SINGAPORE - Two special education schools serving students with mild intellectual disability will have a joint campus, and redeveloped to accommodate more students.
Chaoyang School and Tanglin School, which are both run by the Association for Persons with Special Needs, will also have more facilities to cater to students across the autism spectrum.
The special education (Sped) schools will be located at the former Da Qiao Primary School in Ang Mo Kio in 2025. Chaoyang School is currently also located in Ang Mo Kio and Tanglin School is in Bukit Merah.
At the new site, Chaoyang School will provide 400 primary-level places and Tanglin School will have 350 secondary-level places. They currently have 320 and 260 students enrolled respectively.
Minister of State for Education Sun Xueling, who spoke to reporters during a visit to Chaoyang School on Thursday (Nov 5), said the schools hope to provide more places for children with mild intellectual disability who live in the north-Eastern and central regions of Singapore.
Ms Sun, who is also Minister of State for Social and Family Development, said it will be more convenient for families to have both schools located at the same site. It will also give the students a sense of familiarity.
About 95 per cent of pupils from Chaoyang School typically move into Tanglin School.
The new joint campus will be purpose-built, with larger classrooms and spaces to cater to students, including those who also have autism spectrum disorder.
For instance, there will be more facilities for physical education, sports and games, as well as sheltered and outdoor play courts.
Tanglin School will also have more space set aside for vocational training facilities. It currently has four tracks - food and beverage, retail operations, horticulture and hospitality services.
Its principal Liza Ow said the new campus could in time house a supermarket or retail store for students to train in - an improvement over the mini-mart the school currently operates.
"One of the challenges right now is about space. Our rooms are all over the school, whichever the space that is best able to accommodate that particular vocational education subject, we will use that space," she said.
With the redevelopment, the school will have designated spaces for these vocational education subjects so that students' movement will be minimised and learning will be more conducive.
Parents whose children are now in Chaoyang School said the new joint campus would help ease the children's transition into secondary school.
Ms Chua Shan Shan, 38, whose Primary 5 son was diagnosed with autism, said: "For children with autism, a change in environment can cause a lot of anxiety. Both schools being side by side will help reduce that anxiety and I'm sure there will be a lot of opportunities for staff and students to have more interaction.
"Parents from both schools can also work together to organise learning journeys and activities."
The private tutor, who lives in Hougang, said the campus' location is also a bonus. She was worried about her son needing a longer commute to Bukit Merah.
Said Ms Sun: "We're constantly looking for more new ways to promote inclusive education, be it greater interaction between Sped schools and mainstream schools, or more opportunities between primary schools and secondary schools."
There are currently 19 government-funded Sped schools which provide customised support for 6,600 students with moderate to severe special needs, such as autism and multiple disabilities.