Four new mega childcare centres to be built, including one in a park

KELLY NG Today Online 18 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — Punggol, Sengkang and Bukit Panjang will have four new mega childcare centres by the middle of next year, offering 2,700 places for which registration will begin in the second quarter of this year.

The two centres in Punggol, to be operated separately by PAP Community Foundation and NTUC My First Skool, have 1,000 places each, the largest yet for any childcare centre in Singapore, while the centres in Sengkang and Bukit Panjang can take in 400 and 300 children respectively, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) announced on Wednesday (Jan 18).

As demand for childcare facilities grew, the Government announced in May 2015 the setting up of the first batch of five mega childcare centres.

Four of these have opened in Punggol, Sengkang, Woodlands and Yishun— all in areas with many families with young children — while the fifth, in Jurong West, will begin operations in the first quarter of this year.

Tenders for large childcare centres are open to anchor operators assessed by the Government to have a good track record in offering quality and affordable early childhood programmes.

Compared to the large centres, the ones in the void decks of Housing and Development Board blocks can typically take in about 100 children each.

The Sengkang centre, run by School4Kidz, will be located at Sengkang Riverside Park. The 4,000sqm facility will take in children between two months and six years old, and be staffed by 44 teachers. Its curriculum will take advantage of learning opportunities in its natural environment, such as by incorporating nature walks, a butterfly lodge and a school garden from which students can harvest ingredients for their own meals.

Speaking at its ground-breaking ceremony on Wednesday, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said the ministry is “on track” to meet the demand for childcare places, and is also exploring various locations in which to build centres.

“This centre at Sengkang Riverside Park is the result of a partnership with NParks (National Parks Board), so that our children can easily participate in physical and outdoor activities. This enhances their well-being and development, and also nurtures their appreciation for nature from a young age,” said Mr Tan.

Dr Lam Pin Min, Member of Parliament for Sengkang West, noted that demand for childcare centres is “still very high” in his constituency.

“... Based on feedback from residents, I think we need to (have) even more childcare centres ... Many parents actually (give) feedback that they have been placed on the waiting list for the past six to 12 months. Even with the completion of newer childcare centres, they are still deprived of a place,” he said.

Punggol resident Neo Chai Ying, who is looking for a place for her 10-month-old son, said childcare facilities in her neighbourhood are “really stretched” due to the growing number of children in the area.

The 36-year-old said she hopes to get her son a place in one of the mega childcare centres as they have “more impressive facilities”.


4 new mega childcare centres to be built, including first in a park
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 18 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: See, smell, hear, touch and taste what nature has to offer - this is what Singapore's first childcare centre in a park will offer when it opens its doors at the end of this year to 400 children aged between two months and six years.

The two-storey facility at Sengkang Riverside Park will be run by anchor operator Skool4kidz, and is one of four mega childcare centres that will be built by the middle of next year, announced the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) on Wednesday (Jan 18).

Two centres will be in Punggol and will take in 1,000 kids each, and one will be in Bukit Panjang and will take in 300 kids. Together, the four new centres will provide 2,700 infant and childcare places.

The Skool4kidz Campus @ Sengkang Park will be about four times bigger than the average childcare centre in Singapore. It will also have learning spaces that are integrated with nature, like a Butterfly Lodge where kids can learn about the insects’ biology, and children will be served fruits and vegetables harvested from the centre's own garden. The centre will also tap on the National Parks Board’s (NParks) expertise to incorporate educational materials on Singapore's biodiversity.

“Anything you do with young children in the early years of their lives leave a very lasting impact on their development. A lot of what we do with our children don’t start young enough,” said Dr Jane Ching-Kwan, director and curriculum consultant of Skool4kidz.

“We have got a lot of research that points to the very positive relationship when children interact with nature. It carries on not only in learning, but also to their overall psychological, social, mental and physical growth.”

Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said ECDA is constantly looking into ways to provide better learning opportunities for children.

"This centre at Sengkang Riverside Park is the result of a partnership with NParks, so that our children can easily participate in physical and outdoor activities. This enhances their well-being and development, and also nurtures their appreciation for nature from a very young age,” he said.

DEMAND FOR CHILDCARE PLACES STILL RISING

Another five mega childcare centres are being built in estates like Jurong West, Woodlands and Yishun – areas with higher demand for childcare due to the larger number of young families, said the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA).

Sengkang West Member of Parliament (MP) Lam Pin Min said demand for places in childcare centres is still growing, and “the consensus is that we need to build more childcare centres”.

“Many parents have given feedback that they have been placed on the waiting list for the past six months, to even 12 months. And even with the completion of some of the new childcare centres, they are still deprived of a place. That tells us that the demand is still there,” Dr Lam said.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development is carefully tracking the demand for childcare places, said Mr Tan.

“We’re working very closely with HDB, all the new estates. Clearly, we continue to build childcare centres in the void deck. But we’re looking at various locations – parks is a new development and something we’re quite excited about. We’re tracking very closely and reviewing the demand as it evolves. So we’re very much on track,” he said.

Parents interested to register their children in the four new childcare centres can do so from the second quarter of this year at www.childcarelink.gov.sg.

- CNA/cy


4 mega childcare centres to open in 2018
Linette Heng, THE NEW PAPER AsiaOne 19 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE - A garden piazza, a butterfly lodge and a dining theatre that serves dishes from the school's garden will be some of the things you will find at a new childcare centre that will open by mid-2018.

Set in Sengkang Riverside Park, it will have 400 places.

Three other mega childcare centres will also begin construction this year and are due for completion at the same time - two in Punggol that will have 1,000 places and one in Bukit Panjang with 300 places.

This brings the number of large childcare centres to nine, said the Early Childhood Development Agency.

Details of the Sengkang centre - the first in Singapore to be located in a park - were revealed at a ground-breaking ceremony yesterday.

The state-of-the-art campus will have a cocoon-like structure so that it will look like a "rolling hill" on the park, and blend seamlessly with the environment.

The campus will have a site area of 4,000 sq m and built-up area of 3,600 sq m - almost four times the size of an average childcare centre.

Operated by anchor operator Skool4kidz, which runs 11 childcare centres islandwide, it will be completed by the fourth quarter of this year.

Full-day fees will cost an estimated $720 for children aged between 18 months and six years. Infant care fees for children aged between two and 17 months will cost an estimated $1275.

Skool4kidz's curriculum founder, Dr Jane Ching-Kwan, said that being close to nature will allow the children to develop holistically.

She told The New Paper: "They will be able to learn about botany and insects by curiously examining the wide variety of plants and insects in the park's eco-system...

A POSITIVE IMPACT

"Research has also shown that immersing in a natural environment has a positive impact on a child's overall health."

The other mega childcare centres will also be run by anchor operators - PAP Community Foundation in Punggol and NTUC My First Skool in Punggol and Bukit Panjang.

Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Sengkang centre yesterday, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin reiterated the Government's commitment to providing more quality and affordable pre-school options.

He said: "This centre at Sengkang Riverside Park is the result of a partnership with NParks, so that our children can easily participate in physical and outdoor activities."

Mr Tan told Parliament last year that by this year, about 10,000 more places will be added, of which about a third will be in Punggol and Sengkang.

Mother of a 33-month-old girl and a two-week-old boy, Ms Joanne Goh, 34, told TNP that she faced many challenges enrolling her older daughter into a childcare centre in Punggol, where she is currently living with her parents.

She hopes that she will be able to enrol her children into the new Sengkang facility when she moves into the neighbourhood next year.

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