SINGAPORE - Parents hoping to get their children into three of the most popular primary schools might have to face balloting at what is considered to be an early point in the annual registration exercise.
As of Wednesday night (July 4), the schools which may need a ballot at Phase 2A1 - the second of seven phases - are CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School, which has 108 girls vying for 101 spots, Catholic High School, with 121 boys applying for 118 places, and Henry Park Primary School, with 110 children registering for 101 places.
In the past, applicants at this stage would have gotten into their preferred schools, but in recent years a handful of schools are facing a squeeze because of the rule introduced in 2014, requiring all primary schools to set aside 40 places for children in the later stages, Phases 2B and 2C.
In 2015, parents of 73 children hoping to enter CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School had to ballot for 68 places in Phase 2A1, which is for children whose parents are members of the alumni association or members of the school advisory or management committee.
Other sought-after schools which have already filled more than 80 per cent of their vacancies - many taken by children of alumni - were Ai Tong School, Red Swastika School and Nanyang Primary School.
A total of 43 schools had more than half of their spots taken when registration for Phase 2A1 ended on Wednesday (July 4), compared to 29 schools last year.
In an attempt to meet the larger number of Dragon Year babies - those born in 2012 - who are starting P1 next year, 2,600 more places will be made available, bringing the number to about 41,800 places in the 184 primary schools.
About 41,000 children are expected to register this year for Primary 1.
Business owner Kam Sook Wei, who registered her son in Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) which has filled 167 out of 270 vacancies, said on Wednesday: "Based on history, the alumni phase is a walkthrough and there shouldn't be a need to ballot, although you never know what could happen because it is a 'dragon year', so fertility rates are higher."
The 35-year-old, whose husband joined the ACS Old Boys' Association eight years ago, said she heard from friends that the school takes a holistic approach to learning.
"There's more play in the first one to two years, and it's nice that the school takes time to help the kids settle into primary school. It's a big jump from kindergarten," she added.
The next phase, 2A2, is for children whose parents or siblings are former pupils, or whose parent is a member of the staff at the school. From this year, children from the kindergartens run by the Ministry of Education will also be able to apply during this phase to enter the primary school that shares a compound with their kindergarten.
Registration will be from next Wednesday (July 11) to Thursday (July 12).