They have two weeks to plead their case after failing to hit enrolment targets Twenty primary schools may have to close within three years after they failed to meet targets for Primary One admissions. The Education and Manpower Bureau said last night it had sent letters to the principals of the affected schools giving them two weeks to make a case for survival. The chairman of the Association of Heads of Subsidised Primary Schools of Hong Kong, Lam Seung-wan, said about 200 teachers would be affected. He urged the government to provide the teachers with assistance. It is understood the schools facing closure include four village schools and some of them are in Sha Tin and Yuen Long. Among other affected schools named by education sector sources were Northcote College of Education Past Students' Association School in Kowloon City, Tsing Yi Public School in Kwai Tsing, Dr Catherine F. Woo Memorial School (afternoon session) in Sha Tin, Hing Tak School in Tuen Mun and Five Districts Business Welfare Association School in Shamshuipo. The announcement came less than a year after closure of the Kin Tak Public School in Sheung Shui resulted in a court case that the bureau won. A string of schools have been affected by a government policy requiring they recruit at least 23 pupils for Primary One or stop admitting new students and close in three years. Thirty-one schools were ordered to cease admissions for the current year. In addition, two schools that operate morning and afternoon classes have failed to enrol enough students for their afternoon sessions and will be switched to whole-day schooling. The bureau has set the standard class size at 37 and, for schools adopting the 'activity approach' to teaching, 32. Affected schools can apply for special review by the bureau, or switch to direct subsidy or private mode of operation. 'Most schools not allowed to operate subsidised Primary One classes are relatively unpopular among parents in their school district,' a bureau spokesman said. The Professional Teachers Union has vowed to do all it can to help teachers affected by the latest closure threats. Union chairman and education-sector legislator Cheung Man-kwong said shutting schools or reducing the number of classes would destabilise schools and have a 'very bad effect' on education reforms now under way. He repeated calls for the government to reduce class sizes instead of closing schools. Bureau statistics show the number of Primary One students in the 2005-06 school year will decline by about 3,000 compared with this school year. The bureau spokesman said a report by the Director of Audit in 2002 had urged the government to avoid surplus school places.