At least five popular primary schools have scrapped the parent volunteer scheme which gives parents priority when registering their children for Primary 1. This includes Ai Tong School, Tao Nan School, Kong Hwa School, Nan Chiau Primary, and St. Anthony's Canossian Primary.
We look at five things about the scheme:
1. What is the parent volunteer scheme about?
The scheme gives P1 registration priority to parents who have volunteered their time and effort in a primary school.
The Ministry of Education's guidelines require parents to put in at least 40 hours of service in their school of choice at least one year before their child is due to register for primary school.
But the schools are free to decide how they want to run their respective parent volunteer schemes.
Nanyang Primary, for instance, requires parents to volunteer at least 80 hours. Parents also have to submit their curriculum vitae to show the areas they can volunteer in. Short-listed parents will still have to go for an interview before they are selected.
While there are a whole range of activities parents can volunteer for, for instance, to be traffic wardens or librarians in the schools, some schools have set a more stringent criteria when choosing their volunteers.
At Henry Park Primary, parents have to indicate on their application form if they are able to coach a particular sport, play piano for the school's choir, or teach the pupils dance.
2. Why is the scheme popular?
It is popular among parents who do not get P1 registration priority because they are not alumni and do not have an older child in a particular school, but still hope to increase the chances of securing a place for their children in that school.
Parents who have met the volunteering requirements in the primary schools are given priority to register in Phase 2B of the P1 registration exercise.
Those with church or clan associations, or are active community members, also qualify to register in this phase.
The earlier phases - Phase 1 and Phase 2A - are for siblings of current and former pupils of the school, or for children whose parents attended the school.
But volunteering does not guarantee parents a spot in the primary schools, as Phase 2B has become increasingly competitive in recent years. For instance, Henry Park Primary had only five places left at Phase 2B last year. This meant that many parents who had volunteered were turned away.
3. If I want to be a parent volunteer, when should I apply?
The scheme is open to all parents whose children are Singapore citizens or Permanent Residents. But if there are more applicants than places during registration, priority will be given to citizens who live nearer to the school.
Parents have to sign up and complete the number of service hours set by the school at least one year before their child is due to register. But the schools open their parent volunteer applications at different times. Those keen to volunteer should check with the schools directly.
4. How has the scheme changed over the years?
More parents, including those who live near the school, are signing up to be parent volunteers to up their chances of securing a spot in the school. For these parents, if they fail to secure a place in Phase 2B, they still qualify to register in Phase 2C, which considers home-school distance.
With a greater pool of applicants each year, schools are becoming more selective of their applicants. At Rosyth School, parents who were selected for the parent volunteer interview were asked how the school should handle a fight between two pupils, which resulted in one pupil's glasses being damaged.
Some schools have also capped the number of parent volunteers they recruit to keep the numbers small. At Poi Ching School, it takes in about 30 volunteers each year.
5. Why are some schools doing away with it?
Mrs Cheong Ye Ling, principal of Kong Hwa School which has scrapped the parent volunteer scheme, said the school has enough volunteers from its parent support group and from the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, which it is affiliated to.
If it continues to recruit parent volunteers, there might not be enough volunteering opportunities to go round. Yet creating jobs just for parent volunteers hoping to snag a spot in the school goes against the true intention of volunteerism.
Some schools are also more keen to give volunteering opportunities to members in its parent support group - most of whom are parents of current pupils. This way, parents participate in school activities together with their children.