Two largest pre-school chains to raise fees

My First Skool, NTUC First Campus' childcare arm, has over 130 centres. The fee increases for My First School and PCF will take effect from this month, but they did not specify how many of their centres will raise fees.
My First Skool, NTUC First Campus' childcare arm, has over 130 centres. The fee increases for My First School and PCF will take effect from this month, but they did not specify how many of their centres will raise fees.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

PCF and My First Skool cite better-quality programmes and rising costs as reasons

The two largest pre-school operators here are raising their fees this year.

The PAP Community Foundation (PCF) will raise monthly fees by up to 5 per cent for its childcare and infant care programmes, and up to $20 for kindergarten classes. It runs more than 360 pre-schools.

My First Skool will increase its monthly fees by between $5 and $20 for infant care and between $6 and $33 for childcare. It is the childcare arm of NTUC First Campus and has over 130 centres.

The fee increase will take effect from this month for both operators.

When asked, both operators did not specify how many of their centres will raise fees and only said that some of them will do so.

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), which oversees the pre-school sector, said several childcare operators will raise fees this year, mostly within a 5 to 10 per cent range of current fees.

Its spokesman said: "Pre-school operators raise fees from time to time to ensure sustainability as operating costs rise and to recruit and retain teachers to deliver quality programmes."

  • PAP COMMUNITY FOUNDATION

    5% Monthly fees will rise by up to this percentage for childcare and infant care programmes.

    $20 Fees will increase by up to this amount for kindergarten classes.

  • MY FIRST SKOOL

    $5-$20 Range of fee rise for infant care.

    $6-$33 Range of fee rise for childcare. 

The agency requires childcare centres to inform parents at least four months before raising fees. Centres are also advised to explain clearly to parents their reason for raising fees, and engage parents who have difficulties in paying the extra sum, the ECDA spokesman said.

Both PCF and My First Skool did not give their range of fees, but said they are below the fee cap for anchor operators. Both last raised fees in 2016 and have schemes to help needy families.

Pre-schools that are designated as anchor or partner operators receive government grants in return for meeting certain quality criteria and not raising their fees beyond a certain level. The scheme aims to ensure affordable and high-quality pre-school education.

For anchor operators, the cap for full-day childcare is $720, $1,275 for full-day infant care and $160 for kindergarten. The sums exclude goods and services tax.

A PCF spokesman said its fee increase is "in tandem with the increase in our investments in curriculum and upgrading our pre-schools' learning environment, as well as the employment of qualified teachers who continue to receive ongoing professional development".

Likewise, My First Skool said the move will help it improve the quality of its programmes and keep up with rising costs.

Part-time administrative assistant Yvonne Tan, 35, has three children aged two, four and six in full-day childcare at a PCF centre.

She will have to pay about $34 more for each child per month. Their new fees cost about $717 each, before the government subsidy of $300 for each child, which she enjoys as a working mother.

She said: "I feel the pinch as it adds up to $100 more for all three children. And the fees go up almost every year. The price of everything, like groceries, is also going up."

The ECDA spokesman said the median child care fee for this year is expected to remain stable at $856 a month - similar to 2016.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2018, with the headline 'Two largest pre-school chains to raise fees'. Print Edition | Subscribe