SINGAPORE - Children with social and behavioural difficulties will get more help to ease into primary school, with a new one-year programme that provides early intervention.
Minister of State for Education, and Social and Family Development, Ms Sun Xueling, said in Parliament that all primary schools will run the Transit programme by 2026.
Transit - short for Transition Support for Integration - has been piloted by the Ministry of Education (MOE) since 2017.
The scheme helps pupils learn foundational self-management skills, with the support of allied educators (learning and behavioural support) and teachers. This is done in small groups and within form classes.
They learn to manage their emotions, develop social and communication etiquette, and pick up good classroom habits like taking turns to answer questions.
Ms Sun, who was responding to questions by Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC) and Mr Shawn Huang (Jurong GRC), said: "By the end of Primary 1, students should be able to learn independently in class, with occasional help."
By the end of this year, about 40 schools would have piloted Transit, she added. About five to 10 Primary 1 pupils in each school are on this scheme each year.
Ms Sun said the outcomes have been promising, with most pupils showing improvement in their social and behavioural skills, and in the ability to learn in classrooms independently.
The MOE will provide professional development for educators as it rolls out Transit to more schools. The training will also equip them to support other students with special educational needs.
Ms Sun said the MOE is also working with Presbyterian Community Services to expand Grace Orchard School, a government-funded special education (Sped) school which caters to students aged seven to 18 with mild intellectual disability.
With the expansion, the school in Jurong West will have space for 600 students, up from 450 currently.
This will also help meet demand for places in the West region, added Ms Sun.
From the second half of this year, the school will be located at an interim site - the former Clementi Woods Secondary School in West Coast Road.
The upgrades will include dedicated vocational training facilities, larger classrooms and more space for students who also have autism spectrum disorder, along with outdoor fitness areas and sheltered playgrounds.
In response to Ms Phua and Mr Patrick Tay (Pioneer), who had asked about Sped students' transition from school to work, Ms Sun said that about half of Sped graduates are successfully employed or have progressed to post-secondary educational institutions like the Institute of Technical Education and other training programmes.
Sped graduates progress to initiatives like the School-to-Work Transition Programme by MOE, the Ministry of Social and Family Development and SG Enable, which provides customised training and job matching.
The MOE will continue to monitor demand for Sped school places and work with social service agencies to provide sufficient capacity, and review school facilities.
The ministry had earlier announced that it would set up seven new schools for students with autism spectrum disorder in the years ahead, to cater to growing demand for places for those with such needs.
Plans to expand and redevelop Chaoyang School and Tanglin School, which are for students with mild intellectual disability, were also released last November.
Currently, about 6,500 students, or 20 per cent of those with special needs, are in 19 government-funded Sped schools, which provide customised support for those requiring higher intervention.
The rest, 80 per cent, or 26,500 students, including those with dyslexia, mild autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, attend mainstream schools and access the national curriculum.