Preschool that enables children, seniors to mingle half unfilled due to lack of teachers; dozens of students on waitlist
SINGAPORE — A preschool known for offering activities that allow children and the elderly to mingle is unable to take in more kids due to a lack of teachers.
- The St John’s-St Magaret’s Village was officially opened on Sept 14
- It houses a church, along with a nursing home, senior care centre and preschool
- The preschool, which offers activities involving seniors, has high interest from parents but faces a shortage of teachers
- Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for Social and Family Development, said he is heartened that Little Seeds Preschool had designed its curriculum to facilitate interactions between its students and the seniors
SINGAPORE — A preschool known for offering activities that allow children and the elderly to mingle is unable to take in more kids at all levels except Kindergarten 2, due to a lack of teachers.
Little Seeds Preschool, which began operations in January last year, has a capacity of 154 for children aged two months to six years old.
However, it has only 83 children enrolled to date, or just about 54 per cent of its capacity, despite seeing keen interest from parents.
Little Seeds Preschool has a waitlist of kids who have been registered and those whose parents have paid a deposit to have their children join the school but cannot yet be enrolled until the school hires more teachers.
It also has an additional list of children whose parents have indicated interest to have their kids join the preschool.
There are around 60 children on the two lists combined, said Ms Cara Lee, the deputy pillar head for early childhood development centres at Anglican Preschool Services, which manages the preschool.
“The shortage of manpower is an ongoing thing in the whole early childhood sector,” Ms Lee told TODAY on Wednesday (Sept 14).
She estimates that the school will need around four to seven more educators to fulfil the demand for enrolment.
Earlier this week, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for Social and Family Development, said that an ongoing salary review for early education educators is expected to wrap up in the fourth quarter of this year, with changes implemented next year onwards.
He said the change aims to strike a balance between paying educators for their contributions and skills and being competitive enough to attract and retain talent in the sector.
Little Seeds Preschool principal Angilita Charles said that the preschool is at full capacity for most of its levels due to its internal teacher to student ratio, which is lower than the ratio recommended by the Early Childhood Development Agency.
For instance, while the regulatory body recommends one teacher to every 12 children at the Nursery 1 level, Little Seeds Preschool has one teacher to every eight children. This is to provide more focused care for the children, said Ms Angilita.
The preschool is part of a new integrated facility which officially opened on Wednesday.
Called the St John's-St Margaret's Village, the facility houses the St John's-St Margaret's Nursing Home, the St Andrew's Senior Care (Dover), Little Seeds Preschool (St John's-St Margaret's) and St John's-St Margaret's Church.
All of these are located within the same campus on Dover Road.
The facility, which took nine years to conceptualise and complete, is part of the church's vision to redevelop its land parcel into an "intergenerational village", said the church in a press release on Wednesday.
"We needed to intensify the use of the land and we were inspired by a passage in the Bible that captures a picture of the elderly and young children being and playing together. That's how we came up with the idea for the village," said Mr Larry Choi, who oversaw the redevelopment of the facility and also chairs the nursing home's management committee.
It cost a total of S$60 million to construct and redevelop the facility.
There are close to 260 residents in the St John’s-St Margaret’s Nursing Home, which has a capacity of 266 beds.
The St Andrew’s Senior Care (Dover) has about 70 seniors and a capacity of 80.
PARENTS DRAWN TO INTERGENERATIONAL ACTIVITIES AT PRESCHOOL
Parents whose children are enrolled in the preschool told TODAY that they appreciate the intergenerational activities and other programmes offered by the school.
“(My daughter) was previously at St James' Church Kindergarten and I really loved their pedagogy… when I found out that they had this campus where there’s an elderly home, I thought that was so interesting,” said Ms Anna Hannah Leong, a 38-year-old youth development specialist.
Her two children aged six and four are enrolled at the preschool.
While Covid-19 restrictions have curbed intergenerational activities between children and seniors at the integrated facility, there have been ad hoc events so far such as having the children sing songs for the elderly in the nursing home on National Day.
As restrictions ease, the school intends to have its students participate in activities with seniors regularly from next year. These include having meals and exercising alongside seniors from the nursing home.
The presence of children has enlivened seniors in the nursing home, said Mr Choi.
“Many of our residents have dementia-related issues. Despite that, the presence of young children actually does get through to them and they get very excited about it,” he added.
Speaking at the opening of the facility on Wednesday, Mr Masagos said that he was heartened that Little Seeds Preschool had designed its curriculum to facilitate interactions between its students and the seniors.
"Moving forward, we will need to intensify our efforts and involve more community partners and volunteers in caring for our seniors," added Mr Masagos.
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this article had stated that the preschool is unable to take in more children. It has clarified that it is still able to take in more children at Kindergarten 2 level.
Related topicspreschool seniors MSF St John's-St Margaret's Village nursing home parents
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