The English Schools Foundation agreed at a board meeting yesterday to accept a deal with the government which will see it lose its HK$283 million annual subsidy. The board made the decision after reviewing e-mail messages from 22 parents and holding two parent-consultation meetings to which a total of 34 people turned up - most of whom wanted to keep the subsidy. According to the ESF, it believed the deal on the table was the best settlement it could achieve as it ensured the subsidy would remain in place for all children currently in the system. ESF chairman Carlson Tong Ka-shing said: "We believe that resolving the uncertainty about the subvention is in the best interests of ESF and our children's education, and it is in that spirit that we have made this decision." The subsidy is to be phased out over 13 years, starting from 2016. The annual funding for the Jockey Club Sarah Roe School and learning support centres for children with special needs will be frozen at HK$28.3 million. In July, the Education Bureau will report to the Legislative Council's education panel after reviewing the ESF decision. On Sunday, a former ESF parent representative at Legco e-mailed the panel and the ESF board saying there was no sound reason to phase out a subvention which provided affordable English-medium education for local and non-Chinese speaking children. "This would be a tragedy in Hong Kong's history of education," the e-mail said. It added that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had promised to protect the subsidy, and that, under the Basic Law's Article 144, the government had to "maintain the policy previously practised in respect of subventions … in fields such as education". Officials have argued that Article 136 allows them to re-allocate funds to improve education. Ip Kin-yuen, the education panel's deputy chairman, said it was difficult to argue with the government because the ESF had chosen to teach a non-local curriculum not covered by the subvention policy. He said parents should now urge the government to encourage non-profit-making groups to set up more affordable international schools. "Not all expats are rich and high tuition fees don't necessarily mean a good education," said Ip. "International schools have become more and more expensive. The government should really review the whole international school system."