A new round of early retirement packages may be introduced to encourage secondary school teachers to leave in the face of falling rolls and a call by the education chief for all schools to cut the number of classes they offer. Speaking on radio a day after urging schools to join a voluntary across-the-board programme to reduce the number of classes from five to four in each form, Michael Suen Ming-yeung said it was a solution to combat falling pupil numbers. 'The reduction of class numbers has nothing to do with the performance of a school or teachers. The responsibility should not be shouldered just by some schools,' he said, as he fielded calls from angry parents. Many wanted to know why pupils who could not get into popular top-tier schools could not be assigned to lower-banded schools that had trouble attracting pupils. 'Why do you force the good schools to reduce class numbers just for the sake of helping the bad schools?' one caller said, likening it to a move to save bad restaurants. 'There are some good restaurants with many people standing in long queues for a table while there are bad ones with empty tables. And now you ask those good restaurants to reduce the number of tables in order to give some business to bad restaurants,' he said. 'You shouldn't do it.' Education Bureau figures show the city's Form One population will fall from 75,400 in the 2009-10 academic year to 53,900 in 2016-17. At schools that participate in the voluntary cutback of classes, no teachers will be fired for five years - by which time the number of pupils is projected to rise again. Schools joining the scheme also get extra funding of HK$250,000 a year. Ivy Cheung Shuk-kuen, chairwoman of the Federation of Parent-Teacher Associations of Northern District, said schools facing enrolment problems should do some soul-searching. 'They need to think about why they fail to get enough people in the first place. If you ask everybody to shrink classes irrespective of their admission performance, it's unfair to those who perform well and have no difficulty in getting sufficient enrolment.' Lee Chung-kuen, founding president of the Federation of Parent-Teacher Associations of Tsuen Wan District, said the move hit morale in the good schools. 'They have the ability to fill up five classes. Why cut their classes?' Suen said the government had to deal with the problem of having an excessive number of teachers caused by class reductions and was considering rolling out early retirement packages for secondary teachers. 'The government has to be careful about the impact [of such a scheme]. We have to ensure that education quality and confidence of teachers will not be affected,' he said. Early retirement packages had been offered in the past but these had expired, he said. Kwok Wing-keung, president of the Association of Heads of Secondary Schools for Tai Po, said the move showed the government's sincerity in solving the problem of falling pupil numbers. 'It's a good incentive to encourage schools to shrink classes,' he said, adding that he expected the new retirement plan to be more or less the same as the old one. In a scheme that operated between 2006 and 2009, 444 teachers were granted early retirement, each receiving about HK$300,000, equivalent to a year's salary. 'With teachers who opt for early retirement being given one year's salary, the blow to the teaching force will be lessened a lot,' Kwok said.