THIRTEEN schools, two more than last year, had more than half their Primary 1 vacancies taken up after Phase 1 of the registration exercise, which ended yesterday.
Among them were popular schools like Henry Park Primary in Bukit Timah, Ai Tong School in Bishan, Fairfield Methodist in Queenstown as well as neighbourhood schools like Endeavour Primary in Sembawang and Anchor Green Primary in Sengkang.
The first phase is for siblings of pupils currently enrolled in school. All those who register under this phase are guaranteed places.
Parents eyeing other popular schools like Rulang, South View and Pei Hwa Presbyterian, however, were pleasantly surprised to see fewer of these schools' places taken up.
South View in Choa Chu Kang saw 41 per cent of its places filled under Phase 1 this year, compared to 48 per cent last year.
Rulang in Jurong West had 53 per cent of its places taken up last year in the first phase compared to 42 per cent this year.
The drop in numbers at some schools cannot be attributed to lower births as some parents speculated on Internet forums such as KiasuParents.com. According to official birth statistics, the cohort size registering this year is 39,490, compared to 38,317 last year.
To match the bigger cohort size, the Ministry of Education made available 42,580 Primary 1 places at 190 schools for next year, which is 660 more than the number of vacancies for this year.
Many of the popular schools, especially the single-sex schools, had only about a third of their places taken up. These include St Andrew's Junior School and Methodist Girls' School.
Final figures posted on the ministry's website last night though show that another 40 or so schools had at least 40 per cent of their places subscribed under the phase.
Parents who spoke to The Straits Times said they are sending their younger offspring to the same school mainly out of convenience.
Mr Mohsain Asmuni, who has enrolled his fourth child in Anchor Green Primary, said that the teachers are also caring and good. "The next nearest school is Nan Chiau Primary, but it's ridiculously hard to get into," said Mr Mohsain, 43, a general manager in a shipping company.
The next phase - 2A(1) which will be held on Tuesday - will be closely watched by parents.
Under the phase, parents who have joined the school's alumni association at least one year ahead get priority. Those who serve on the school advisory or management committee also get preference.
But some parents had urged the ministry to review the priority given to alumni as they felt that some do not play an active role in the school.
Some primary schools will be holding open houses this and next weekend. These include Westwood Primary from 9am to noon today and Sengkang Green Primary next Saturday from 9am to 11.30am.
More information can be found on the individual school websites.