The ESF has been dubbed the 'elitist schools foundation' for imposing a deposit on parents from June to confirm their children will be returning after the summer holidays. But the English Schools Foundation says the payment is necessary to avoid schools being left with vacancies in September as a result of a sudden exodus of pupils. It has also warned that from this summer parents wishing to withdraw a child would have to give two months' notice in writing or risk forfeiting the money. The deposit, which will be equivalent to the fees for September, brings the ESF in line with other international schools across the city. 'Every year the ESF loses about 6 per cent of its students during the summer holidays,' the ESF said in an e-mail to parents. 'Whereas at the end of the summer term in June our schools tend to be full, many have unanticipated vacancies when the new school year begins. 'When parents withdraw their children at short notice during the summer vacation it is not always easy to replace them with high priority applicants on the waiting list.' It said schools suffered from an unexpected drop in revenue that translated into poorer services. ESF chief executive Heather Du Quesnay said the measure did not amount to a fee increase. 'We lost more than 170 students over the summer last year from our primary schools,' she said. 'That's a huge loss. We were telling other parents no places were available when actually we could easily have taken them in. All we're asking parents to do is to treat us responsibly.' She said schools would offer assistance in cases of hardship, such as by giving longer to pay, but there would be no exceptions. But parents say the deposit was imposed without consultation and would present a heavy financial burden for the less well-off. Chris Green, who has a daughter at South Island School, said: 'It just came out of the blue, a fait accompli. Parents don't seem to have been consulted at all.' He said that having just paid up for the final term of the year, parents often held off paying for the first term of the new year, which was longer and more expensive, until August. 'Secondary fees for the third term - April to June - are $24,780 which we are asked to pay now. The first term of new school year fees are $33,040, which we will be asked to pay in June under the new edict instead of past practice, having up to the start of the new school year to pay,' he said. JE Dale, whose daughter attends Sha Tin College and whose son is on a waiting list said: 'They should call it the elitist schools foundation. It is penalising normally good-paying parents because of the actions of a few. Not all of us are in the top salary bracket or on lucrative company packages. The ESF no longer serves the needs of the ordinary English-speaking students of Hong Kong, only wealthy ones.' However, chair of the Joint Council of Parent Teacher Associations, Jane Tracey, said: 'It was discussed previously and we understand why it is being brought in. It is fairly common practice with other schools and fairer to students who can't find a place but who find that come September there are vacancies after they have already joined another school.'