Pupils going on to Secondary 1 next year who hope to transfer to another school are facing a harder time owing to a new directive from the Ministry of Education (MOE).
The Straits Times understands that last month, MOE told all secondary schools not to take in transfer pupils whose Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) scores did not meet their cut-off points during the school transfer season.
Before this, schools with vacancies after the Secondary 1 posting exercise could accept students with lower scores who appeal.
Each year, MOE places Primary 6 pupils in secondary schools based on their scores, school choices and the vacancies in a school. The PSLE score of the child who takes up the last spot in a school becomes the school's cut-off point.
Children were notified about their schools last Tuesday. Those who wanted to transfer schools on the grounds of special needs had to approach their desired school by last Wednesday, while the rest can submit appeal forms before their preferred schools' closing dates.
When contacted, MOE confirmed the directive yesterday. It said students are posted to schools based on "objective and transparent measures of academic merit" and appeals afterwards "should be aligned to these same principles, to be fair to the other students".
School leaders told The Straits Times the change is meant to reduce the flow of students between schools after the posting period.
The Straits Times understands that popular schools with cut-off points of more than 240 can receive over 100 appeals, mostly from students who do not meet the cut-off scores. On the other hand, schools with cut-off points of below 200 for the Express stream may lose up to half of their Express students owing to transfers. These movements may leave some schools with just three classes each year spread across three academic streams, while popular schools tend to fill all their spots and can have about 10 classes each year, school officials say.
A secondary school principal, who declined to be named, said: "It's like a food chain. Students who get into mid-tier schools aspire towards Integrated Programme schools, while those in schools with low cut-offs want to get into better neighbourhood or mid-tier schools.
"The change is a way of getting everyone settled into schools earlier and encouraging students to be satisfied with the schools they are posted to. Students need to know that whichever school they are posted to, it's a fresh start. Every school seeks to provide a whole range of opportunities for them."
Some schools, such as St Joseph's Institution and Crescent Girls' School, stated the new directive in their appeal documents. But as MOE did not make public the rule, many parents learnt of it via online forums or when they called schools.
Housewife Anne Tan, 50, whose son missed the cut-off score for National Junior College by two points, found out about the new rule after calling the school to ask about the chances of success for his appeal.
She said: "MOE should have pre-empted parents so we would have been more selective with our school choices. It's a waste of time going to the school to submit documents, and it's unfortunate because our children's hopes are affected."
Solution sales manager Mohammad Faiz, 41, whose son appealed to two popular schools, found out about the change via online forums: "Parents in a similar dilemma like mine were calling schools all over the place. But the rule is fair as spaces are allocated based on merit."