Chu had heard the government failed to carry out proper consultation before it struck the school off the Primary One allocation list - a move that virtually guaranteed its closure. She was also told that when Mr Fong asked the chief school development officer of Northern District in September 2002 why the school was being closed without consultation, he was told the previous principal was fully aware of the decision. But neither Mr Fong nor the other staff knew about the details, the court heard. The education bureau struck back at the claims and said the order did not involve any procedural impropriety. Bruce Fu Chi-kai, lawyer for the school and a former student there, said an appeal was unlikely because the case might drag on for months while schools opened next month. The bureau welcomed the judge's decision and pledged to do its best to help students settle in new schools.