Friday, 20 January 2017

4 new mega childcare centres to open by mid-2018, including first pre-school in a park

Four more mega childcare centres on the way, bringing total to 9
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 19 Jan 2017

There will be some relief for young parents worried about a shortage of spaces in childcare centres.

Four more mega childcare centres will open by the middle of next year, offering a total of 2,700 places.

This brings the total number of mega childcare centres here to nine, with 4,700 places in all.

The push for more such centres, which can admit more than 300 children each, comes as the Government said it wants to ramp up numbers to create a more supportive environment for young families. Currently, there is one childcare spot for every two children in Singapore.

Two of the new childcare centres will be in Punggol and have 1,000 places each - believed to be the largest ever for a childcare centre here.

The other two will be in Sengkang (400 places) and Bukit Panjang (300 places). A centre in a Housing Board void deck usually takes in about 100 children.

There could be more to come. Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said yesterday: "I am personally keen to see more of these (mega childcare centres)."

Pre-schools of such scale, he said, provide space to encourage children to be outdoors and have more physical activities. Other childcare centres may be allowed to let their own young charges "make full use" of such environments.

The Sengkang centre, which broke ground yesterday, is in Sengkang Riverside Park. It is said to be the first centre built in a park. The two-storey campus has a built-up area of 3,600 sq m, almost four times that of an average childcare centre.

Registration for the four new childcare centres will open in the second quarter of this year.









New mega centres to meet growing demand for childcare
Two in Punggol and one each in Sengkang and Bt Panjang will offer total of 2,700 places
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 19 Jan 2017

Mega childcare centres, which can take in more than 300 children each, will be playing a greater role in the early education sector here.

Two of the four upcoming centres will be in Punggol and will have 1,000 childcare places each.

These mega centres, run by anchor operators, will open by the middle of next year to meet the demand for affordable childcare, said the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA).

Childcare anchor operators are government-appointed and get grants and priority in securing sites in Housing Board estates for setting up the centres, but must cap fees at $720 a month for full-day childcare, among other criteria.

Besides the two in Punggol, the other centres will be in Sengkang (offering 400 places) and Bukit Panjang (300 places).

A centre in an HDB void deck can usually take in about 100 children.

NTUC's My First Skool will run one of the Punggol centres, and another in Bukit Panjang; PAP Community Foundation will run the other Punggol centre; and Skool4Kidz will run the centre in Sengkang.

The centres are in addition to five originally slated to open last year. Three - in Punggol, Woodlands and Yishun - opened last year, a fourth in Sengkang was opened this month and one in Jurong West will open next month. The centres are all being located in estates with high demand for childcare services.

The ECDA said the new centres will be integrated with the community and the environment. For instance, the Sengkang centre, which broke ground yesterday, is in Sengkang Riverside Park.

The two-storey campus has a cocoon-like structure, designed to be like a "rolling hill that seamlessly blends into the environment", and has a built-up area of 3,600 sq m, almost four times that of an average centre.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said at the ground-breaking ceremony that siting the centre in a park - a first - allows children to easily take part in physical and outdoor activities. "This enhances the children's well-being and development, and nurtures their appreciation for nature from a young age," he said.

Dr Lam Pin Min, MP for Sengkang West, welcomed the Sengkang centre, and added that more are needed. "Many parents tell me they have been placed on waiting lists for six months, and even 12 months," he said.

Among all the towns, Punggol has the highest proportion of residents aged below five, at 11 per cent. The figure for Sengkang is 8 per cent.

Banker Andrew Lee, 36, approached five centres and waited for more than six months before enrolling his two children in a childcare centre in Punggol that offered 500 places. "Pre-schools I approached told me I was placed on a waiting list, and some could not give me a definitive answer on how long I had to wait," he said.

Added Sengkang resident Jon Lim, 29, a communications executive: "It is convenient to have these centres on our doorstep, but this must come with a nationwide push for flexi-work schedules so parents can spend most of their day with their children in their formative years."

Registration for the four new mega childcare centres will open in the second quarter of this year.





Punggol centre boasts plenty of room for learning and play
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 19 Jan 2017

Bigger seems to be better for children at an E-Bridge Pre-School in Punggol. The two-storey campus in Edgedale Plains sits on 5,000 sq m of land, or the equivalent of four Olympic-sized swimming pools.

It has five play "pods" just outside the air-conditioned classrooms. These play areas are sheltered, with natural lighting and ventilation, and are similar to outdoor areas but shielded from rain.

It also has a rooftop garden. When The Straits Times visited on Tuesday, a Kindergarten 2 class was at the rooftop looking at clouds while learning about the water cycle.

The E-Bridge centre, led by EtonHouse International, opened in May last year and was the first of five mega childcare centres being built by anchor operators to do so.

The centres can take in 300 to 500 children each and were built on undeveloped state land, and in estates with a high demand for childcare services.

The E-Bridge centre in Edgedale Plains has 500 places, including 30 for infant care.

The centre was fully subscribed within days of opening for registration and still receives queries from parents almost daily.

One common question that parents have, said an E-Bridge spokesman, is about its measures in preventing the spread of infectious diseases such as hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD).

HFMD affects mostly children and is easily transmitted among toddlers, making pre-schools hot spots for the disease.

The E-Bridge centre conducts daily manual temperature taking and health checks, and has temperature scanners, similar to those used at airports, at the entrance.

Sections of the building can also be closed off in the event of a disease outbreak.

Since the centre started operations last May, it has had three to four HFMD episodes, with fewer than 10 children affected each time.

Project manager Ong Pei Yang, 44, whose six-year-old son is enrolled in the centre, said: "I got a scare initially when there was an HFMD outbreak. But E-Bridge communicated very clearly and regularly, so I was assured that they were managing the situation well."

His son used to be in another centre sited within a shopping mall.

Mr Ong said: "Children had less exposure to sunlight there and had to cross the road to get to a playground. But it is very good here, because all the play areas are within the pre-school compound."











Related
Four more large child care centres to open by 2018​
Growing popularity of MOE Kindergartens; Three New MOE Kindergartens in 2018 to meet demand in Punggol
Pilot Collaboration for Enhanced Pre-School Services in Punggol

No comments:

Post a Comment