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.
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”.