SINGAPORE - Quarantined pupils who wish to take the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) this year will need to inform the school by 12pm on the day they receive a quarantine order.
They will also need to complete a daily antigen rapid test (ART) at 6pm on the day before each paper.
These were among more detailed rules provided in a circular issued by the Ministry of Education (MOE) ahead of the first PSLE written paper on Thursday (Sept 30).
On Sunday, the ministry and the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board announced new rules allowing quarantined students and those on approved absence to sit their national examinations.
It said then that those on quarantine have to test negative for Covid-19 with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at the start of the quarantine order, and complete a self-swab with ART kits at home and test negative within 24 hours before each examination paper.
The circular on Tuesday added that quarantined pupils must wait at home for officers to arrive to administer their entry PCR test.
In response to queries from The Straits Times, an MOE spokesman said this will be administered by swab providers appointed by the Ministry of Health (MOH).
The circular noted that a PCR test takes at least 24 hours to be processed such that the earliest a child will be able to sit the PSLE exam is two days after the day of notification.
This means that if a paper is scheduled the day after pupils receive a quarantine order, they will not be able to sit the specific paper but can apply for special consideration through the school.
Under special consideration, a candidate will be awarded a projected grade for a particular paper that takes into consideration multiple sources of data, such as the candidate's performance in other papers for that subject and the school cohort's performance in national and school-based exams.
Officers will also provide ART kits for candidates to conduct daily ARTs while waiting for their entry PCR test results, said the circular. They will be notified about these results via online portal and app HealthHub or SMS.
The MOE spokesman said these would be delivered to their place of residence by the day after the entry PCR swab.
If the entry PCR test is negative, a child has to take an ART that evening before the paper and photograph the negative ART result.
On the day of the paper, the circular said that a pupil will need to show the negative PCR test and a photograph of the ART result to sit the PSLE paper.
He has to continue doing ARTs the day before his remaining papers.
The circular added that quarantined parents may accompany their child to school after satisfying the same requirements.
It reiterated that candidates have to travel directly to the exam venue by private transport or on foot, with no stops in between.
Those who are positive for Covid-19 or on stay-home notice are still not allowed to sit exams this year.
About 39,300 students will be taking the PSLE this year, said the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board. About 1.4 per cent could not take the listening comprehension exams owing to reasons linked to Covid-19, it added.
Mrs Juliana Poh, 41, who is in quarantine at a hotel with her nine-year-old daughter, said she found the many new measures confusing.
Her elder daughter is sitting the PSLE on Thursday.
On Friday night, Mrs Poh said her younger daughter was issued a quarantine order after a classmate tested positive for Covid-19, and it was not a smooth process for both of them to get admitted into a government facility.
Having to deal with many people – such as Certis Cisco officers, teachers and Health Ministry officials – resulted in a “very chaotic” journey, she added.
Mrs Poh said: “On Saturday, the PCR swabber told us that we were eligible to serve our quarantine in a hotel soon so he did not provide ART kits.
“And when we ran out of kits on Sunday morning, a Cisco staff told us that they could only send us a kit in 48 hours.”
She tried to purchase ART kits through Grab but they were sold out.
Mrs Poh, a regional marketing and communications manager, and her daughter were finally picked up and taken to her hotel room on Monday.
She said her daughters’ teachers have been supportive throughout this whole process by updating her with the latest information.
Mrs Poh said: “Teachers especially have borne the brunt of the pandemic by managing all these changes, some of my P6 girl’s teachers have even continued to teach via Zoom throughout their quarantine orders.”
She added the necessary measures ought to have been planned and put in place when the Government said the plan was for Covid-19 to be endemic.
Mrs Poh said: “It just feels very last minute. Why would the ministry release new guidelines at the weekend, a few days before the national exams?”