The parents of special-school students with mental disabilities vowed to continue their fight for extended education after a judge disallowed a judicial review of Education Bureau policy that they had claimed was discriminatory. The review was launched by Choi Wai-chu on behalf of her 18-year-old son Tong Wai-ting, who has a mild intellectual disability. Ms Choi claimed Wai-ting had been barred from continuing his schooling in September, under the current educational system, because of an age restriction that compelled students to leave school at 18. Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung, sitting in the Court of First Instance, gave his judgment yesterday, disappointing more than 50 parents and students awaiting his decision outside the court building. He ruled against the judicial review saying it had not been proved that Wai-ting had been discriminated against when compared with mainstream students, and he found the alleged age restriction was a misconception. Ms Choi said yesterday she was upset and disappointed by the decision. She would arrange for Wai-ting to go to vocational training school in the coming academic year, she said. Wai-ting has been attending a special-needs school in Fanling, the HHCKLA Buddhist Po Kwong School. Its principal, Ada Ho How-sim, said she regretted the judgment and called it 'a dark day for the whole education field'. She said there were 11 special-needs students competing for three vacancies at her school this year, and one of the 11 would go to a sheltered workshop. 'The remaining seven students will have to wait at home, perhaps for years,' she said. The Education Bureau said yesterday it was studying the judgment and would continue to provide assistance to special schools for their students. At the hearing, lawyer Martin Lee Chu-ming SC, represented Wai-ting, contended the age restriction was unfair because it did not apply to mainstream students. Special-needs students must get government approval to stay on for a year after finishing 12 years of education. In special schools, 4.7 per cent of the places are set aside for such applicants. Mr Lee said it was harder for students to gain a place compared to mainstream schools, where 5 per cent of places at each level are set aside for repeaters. But Mr Justice Cheung rejected both his arguments, calling the age restriction a misconception. 'Those who have already received 12 years of education are required to leave, not really because they have reached the age of 18 as such, but rather because they have reached the end of the road for free education,' he said. As for the discrepancy between 5 per cent and 4.7 per cent, the judge found that the former was not a guaranteed number, but rather a 'maximum percentage of repeaters allowable'. By contrast, the 4.7 per cent of places at special-needs schools was guaranteed, so they could not be compared less favourably with mainstream schools. Therefore, he said, the provision of vacancies for each level in a mainstream school did not mean a mainstream student stood a better chance of repeating Form Five than Wai-ting had of getting one further year of study. Mr Lee said aspects of the new education structure, beginning next month, failed to take into account the fact that special-needs students needed more time to complete their studies than mainstream counterparts. But the judge would not deal with that argument, finding it was not set out in the application. But the judge expressed sympathy for the parents and students in his judgment, noting that some issues raised at the hearing fell outside the scope of the application. 'The court has left open other issues and matters and their resolution by the court, if ever required, will have to await another appropriate occasion.' A government official said among the 830 mentally disabled students aged 18 years old this year, 378 had applied to extend their education so far. He said 80 per cent, or 244, of those applications had been approved and 76 cases were under consideration. The remaining 58 rejected cases had all completed 12 years of education and at least two years of extended education, he said.