More help for pre-schoolers beyond just fee assistance

Children in a K2 class participating in Children's Day celebrations at My First Skool in Chin Swee Road yesterday. NTUC First Campus said there are now 12 programmes - from three in 2008 - to meet the social needs of its pre-schoolers, such as improv
Children in a K2 class participating in Children's Day celebrations at My First Skool in Chin Swee Road yesterday. NTUC First Campus said there are now 12 programmes - from three in 2008 - to meet the social needs of its pre-schoolers, such as improving literacy, therapy for those with mild developmental delays and parental support.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Children from NTUC First Campus - the second-largest pre-school operator here - have in the last five years received more help to meet social needs such as counselling for their parents and home visits.

This has been part of efforts to broaden its support for children beyond just providing financial assistance, its chief executive Chan Tee Seng said yesterday.

"It's not just about supporting people with school fees but we are also looking at the child's development," he told the media at a My First Skool centre in Chin Swee Road.

This year, some 2,000 children across its centres are benefiting from programmes - there are 12 today, up from three in 2008 - to meet needs such as improving literacy, therapy for those with mild developmental delays and parental support. Some of these children benefit from as many as five schemes.

More than $5 million will be spent on these initiatives this year, with funding from the Government and the Bright Horizons Fund, the charity arm of NTUC First Campus. In 2011, the Bright Horizons Fund disbursed $300,000 to about 560 children.

Mr Chan explained how these schemes are now part of a Child Support Model to better coordinate the social, developmental and financial needs of each child.

It now also has a team of 40 professional staff, many of whom are deployed to the pre-schools to coach children who need more help, for instance.

Workshops to equip parents with practical skills such as handling tantrums began last year.

National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Chan Chun Sing, who was at the centre's Children's Day celebration yesterday, said these initiatives help ensure social mobility for Singaporeans "to overcome the inequality in the years to come".

NTUC First Campus, for instance, is also involved in KidStart, a scheme piloted this year by the Early Childhood Development Agency to give a leg-up to young children from disadvantaged families through social support and parent engagement.

Some 220 children in seven My First Skool centres are currently part of the programme, which will be expanded to 13 centres next year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2016, with the headline 'More help for pre-schoolers beyond just fee assistance'. Print Edition | Subscribe