Single-session trend leaves student care firms in lurch

From next year, Sparkle Stones Educare Centre (above), will focus on childcare services instead, as demand for student care services in the morning has declined. -- ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM
From next year, Sparkle Stones Educare Centre (above), will focus on childcare services instead, as demand for student care services in the morning has declined. -- ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

Some centres to focus on childcare as demand for morning services falls

More schools are turning single- session, causing a headache for companies offering student care services before and after lessons.

The move - which means all children attend classes between around 7.30am and 1pm - has left some centres underused in the morning and struggling with increased demand in the afternoon.

This is making the business unprofitable, operators told The Straits Times. Student care centres provide before- and after-school services such as homework supervision and games.

But with the Education Ministry planning to make all primary schools single-session by 2016, some of the firms want to give up the business and focus on childcare services instead.

Mr Joseph Toh, who has been running Sparkle Stones Educare Centre for the past decade, said he will be taking this step from next year. Back in 2009, he used to have at least seven pupils at his centre in the morning, before school resumed in the afternoon.

The trend towards single-session means he now has only two.

Ms Catherine Wong, founder of the not-for-profit Lotus Student Care centre in Sengkang, will also start offering childcare services instead next year due to the huge demand for them.

"It took me two years to decide, but I realised I can help more families this way," she added.

Mr Jimmy New, who runs Smiling Star Student Care in Bukit Panjang, said he may consider providing enrichment classes for younger children in the morning.

"Many student care centres are located in void deck bomb shelters ," he added.

"We can't just convert to a childcare centre, so we have to look for other services to offer."

Singapore had about 400 student care centres last year.

But the service could become irrelevant as more schools start their own versions, operators pointed out.

Today, there are around 80 school-based student care centres run by voluntary welfare organisations and commercial firms, with more than 6,500 students enrolled. Plans for more are in the pipeline.

Ms Wong said she was not leaving the business with a heavy heart. She added that schools could provide a much better environment than any external student care centre. "It's spacious and there are many more facilities," said Ms Wong.

Mr Toh added: "I think it's more convenient, as the kids don't have to travel to after- school care."

staceyc@sph.com.sg