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    May 29, 2015

    Jumbo childcare centres to help meet demand

    FIVE jumbo childcare centres will be ready by the end of next year in areas with high demand for such services.

    The new centres will be built on undeveloped state land in Punggol, Sengkang, Jurong West, Woodlands and Yishun. These areas have higher demand for childcare services as they have more families with young children.

    The centres are likely to be two-storey standalone buildings, each with an average land area of 2,500 sq m, or about the size of nine tennis courts.

    While designs have not been finalised, a spokesman for the Early Childhood Development Agency said the space meant that centres could have outdoor playgrounds nearby and even rooftop gardens.

    The centres are likely to add a total of around 2,000 places, with each centre able to take in 300 to 500 children. A centre in a Housing Board void deck can usually take in only about 100 children.

    The extra places are on top of the 20,000 childcare places that the Government plans to add from 2013 to 2017.

    The centres will be run by anchor operators (AOPs), which means the childcare services offered will be affordable.

    The AOPs get government grants and priority in securing HDB sites to set up centres, but have to keep fees below $720 a month, among other things.

    There are five AOPs, including My First Skool, but it is not clear yet if each AOP will get to manage one of the five centres. The authorities will allocate the sites after discussion with the AOPs.

    Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said these centres will help meet the high demand significantly and reap economies of scale.

    Speaking after a visit to a My First Skool centre in Jurong Point shopping mall, he said: "We recognise that at the very local level, sometimes there are areas where demand is slightly higher than supply... We prefer to be in a situation where there's a bit of buffer."

    With each new centre needing 60 to 70 teachers, Mr Tan said the authorities will continue to attract students and mid-career entrants, and offer them progression opportunities.

    Accountant Michelle Tay, 36, who has two children in a childcare centre in Punggol, said: "Having large centres could mean shorter waiting lists, but some parents may still prefer smaller centres where it is less likely for viruses to spread among children."