School to release O-level results of students who missed 'prom'

A group of students who were told that they would not get their O-level result slips as they had not paid a penalty for missing a school event will get their results after all.

The Whitley Secondary School students had missed the school's formal dinner last November and were later asked to pay a $60 penalty for non-attendance, some students told The Straits Times.

When they did not pay, the school in Bishan threatened to withhold their result slips when results are released today, they said.

But Whitley principal Tay Yang Fern said yesterday that the result slips "will not be withheld when the results are released".

She also clarified that the dinner at Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre - which students saw as a prom - was actually a formal dinner for students to practise newly acquired skills.

It was part of a development programme which comprised a course on grooming and etiquette skills for the Secondary 4 cohort, and interview and etiquette skills for the Secondary 5 students.

"The school acknowledged that some of the Secondary 5 students perceived that they had not been given the option of not attending the dinner, even though others had opted out in advance and hence did not have to pay for the dinner," Mrs Tay said.

"The school will engage these students and their parents for an amicable arrangement and necessary assistance will be extended in cases of financial hardship."

ST understands that more than 10 Sec 5 students were not intending to pay the penalty for missing the school event.

The sister of an affected Sec 5 student wrote on the online forum Reddit on Monday that those who attended the dinner had to pay only $50 while those who did not show up had to pay $110, or $60 more. Students paid the $50 via their Edusave accounts or cash, after a consent form was issued last August.  

She had posted on Monday that a Sec 5 form teacher told the class in a WhatsApp group chat to "clear their debts" or they will not get their results. The teacher told them not to "put yourself in an unfavourable position" on results day. 

Mrs Tay said students who were absent from school-subsidised programmes without valid reason must pay the programme's full cost. "This was communicated in writing to students' parents and guardians prior to the commencement of these programmes."

But the sister of the student told ST: "I was baffled and outraged when my sister told me about what she is experiencing... Our family is not exactly well-to-do."

Most of the affected Sec 5 students said they had indicated early last year that they would not be attending the dinner, as they had been to a similar one in 2016 when they were in Sec 4. They paid about $80 to attend that event. 

They said they should not have to pay a penalty for an event they did not attend. 

The Ministry of Education said schools may withhold the exam certificates of students who have yet to pay outstanding school fees after repeated reminders. It added that there are financial assistance schemes available to Singaporeans in need of such support.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2018, with the headline 'School to release O-level results of students who missed 'prom''. Print Edition | Subscribe