Schools in Singapore step up security measures amid heightened concerns

Schoolchildren from St Andrew's Junior School, which is part of St Andrew's Village, leaving the school last Friday. Since the new term began, all visitors, including parents, are not allowed to drive or walk into the school complex without a pass or
Schoolchildren from St Andrew's Junior School, which is part of St Andrew's Village, leaving the school last Friday. Since the new term began, all visitors, including parents, are not allowed to drive or walk into the school complex without a pass or car label.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Heightened concerns in S'pore and abroad prompt stricter controls on visitors and vehicles

Some schools in Singapore are introducing tighter safety measures, in the wake of heightened security concerns here and abroad, meaning visitors cannot walk or drive into school grounds as freely as they used to.

St Andrew's Village, which is home to St Andrew's primary and secondary schools and the junior college, used to allow unregistered access for pedestrians and vehicles.

But since the new term started last week, all visitors, including parents, are not allowed to drive or walk into the school complex along Francis Thomas Drive without a pass or car label.

Parents were told about these stricter procedures in a letter in May and must apply for a "Drive Through Only" car label, which is limited to one per family, to ferry their children to the carpark.

In the past, they could wait for their children inside the canteen or within the school compound. Now, there will be only one waiting area - a sheltered area beside the side gate.

Parents with children at Methodist Girls' School (MGS) in Blackmore Drive also received a letter from the school on Monday detailing strengthened measures.

These include having colour-coded passes to denote different levels of access, and closing school gates when classes are in session.

Previously, parents could wait at the school concourse or in the canteen from 6.30am to 7.30am, and 12.30pm to 1.30pm. But they will soon be restricted to a parents' corner in the school.

An MGS spokesman said that these measures will take effect in the middle of this month.

She added: "With heightened security risks present in today's national and global climates, the school's enhanced security measures ensure that MGS remains a safe and secure environment for our students."

Northland Primary School in Yishun has also implemented more safeguards, including extra closed-circuit television cameras, thumbprint access to restricted areas and the changing of all its gate locks.

Its principal, Mr Tony Tan, said it now has a tighter visitor pass system - with six categories of visitors, including parents, instead of one common pass. "This is to ensure better tracking of visitors coming in, so that they will not wander off to other areas in school," he said.

Since last year, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) in Dover Road has tightened security through means such as requiring all visitors to carry a pass. Its boarding school residents have also been issued with photo identification cards.

The authorities in Singapore have been boosting security in the face of an increasing terrorist threat.

The Ministry of Education said that schools are expected to adhere to the guidelines on school security measures to "ensure the well-being and safety of all students and staff".

These include personnel access, vehicular control and visitor identification, said a spokesman.

Parents backed the tighter security measures, even if these make their lives less convenient.

Mr Ben Chan, 39, an engineer whose son attends St Andrew's Junior School, said: "He now walks out of school himself and we give him instructions on where to wait for us, such as at a nearby carpark.

"There were initial inconveniences last week, but these are teething problems."

A 44-year-old parent, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Y.M., said: "There are many points of entry due to the way St Andrew's Village is built, so it is slightly confusing... especially if you have sons in the different schools.

"Our movement is a bit more restricted now, but most parents understand that it is safer for the kids, so they cooperate.

"It is better to be safe than sorry."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2016, with the headline 'Schools step up security measures'. Print Edition | Subscribe