PCF to have 38 centres for younger children by 2021

A toddler class for children aged 18 months to 24 months old in the Punggol North centre. The facility can take in 1,060 children and it now has 449 aged two months to four years old. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN PCF Sparkletots' Early Years Centre in Pungg
PCF Sparkletots' Early Years Centre in Punggol North, which officially opened yesterday, is the operator's first and largest Early Years Centre in Singapore. It occupies a land area of 10,000 sq m and a built-up area of 8,400 sq m. PCF Sparkletots, the largest pre-school operator here, currently has 12 Early Years Centres that cater to younger children aged up to four. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
A toddler class for children aged 18 months to 24 months old in the Punggol North centre. The facility can take in 1,060 children and it now has 449 aged two months to four years old. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN PCF Sparkletots' Early Years Centre in Pungg
A toddler class for children aged 18 months to 24 months old in the Punggol North centre. The facility can take in 1,060 children and it now has 449 aged two months to four years old. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

By 2021, PCF Sparkletots, the largest pre-school operator here, will have 38 centres that admit younger children aged up to four.

These Early Years Centres, first announced in 2017, are part of the Government's efforts to raise the quality of pre-school standards in children's early years and meet the growing demand for full-day childcare places.

Under the scheme, eligible Singaporeans and permanent residents with children in Nursery 2 in these Early Years Centres will be guaranteed a place in a Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergarten nearby.

At the official opening of PCF Sparkletots' first and largest Early Years Centre in Punggol North yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said he was glad to see the pre-school operator expanding its services in the early years sector.

"Good pre-schools like PCF Sparkletots not only offer good support for working parents, but can also give young children a strong start and foundation for lifelong learning."

He added that the early years of a child's life are the formative and golden years, during which they are versatile, and ready to absorb and learn.

The pre-school in Edgefield Plains in Punggol North, which opened its doors in May last year, is designed to take in 1,060 children. It now has 449 aged two months to four years old.

Children from the centre will have the option of attending one of three MOE kindergartens in Punggol when they turn five. The Punggol North centre - PCF's largest, occupying a land area of 10,000 sq m and a built-up area of 8,400 sq m - is one of the pre-school operator's 12 Early Years Centres.

Each with 30 to 180 children, they are mainly located in new towns like Sengkang and Punggol. Another two more centres in Toa Payoh will open by the end of this year.

The event yesterday was also attended by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, who heads the PCF's executive committee, and Mr Ng Chee Meng, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and chairman of PCF Punggol North Branch.

 
 

The centre in Punggol North, which places an emphasis on outdoor play and learning, was designed with the needs of young children in mind. For instance, there are three separate play areas for three different age groups: infants from two months to 18 months, toddlers from 18 months to 24 months, and children in Nursery 1 and Nursery 2.

Ms Michelle Lee, senior principal of the centre, said that the activities, facilities and environment cater to children's developmental stages. For example, the playground for toddlers has real grass while the infant play area uses artificial turf. The toddler playground also has steps, benches, a balancing beam and an outdoor cooking set-up, while the infant play area has gentler slopes for crawling.

Besides 131 teachers and assistant teachers, the pre-school also has two state-registered nurses to look after the infants. The nurses also advise teachers and parents on infant well-being, hygiene, allergy issues and what types of food are suitable for weaning.

Ms Dawn Sin, 37, whose 25-month-old son started attending the pre-school in January, said she likes the facilities and the learning environment.

"We see a lot of pre-schools at void decks, so this (pre-school) is quite impressive because the facilities are open, spacious and self-contained. It felt very safe, and a lot of thought has gone into the architecture and designing the spaces."

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in 2017 that more Early Years Centres would be set up to plug the shortage of pre-school places for children aged up to four.

NTUC's My First Skool also opened two Early Years Centres in the middle of last year, and is starting another one later this year.

Amelia Teng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 21, 2019, with the headline 'PCF to have 38 centres for younger children by 2021'. Print Edition | Subscribe