Parents hoping to clinch a spot for their six-year-olds in three of the most popular primary schools here may need to face a ballot next week, at an earlier stage of the Primary 1 registration exercise than in previous years.
These schools are CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School, Henry Park Primary and Nan Hua Primary.
A total of 25 schools were left with fewer than half their vacancies - down from 27 last year - after Phase 2A1 ended yesterday.
This phase is for children whose parents had joined the school alumni association at least one year ago.
A new rule this year which requires all primary schools to set aside 40 places for children with no links to the schools may also put a squeeze on the next phase, 2A2. This is despite the fact that there are more vacancies this year.
These 40 places will be split equally between children registering in the later stages, Phases 2B and 2C.
Phase 2B is for children whose parents are school volunteers, grassroots leaders or have ties with church or clan associations, and Phase 2C is for children with no ties to schools.
In past years, Phase 2A2 - for children whose parents or siblings are former students of the school - had not required balloting as it is considered an early stage of the exercise, but this could change this year, going by last year's demand.
After reserving the 40 places, CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School has only 14 spots left for Phase 2A2, after 84 children applied yesterday.
Last year, the school had 33 children who registered in Phase 2A2.
Henry Park Primary, which registered 70 children yesterday, has 45 spots left for Phase 2A2, down from 63 last year.
A total of 42 children applied for Nan Hua Primary yesterday, leaving 42 places for Phase 2A2. It had 50 vacancies in the same phase last year.
Madam Grace Ang, 36, who registered her son at Ai Tong School yesterday, was one of the happy parents who escaped any possibility of a ballot in the later phases.
"My husband and I are from Ai Tong and we want our son to be exposed to the same school culture," said the human resource manager, whose husband joined the school alumni association last year.
"We like the school's focus on Chinese language and an all-rounded education."
Another parent who wanted to be known only as Mrs Ling, as she had withdrawn her son from a school, obtained a place for her son at Catholic High School yesterday, even though he had secured a place in St Hilda's Primary in Phase 1.
The 42-year-old senior manager, whose husband joined Catholic High's alumni association five years ago, said: "There's affiliation to the secondary school, so hopefully he'll be at an advantage in the future.
"It's getting a lot more competitive, so parents have to plan ahead for children," she said.
"Anyway, this is the only time we can help them get into a school. After that, from secondary school onwards, it's based on their own merits."