Parents still hoping to enrol their children in Henry Park Primary School will face near unparalleled competition this year.
Just nine places are left - the fewest in years for any school - after Phase 2A(2) of Primary 1 registration closed yesterday. This phase is meant for a child whose parent or sibling is a former pupil or a member of staff there.
Other schools left with fewer than 30 places include Ai Tong School in Bishan, Red Swastika School in Bedok, CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School in Ang Mo Kio and Nan Hua Primary in Clementi.
Parents say these schools are established in their respective districts. They also offer the gifted education programme or are Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools with a focus on Chinese culture, accounting for their popularity.
But this also means a tight squeeze for parents hoping to find a place for their children in the next phases. Remaining spots are split between next week's Phase 2B, which includes children whose parents volunteer at the school, and the following 2C, which is for Singaporeans and permanent residents without a connection to the institution.
At Henry Park Primary School, this works out to five places for 2B and another four in 2C.
A total of 64 out of 190 schools have fewer than half of their Primary 1 places left after the latest phase of registration.
Eight out of 10 schools in the Bukit Timah and Novena area, including Nanyang Primary School and Anglo-Chinese School (Primary), saw more than 50 per cent filled. The same was reported for Greendale Primary School and Mee Toh School in Punggol.
Parents have renewed calls to review giving priority to children of alumni, complaining that most parents do not contribute to the school after they leave.
Engineer Goh Teck Cheng, 34, who will enrol his son for primary school in three years time, described yesterday's Phase 2A(2) results as "ridiculous".
While the contribution of alumni need to be acknowledged, he said, they should not be allowed to send their children to the school if they live far away.
Ms Anthea Lee, 35, believes spots for alumni should be capped. She lives within 1km of Nan Hua Primary but would not be a enrolling her son there this year. "I tried two years ago with my daughter; I don't want to be disappointed again," said the housewife, whose daughter is in St Margaret's Primary School.
Retired primary school principal Christine Ho said the system should allow only active alumni who can "show what they have done to help continue the school's tradition".
Ms Tanya Prasad, whose 13-year-old son had studied in Henry Park, managed to enrol her six-year-old daughter Saloni Sinha there yesterday. "But even if I didn't get in, I would not have been devastated," said the commodities trader, 41.
Additional reporting by Pearl Lee