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Jump in infant-care enrolment at My First Skool centres piloting shared infant-toddler spaces

SINGAPORE — The 12 early childhood centres that are piloting spaces shared by infants and toddlers have seen more parents taking up the infant-care services, due to the assurance that their children will be able to progress to toddler care at the same centre.

Jump in infant-care enrolment at My First Skool centres piloting shared infant-toddler spaces

Older toddlers and younger infants learning together at My First Skool at Havelock Road as part of a co-sharing pilot for infants and toddlers. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY

SINGAPORE — The 12 early childhood centres that are piloting spaces shared by infants and toddlers have seen more parents taking up the infant-care services, due to the assurance that their children will be able to progress to toddler care at the same centre.

At the 12 My First Skool centres, run by NTUC First Campus, infant care intake has doubled on average.

Three of the centres in Tampines, Marine Terrace and Yishun began piloting the co-sharing model in November 2016. When found to be successful, nine more came on board last November after discussions with the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA).

Infants (aged two to 18 months) and toddlers (aged 18 to 35 months) are traditionally physically segregated at early childhood centres.

Parents were reluctant to enroll their children in infant care as they did not know if the children could progress to toddler care — which is generally highly in demand — at the same centre, said NTUC First Campus group professional practices officer Geraldine Teo-Zuzarte on Thursday (March 8).

The co-sharing model was announced by Senior Parliamentary Secretary Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim on Wednesday (March 7) at the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s (MSF) Committee of Supply debate.

The ECDA said it would review the pilot before deciding whether to extend it to other centres.

As with all centres licensed by ECDA, the centres involved in the pilot require sufficient trained teachers overseeing the children at all times of the day. The space norms for infants and toddlers at the participating centres are also comparable to other centres, to ensure the safety and well-being of children are not compromised, the agency said.

Co-sharing allows infants to transition to toddler care in a familiar space, and infants nearing 18 months-old are also able to interact with toddlers who are slightly older than them.

“This has given (the children) a lot more security in the way they are growing, and parents are happy that there is less crying in the transitioning to toddler space, within the same space that they have grown up as infants,” Dr Teo-Zuzarte told reporters during a media visit to the My First Skool centre at Havelock Road on Thursday.

Mr Chua Poh Leng, who enrolled his 16-month-old son Owen in infant care at My First Skool Block 51 Havelock when he was four months old, told TODAY that he and his wife were already on the lookout for another centre when Owen turned one year old. They then learnt he was guaranteed a space at the same centre.

“Now, we don’t have to hunt for another school for him, and he’s used to the environment here,” said Mr Chua, 41, a customer experience professional.

Asked if he was concerned about germs spreading between the infants and toddlers, Mr Chua said the centre took prompt action previously when hand, foot and mouth disease emerged.

Low partitions in the infant care bay serve as boundaries between the infants and the toddlers, so as to ensure their health, safety and well-being, said an ECDA spokesperson.

Dr Teo-Zuzarte added: “We use existing health and safety parameters, in terms of sanitisation and temperature-taking. Disease management is already looked into as part of our services.”

At the first three My First Skool pilot centres, total infant-care enrolment jumped from 35 in 2016 to 73 in 2017, and Dr Teo said more teachers were hired.

 

 

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