At least 45 childcare centres to be built this year

SINGAPORE: The government will build 45 new childcare centres across the island this year.

The number excludes private centres that may come on board.

Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing gave this update on Thursday as he visited two centres on the first day of school.

The minister said the government is “on track” to meeting its target of expanding childcare places.

60 centres were built last year, accounting for some 6,000 extra places.

The aim is to add 20,000 more places by 2017 – enough for one in two children – up from the current one in three.

Mr Chan said more attention will be paid to estates with young families, and where there is high demand, such as Jurong, Bukit Panjang, Punggol and Sengkang.

There are 30 centres in Punggol. Another 17 centres will be built by end-2017.

In neighbouring Sengkang, there are 73 centres, with another 19 expected to be built around the same period.

Mr Chan said: “We know that parents have three usual places that they send their children to for pre-school and childcare. One is of course near their homes, second one is near their place of work and the other one is near their grandparents where the grandparents will help to take care of their children.

“For some of the newer towns like Punggol and Sengkang, where the demand is a bit higher because they may not have as much grandparent support, we are expanding the cohort participation rate from the current one-in-three at the national level to about one-in-two for Punggol and Sengkang.”

Efforts are underway to site childcare centres in more accessible areas. It is also a way to address space constraints in Singapore.

Sites like multi-storey carparks and old interchanges will be used for the new centres, as compared to centres being typically located at Housing & Development Board void decks.

As more centres are built, the ministry also plans to double the manpower pipeline in four to five years and introduce measures to enhance retention rate.

In the meantime, some centres are experimenting with ways to manage the manpower crunch.

Serene Liew, childcare supervisor at PCF Sparkletots Punggol West, said: “We have formed a parents’ support group whereby we ask fathers and mothers to join us to help in the centres’ programmes, for example excursions and reading programmes.”

She said parents are trained before they are given the role of auxiliary teachers.

Without the initiative, the centre would have to tap the manpower resources of other PCF centres to manage the shortfall.

Ms Liew said this would inadvertently put additional strain on other centres.

So far, PCF Sparkletots Punggol West has managed to rope in about 10 parents into the programme.

Separately, Mr Chan said his ministry will make an announcement on the expanded Anchor Operator scheme in the first quarter of this year.

The ministry is currently evaluating 16 bids.

The Anchor Operator scheme was expanded to include private pre-schools last year.

Under scheme, the government provides recurrent grants to help lower the operating costs for eligible operators. 

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At least 45 childcare centres to be built this year
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