Pre-school queue in Punggol 'unnecessary'
Govt agency says childcare centre operator had earlier been told to adopt online registration system
Anxious parents have been queueing up overnight to secure places at childcare centres in Punggol.
But the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), which comes under the Ministry of Social and Family Development, yesterday came out to say that this was "unnecessary".
Last weekend, parents had queued from 6.30pm on Friday to register on Saturday for places at two pre-school centres due to open at Rivervale Drive and Rivervale Crescent.
The operator, E-Bridge, was told by the Government to adopt online registration instead of making parents line up.
A week later, the situation was repeated for another upcoming pre-school centre at Edgefield Plains, also to be run by E-Bridge.
Not only was there a snaking line, it had become worse, with parents starting to line up as early as 10am on Friday morning for the registration yesterday.
According to parents in the queue, the pre-school had told them that registration was on a first come, first served basis.
Many were concerned that there would not be sufficient places.
Ms Stephy Lim, who was first in the queue on Friday, said she had come extra early because she had heard about the good response at the other E-Bridge outlets.
But in a sharply-worded statement released to this paper yesterday, the ECDA noted that the overnight queue had caused "much inconvenience" to parents.
The agency said that it told E-Bridge to adopt an online registering system and to allocate priority to those living closest to the centre - rather than on a first come, first served basis.
And even though there seemed to be a big rush last weekend, the agency noted that there were only 170 applicants for 173 childcare places.
And not all the 170 applications were for the upcoming intake.
Some parents were pre-applying for their kids who would start only the year after.
E-Bridge has been told to immediately review its registration system and process.
Besides the three E-Bridge pre-schools, there are also two NTUC childcare centres and a PAP Community Foundation centre due to open in the Punggol area by the end of the year.
Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said in Parliament in Marchthat the Government was on track to create an additional 20,000 childcare places in about 200 centres by 2017.
Last year, 60 new childcare centres were set up, opening up 7,000 new spots for children.
Mr Chan said there would be at least 45 new centres this year, providing 5,000 new places.