Some childcare centres to become early years centres

A class being conducted at PCF Sparkletots Centre at Hillion Mall in Bukit Panjang.
A class being conducted at PCF Sparkletots Centre at Hillion Mall in Bukit Panjang.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Some of the 184 childcare centres run by PCF Sparkletots, the largest pre-school operator here, will be converted to "early years centres" (EYCs) that admit children aged up to four, instead of up to seven.

In these centres, all eligible Singaporean and permanent resident Nursery 2 children will be guaranteed a place in a nearby Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergarten. On average, 60 per cent of places will be reserved for them.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said at the National Day Rally on Sunday that more EYCs - on top of the first four announced in February - would be set up to address the shortage of pre-school places for children aged up to four.

The first four EYCs, run by NTUC's My First Skool and PCF Sparkletots, are expected to open in Punggol next year. They will partner an existing MOE kindergarten and three new ones set to open next year.

Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said that the setting up of new MOE kindergartens and EYCs in a new town such as Punggol will expand the pre-school places in the whole age group from birth to six years old.

Most of the 13 new MOE kindergartens that will open in 2019 and 2020 will also have partner EYCs run by PCF Sparkletots. Some of these will be new, while others could be converted from existing childcare centres, said MOE.

Most of the 13 new MOE kindergartens that will open in 2019 and 2020 will also have partner EYCs run by PCF Sparkletots. Some of these will be new, while others could be converted from existing childcare centres.

Details will be released on the MOE kindergarten website at 10am today.

Mr Victor Bay, chief executive of the PAP Community Foundation (PCF), which operates PCF Sparkletots and is the charity arm of the People's Action Party, said: "By focusing on the early years, PCF will be able to make a bigger impact on children's development and educational outcomes in the most critical phase of their development, from birth to four years old."

The Government had earlier said EYCs would be run by anchor operators, which receive government grants and priority in securing sites, but must meet fee caps and quality criteria.

When asked why PCF, one of five anchor operators, is taking the lead in setting up EYCs, an MOE spokesman said it wants to make sure the partnership model works before expanding it to other anchor operators.

Priscilla Goy

Correction note: The article has been edited to reflect that most, and not all, of the 13 new MOE kindergartens that will open in 2019 and 2020 will also have partner EYCs run by PCF Sparkletots.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2017, with the headline 'Some childcare centres to become early years centres'. Print Edition | Subscribe