The English Schools Foundation is the only educational institution in Hong Kong that provides education for English-speaking students with special educational needs (SEN). It has the special Sarah Roe School, a few primary and secondary schools that run learning support classes for SEN students, and provision in most schools for students with mild learning difficulties (registered as 'individual needs' students). In the past few months, a group of ESF SEN parents lobbied Legislative Council members for their support for two amendments to the ESF bill, mainly to add a clause 'without regard to disability' in the objects of the foundation, in addition to 'without regard to race or religion', and to include a SEN parent representative on the ESF board of governors. For SEN parents, bringing the SEN issue to the forefront carries a great deal of symbolic, if not practical, significance. The two proposed amendments, which highlight the importance of the SEN issue in the ESF, have met with vehement objection from the ESF community. The ESF is firmly against adding a clause 'without regard to disability' to the objects of the foundation, for fear of the legal obligation it may suggest. Although the legal adviser of Legco has repeatedly assured the ESF that the added clause does not carry any legal implication, and despite a suggestion to rephrase the clause as a mission statement to get rid of the legal connotation, the foundation has remained adamant and unbending. As for the other proposed amendment, to include SEN parent representation on the ESF board, objections were raised by representatives from different sectors of the ESF community, including staff and the joint council of the PTA. They made a concerted effort to bar SEN representation on the ESF board. Several reasons were put forward, mainly that it is not fair to allow representation for a special parent group and that it will create a divisive effect. It is surprising that the ESF refers to SEN parents as a special group as if it had a vested interest. They seem oblivious to the fact that it is a real 'special' group with children in need of help and support. Their insistence on excluding SEN parent representation on the ESF board is against the principle of inclusion that the community advocates, and against the core value of humanity. To stop a certain political group from getting representation in the political arena is perhaps understandable. When it comes to education, however, it is difficult to understand why a reputable educational institution like the ESF has garnered so much support to stop a disadvantaged group from getting on the ESF board. What is it afraid of? And despite the legislators' agreement to the inclusion of SEN parent representation on the board, the ESF still makes it clear it is sceptical. Why? The reason lies in the ESF's attitude to SEN education and policy. In 2005, the ESF conducted a comprehensive review of its SEN education, which revealed that SEN education left much to be desired. A number of recommendations were made in the review report. An implementation group was set up, but since then not much progress has been made. Specifically, one shortcoming revealed in the SEN review is the unsatisfactory communication between parents and schools. In some ESF schools that provide learning support for SEN students, there is a higher level of parent satisfaction, but the quality of SEN education varies from school to school. My experience as a SEN parent within the ESF is that it takes extra effort to have our concerns taken seriously. SEN parents' existence tends to be marginalised and therefore the needs of their children are easily overlooked. Bringing up SEN children is extremely draining. SEN parents tend to be less forthcoming in expressing their views. They are afraid that asking may be interpreted as asking for too much, given the existing system where the SEN issue is not high on the agenda. Including SEN parent representation is a symbolic act to show that the ESF cares about the quality of its SEN education, at least by listening to the voice of parents. However, instead of the ESF reaching out to invite SEN parent representation, SEN parents have had to lobby outsiders - Legco members - for support and to argue for their value. And although the ESF has now agreed to the amendment, the attitude it has displayed on this matter is one of reluctance. When the top management of the ESF is so hard-hearted towards the SEN issue, what more can we expect of the larger ESF community? Although the ESF is able to name its recent 'achievements' in terms of the number of new learning support classes that have been set up in some schools, and the numerous facilities that have been acquired in certain learning support classes, these are 'hardware' that has little to do with the underlying philosophy about SEN education. Only passion and commitment can make a difference in education, particularly in special education. The controversy over the bill amendment has uncovered the ESF's so-called commitment to SEN education. Despite all the delay, let's hope the bill will be passed soon and the ESF will begin a new chapter that gives the SEN issue the attention it deserves. Let's also hope other international schools in Hong Kong will be awakened to the need and responsibility to provide education for students with special educational needs, so that the mission of SEN education will be shared among all international schools in Hong Kong. Icy Lee is a special educational needs parent and a teacher educator at Chinese University of Hong Kong.