About 1,600 people took part in a rally yesterday to protest against the impending closure of several secondary schools. Organised by the city's largest teachers union, the rally was attended by teachers, students, alumni and family members. Wearing yellow ribbons, the protesters marched from Chater Garden in Central to the government headquarters, calling for small-class teaching to be introduced in secondary schools. The protest comes ahead an official headcount of students to be announced on Tuesday that will determine how many schools are to be shut. Secondary schools that have admitted fewer than 67 Form One students will not be allocated further students in the next school year. The Professional Teachers' Union will meet Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung the same day to look at ways to handle the decline in the student population. The union claims Mr Suen told them at a meeting in July that he expected 50 secondary schools would be shut down over the next five years because of falling enrolments. The strong turnout for the march raised the prospect of a return to teacher activism after a year of relative calm between teachers and the Education Bureau. The campaign was prompted by a drop of 5,000 in this year's Form One intake, the first major fall in secondary school enrolment in a decline that is set to continue for five years. A total of 135 primary schools have been affected by the schools-consolidation policy since its introduction in 2003, and 70 of them have closed their doors for the last time. Union president Cheung Man-kwong said it was 'stupid' for the government to close schools. 'The closure of secondary schools is mainly hurting schools enrolling students with weaker academic performance, but these schools are playing a vital role in Hong Kong's education system,' Mr Cheung said. 'It's a cruel and stupid policy.' He said the government should use the 'golden opportunity' presented by the falling student population to start small-class teaching. Union vice-president Wong Hak-lim would not rule out the possibility of calling for industrial action if their demands were not met. He said they could call on teachers to turn down voluntary tasks such as marking exam papers or advising the government on academic subjects. 'These are not teachers' compulsory tasks. So there is no need for our teachers to volunteer to help the government if they are to be sacrificed under this education system anyway,' Mr Wong said. Fung Tsz-kit, 17, a former student of Shi Hui Wen Secondary School in Tuen Mun, said: 'Our school in Hong Kong generates donations for a sister school in Hezhou in the mainland. If our school is to be closed, then it will affect the other one as well.' Shi Hui Wen faces closure after having admitted only about 50 students this year. An Education Bureau spokesman said the government had been striving to ensure stability among schools and the teaching community.