A government survey that concluded kindergartens did not need to be included in any emergency fund to help schools affected by Sars because the financial loss inflicted on them was 'minimal' is misleading, educators have complained. Findings released by the Education and Manpower Bureau this week suggested that the average financial loss kindergartens incurred due to the Sars outbreak was only 1.47 per cent of their annual income. The bureau concluded that there was no need to provide additional financial support to the sector as the loss was small and could be covered by the kindergartens' profit margins. The bureau sent out a questionnaire to more than 700 kindergartens last month to gauge the outbreak's impact on their finances after they complained that many parents refused to pay tuition fees and some withdrew their children. It received 514 replies. However, the use of an average number had distorted the reality that some kindergartens had been severely hit, said Cheung Man-kwong, president of Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union. 'The average financial loss in the sector is small as the majority of kindergartens managed to survive the outbreak. But we are talking about a small group which might be forced to close down this year without financial assistance from the government.' A similar survey conducted by the union produced very different findings this week. It reported at least 9,000 cases of parents either refusing to pay school fees or pulling children out of classes, incurring a total financial loss of $11 million. Nearly one in 10 respondents said they had been forced to lay off staff, and a fifth of schools had cut wages and put staff on unpaid leave. The union sent a questionnaire out to 1,242 kindergartens and nurseries and received 287 replies that related to about 200 kindergartens. Mr Cheung added that he would now gather more data from the hardest-hit kindergartens and liaise with government for emergency support. Alice Kwok Chor-yiu, president of Tai Po District Pre-primary Groups Association, said that the different timing of the two surveys also caused a significant variation in their results. 'While the union conducted its survey in early May, the bureau's survey was done late last month - the time when an increasing number of parents regained their confidence in sending their children back to school. The bureau's findings therefore show much more optimism,' she said. A bureau spokesman said: 'We have told the kindergartens we would consider relaxing the profit margin if some of them can show that they have the need for it. But no kindergarten has approached us on the problem so far,' he said. Currently, non-profit-making kindergartens are allowed a profit margin of 5 per cent of their annual income, while profit-making kindergartens can retain 10 per cent.