School mergers: Bonding, setting new identity when two become one

Beatty Secondary School students (from left) Jeremy Loh Ming Rong, Ain Quraisya, Ng Qian Ze and Ryan Goh Jia Jun, all aged 15, at the school's revamped heritage gallery that features history from both Beatty and Balestier Hill secondary schools, which hav
Beatty Secondary School students (from left) Jeremy Loh Ming Rong, Ain Quraisya, Ng Qian Ze and Ryan Goh Jia Jun, all aged 15, at the school's revamped heritage gallery that features history from both Beatty and Balestier Hill secondary schools, which have merged.ST PHOTO: NIVASH JOYVIN
Northland Sec student leaders (from left) Dania Nur Insyirah, 15, Bridget Tong, 14, Nur Qistina Muhd Rizhal, 14, and Chua Vina, 14, pose with an art piece created by staff and students from Northland and North View, which have merged.
Northland Sec student leaders (from left) Dania Nur Insyirah, 15, Bridget Tong, 14, Nur Qistina Muhd Rizhal, 14, and Chua Vina, 14, pose with an art piece created by staff and students from Northland and North View, which have merged.ST PHOTO: NIVASH JOYVIN

7 secondary schools arising from mergers prepare students, staff for new school year

They had camps and joint co-curricular activities (CCAs) before the start of the next school year.

But what's different about the participants is that they are the students and teachers of seven merged secondary schools which will open their doors next month .

Principals told The Straits Times that their schools have been working over the last few months to ensure a smooth transition beyond the classroom for students .

Plans include incorporating the identities and strengths of the two schools that have been merged and trying out new initiatives.

Some schools are also still in the midst of crafting their main goals for students, as well as coming up with designs for new uniforms.

BUILDING TIES

Students from North View will be moving out of their campus, and there will be a lot of changes with two large groups of students coming together. It was very important that we focused on building relationships through communication.

MADAM TAN SIEW WOON, principal of Northland Secondary, which will be merged with North View Secondary, saying Northland Secondary organised a camp for 115 student leaders from both schools in June.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) in October announced the principals of the seven schools as part of its yearly principal appointment exercise.

The schools are being merged because Singapore's declining birth rate over the past two decades has led to decreasing cohort sizes of school-going children and demand for places.

The seven merged schools are Beatty Secondary, Boon Lay Secondary, Broadrick Secondary, Bukit Merah Secondary, Marsiling Secondary, Meridian Secondary and Northland Secondary.

The MOE had said that schools needed "sufficient critical mass" to offer a good range of educational programmes and CCAs.

Mr Ling Khoon Chow, principal of Beatty Secondary, which will have about 1,400 students from Beatty Secondary and Balestier Hill Secondary next year, said both schools' strengths will be weaved into activities.

For instance, students will have an applied learning programme that combines Beatty's focus on design thinking - which covers problem-solving skills and creativity - and Balestier Hill's emphasis on environmental education.

  • THE SEVEN MERGED SCHOOLS STARTING IN 2017

  • 1. Beatty Secondary School (merger of Balestier Hill Secondary School and Beatty Secondary School)

    2. Boon Lay Secondary School (merger of Boon Lay Secondary School and Pioneer Secondary School)

    3. Broadrick Secondary School (merger of Broadrick Secondary School and MacPherson Secondary School)

    4. Bukit Merah Secondary School (merger of Bukit Merah Secondary School and Henderson Secondary School)

    5. Marsiling Secondary School (merger of Marsiling Secondary School and Si Ling Secondary School)

    6. Meridian Secondary School (merger of Coral Secondary School and Siglap Secondary School)

    7. Northland Secondary School (merger of North View Secondary School and Northland Secondary School)

Mr Ling said: "It's an exciting challenge for me to be given the opportunity to merge two schools."

The plan, he added, is to start a "full re-envisioning exercise with staff next year when everyone is together". Both schools' heritage - including photographs and artefacts - has also been captured in a revamped gallery at Beatty Secondary.

Beatty was founded in 1953 and named after Sir David Beatty, a British admiral who pushed for the construction of a naval base in Singapore to meet the Japanese threat. Balestier Hill was founded in 1964 and named after Joseph Balestier, the first counsel to Singapore from the United States.

Said Mr Ling: "It's important to retain both schools' heritage so that students have a sense of their former school around."

The schools have also held programmes to encourage students to interact.

Madam Tan Siew Woon, principal of Northland Secondary, which will be merged with North View Secondary, said it organised a camp for 115 student leaders from both schools in June.

"Students from North View will be moving out of their campus, and there will be a lot of changes with two large groups of students coming together. It was very important that we focused on building relationships through communication," she said.

She added that student leaders were given an opportunity to bond and raise concerns that they had about the merger, such as arrangements for their CCAs.

Next year, about 1,000 Secondary 1 students will join Northland Secondary, which has retained most CCAs from both schools.

Some of the 18 CCAs on offer next year, such as basketball and floorball, have been integrated from both schools, while activities like badminton and art club that were unique to North View Secondary have also been included.

Balestier Hill Secondary student and flautist Jeremy Loh, 15, who will join Beatty Secondary's band CCA, said: "It will be interesting to see how to work together for the Singapore Youth Festival next year. Beatty has a military band, and next year we are converting to a concert band."

Beatty Secondary student Ng Qian Ze, 15, said he is excited to make new friends next year.

He said: "Students were slightly worried when we first heard about the merger but during the two-day bonding session in October, everyone was mixing around fine and we got to know each other."

New farm, new chapter for Marsiling

Bonding first for the new Meridian

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2016, with the headline 'Bonding, setting new identity when two become one'. Print Edition | Subscribe