Friday, 14 August 2015

1,000 new child care places in Sengkang and Punggol by mid-2016

Two mega childcare centres coming up
Sengkang and Punggol centres will offer 1,000 places in all by the middle of next year
By Olivia Ho, The Straits Times, 12 Aug 2015

The building of two new mega childcare centres in Sengkang and Punggol will open up places for 1,000 more children by the middle of next year.

The Sengkang centre, which broke ground yesterday, will be run by NTUC First Campus' My First Skool. E-Bridge Pre-School will run the one in Punggol, for which construction will start next week.

Both are anchor operators appointed by the Early Childhood Development Agency. Anchor operators get government grants and priority in securing sites at Housing Board estates to set up centres, but must keep fees below $720 a month, among other conditions.

Each of the two new centres will have a capacity of 500, well above the average of 100 for a typical centre in a HDB void deck.

Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said the increased capacity of these "mega centres" was "very significant".

At the ground-breaking ceremony for My First Skool's centre yesterday, Mr Tan said: "Sengkang in particular is a very young estate, and there are a lot of new flats developing here. This will be very welcome by the young families in this area."

On top of My First Skool's regular curriculum, the 2,500 sq m centre will focus on giving children an early start in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Ms Thian Ai Ling, My First Skool's deputy general manager, said it is exploring STEM-related facilities such as gardens for children to do outdoor project work, and a solar panel roof to teach them about sustainable energy.

The Sengkang site will also host an early intervention centre by the Asian Women's Welfare Association (Awwa), the first of its kind here to be co-located with a childcare centre. The Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children centre will serve up to 300 children with special needs, who will visit the centre for therapy services.

Awwa chief executive Tim Oei said: "Previously, our special schools and regular schools were separated. We are moving to a better integrated model where we can have joint events (with the regular centre), such as National Day and Racial Harmony Day."

Mr Tan said the co-location is an important development as it allows children with differing needs to interact with one another, noting: "We can build a more inclusive society."

For parents like Ms Mariana Idris, the arrangement will be ideal. The 31-year-old housewife said she "went through hell" trying to find childcare for her two children.

Her elder daughter, Nashrah, four, is autistic and currently goes to Awwa's Lorong Napiri centre after three others failed to work out. Her two-year-old daughter, Nadhrah, secured a place at a childcare centre in Sengkang only after a six-month wait.

Ms Mariana, a Punggol resident, said it is a hassle to send both girls to different centres every day. "In new estates, it is very difficult to find childcare. More such centres in these areas would be good."

The Sengkang and Punggol centres will be open for registration next January. Three more large childcare centres with a capacity of 300 each will be built in Jurong West, Woodlands and Yishun by the end of next year.

Good news for parents looking for childcare in Sengkang and Punggol! When I first came in to MSF, I'd said that we will...
Posted by Tan Chuan-Jin on Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Big childcare boost soon for Punggol
Large centre, one of 5 to be open in S'pore by end of next year, can cater for 500 children
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 22 Aug 2015

Work began yesterday on the second of five large childcare centres being created in Singapore.

The size of four Olympic-size swimming pools, the Punggol centre will be able to cater for 500 children when it opens by the middle of next year - five times the number that a typical pre-school in a Housing Board estate can handle.

It will be run by EtonHouse International's E-Bridge Pre-School. All five centres are due to open by the end of next year.

Work began on the first of these, in Sengkang, on Aug 11. Run by NTUC First Campus' My First Skool, it will be able to take in 500 children, but is half the size of the 5,000 sq m E-Bridge centre.

All five centres will be run by anchor operators that get government grants and priority in securing sites in HDB estates. However, they must keep fees below $720 a month, among other conditions.

They are part of the Government's efforts to meet the high demand for childcare places, especially in new estates with many young families.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin was guest of honour at yesterday's groundbreaking ceremony. MP for Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC Penny Low was also present, along with potential PAP candidate Ng Chee Meng, the former chief of defence force.

Ms Low welcomed the setting up of the E-Bridge centre, saying: "We don't have many void decks here, and if you want to meet a sudden increase in childcare demand, then you need to think out of the box."

Punggol resident and credit controller Renee Koh, 33, who has two children aged four and seven, faced long waiting lists at childcare centres. She said: "With more large centres set up here, I may consider having a third child."

Sited opposite Horizon Primary School, the E-Bridge centre will have innovative design features such as temperature-measurement equipment for mass health screenings - a first for pre-schools here. There are also plans for a running and cycling track, a rooftop garden and areas for water and sand play.

EtonHouse founder Ng Gim Choo said: "The centre is designed based on research and focused on providing a creative, inspiring and effective learning environment to stimulate the development of young learners."

The Sengkang and Punggol centres will be open for registration next January, and are expected to be ready by mid-2016.

Three more large centres will be built in Jurong West, Woodlands and Yishun by the end of next year.

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