Four more pre-schools to be set up in Sengkang by end-2022 to meet demand, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Four more pre-schools to be set up in Sengkang by end-2022 to meet demand

Sengkang will have four new pre-schools by the year end, with an additional 60 infant care and 400 childcare places on offer, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) on Monday (Jan 10).

In a written reply to Mr Louis Chua (Sengkang GRC), the ministry said the new centres will be built in locations such as community centres.

They will be set up "in tandem with future new Build-To-Order housing developments so that they can be operational in time to meet parents' needs", it said.

Infant care and childcare capacity in Sengkang has grown faster than the national average in recent years.

Over the past five years, the number of infant care places in the area has increased by more than 80 per cent to 1,050 last year from 570 in 2017, while childcare places have grown by nearly 60 per cent to 12,200 last year from 7,700 in 2017.

MSF said such growth is significantly higher than the overall increase nationwide in infant care places (50 per cent) and childcare places (30 per cent) in the same period.

Between 2017 and last year, the average enrolment rate for infant and childcare services in Sengkang was 68 per cent and 83 per cent respectively, it added, which is slightly higher than the national averages of 67 per cent and 77 per cent.

In response to Mr Chua, the MSF said waiting times in Sengkang for infant care and childcare places range between a few weeks and a few months, based on parents who have registered interest via the Pre-school Search Portal, the Early Childhood Development Agency's (ECDA's) online self-help search portal that was launched in 2019.

The increase in pre-school places has met families' needs, said the ministry.

Over the past five years, the number of unenrolled children whose parents have registered interest in an infant care or childcare place in Sengkang went down by about 60 per cent, from 930 in 2017 to 380 last year. This makes up less than 2 per cent of all families with children between two months and six years of age in Sengkang.

In response to a question filed by Nominated MP Shahira Abdullah about infant care in general, the MSF said ECDA will develop an additional 1,000 such places offered by anchor operators - which receive grants in return for meeting fee caps and quality criteria - by the year end, mainly in areas with upcoming HDB developments for new families.

This does not include extra places that may be developed by other pre-school operators, it said. There were about 11,550 infant care spots across Singapore as at October last year, according to ECDA figures.

Associate Professor Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC) asked if there were plans to ramp up student care facilities in Sengkang and Punggol.

MSF replied that the overall student care centre enrolment is below capacity in all towns, including Sengkang and Punggol, although there may be a wait list for some centres.

Around 400 student care centres, including those in primary schools, are registered with MSF to administer subsidies for children from lower-income families as part of the Student Care Fee Assistance scheme.

These centres currently provide about 48,000 places for children aged seven to 14.

The MSF encouraged parents to enrol their children in nearby student care centres if they cannot immediately secure spots in specific centres, adding that it works with the Education Ministry to monitor demand and expand capacity when needed.