School mergers 2019: Merry-go-round of mergers for some affected primary schools

Exterior of Damai Primary School. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

SINGAPORE - The upcoming round of school mergers, announced on Thursday (April 20) by the Ministry of Education (MOE), will be deja vu for half of the 14 primary schools affected.

Bendemeer Primary, Cedar Primary, East Coast Primary, Damai Primary, Da Qiao Primary and MacPherson Primary had previously absorbed pupils from closed or merged institutions, while Balestier Hill Primary was formed from the 2002 merger of Swiss Cottage Primary and Moulmein Primary.

Damai Primary, which took in Bedok West Primary pupils in 2015, had grappled with low Primary 1 intakes. For example, in the 2013 Primary 1 registration exercise, it filled slightly more than one-third of its 150 vacancies.

The issue is not a new one. Sennett Primary, with no fresh Primary 1 pupils since 1997, was closed in 1999 with its remaining pupils transferred to Cedar Primary.

MacPherson Primary and East Coast Primary have gone through multiple rounds of mergers.

MacPherson merged with Aljunied Primary in 1998 and with Woodsville Primary in 2002, while East Coast Primary took in Jaya Primary pupils in 1999 and absorbed pupils from Bedok North Primary in 2001.

In 2001, former Swiss Cottage Primary principal Molly Chan appealed to MOE, as well as to ministers when she heard of the school's planned conversion to Balestier Hill Primary.

More than 300 people also signed a petition against the move.

However, the authorities pointed to Swiss Cottage Primary's low enrolment rate of 710 pupils, which was said to be just one-third that of the average primary school.

Merged schools have made extensive attempts over the years to commemorate their histories and welcome new pupils.

For example, East Coast Primary built a four-storey rock wall dedicated to Bedok North Primary after a previous merger, while Da Qiao Primary set up a showcase of Chong Boon Primary's sports trophies.

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