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PCF Sparkletots’ largest early years centre officially opens in Punggol North

SINGAPORE — Play areas with water and sand, an herb and vegetable farm and a culinary room are among the purpose-built spaces that children aged two months to four years enjoy at a new mega childcare centre in Punggol North.

PCF Sparkletots’ largest early years centre officially opens in Punggol North

The herbs and vegetables farm at PCF Sparkletots @ Punggol North.

SINGAPORE — Play areas with water and sand, an herb and vegetable farm and a culinary room are among the purpose-built spaces that children aged two months to four years enjoy at a new mega childcare centre in Punggol North.

The centre, which officially opened on Saturday (April 20) and is able to take in 1,060 children, is the operator People’s Action Party Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots’ first and largest early years centre.

Early years centres admit children up to age four instead of seven, and Singaporean and Permanent Resident children will have a guaranteed place at a nearby MOE Kindergarten when they turn five.

The 108,000 sq ft centre in Punggol North has a built-up area of over 90,000 sq ft and is the PCF’s only early years centre that is not located at a void deck.

It began operations in May last year and currently has 449 children enrolled.

The Punggol North centre – the only affected PCF preschool to still use catering services after a recent food poisoning outbreak, due to its large enrollment size – also aims to build in-house kitchen facilities “whenever (it is) possible”, said PCF chief executive Victor Bay to reporters.

“Construction takes time. The structure is already in place, so (to build the cooking facilities) you have to (redo) certain layers, lay certain pipes. It takes time, but we endeavour to convert as soon as we can,” said Mr Bay.  

EARLY YEARS CURRICULUM

The centre aims to make a positive impact on child development and education while addressing growing childcare needs, said Ms Marini Khamis, senior director of PCF’s preschool management division.

“Research has shown that the early years are critical for brain development, and experiences in this phase have lasting effects on life outcomes, in social, emotional and intellectual areas,” she said.

As such, the centre’s learning approach prioritises language, exposure to the mother tongue language, development of motor skills through music and movement, early maths, the arts and sensorial activities.

NURSES AMONG STAFF MEMBERS

The centre currently has 131 programme staff comprising 92 teachers, 37 assistant teachers as well as two state-registered nurses.

The centre has tried to go beyond the staff-child ratio stipulated by the Early Childhood Development Agency, said executive principal Kathryn Goy.

The agency stipulates that one staff member can only be in charge of a maximum of five infants, eight toddlers, 12 Nursery One children or 15 Nursery Two students. “We actually put in extra staff given that we have outdoor space,” said Ms Goy.

As enrolment increases, more staff will be hired.

In a first for PCF preschools, state-registered nurses are also part of the staff team, due to the centre’s large scale of operations and the number of young children.

“If this arrangement proves to be successful, we would be open to see if such expertise should be available, maybe as a central resource, that PCF can then deploy to support other centres,” said Ms Marini.

SPECIALISED PLAY AREAS

The Punggol North centre is one of 12 PCF early years centres that are currently operating. The other centres each have 30 to 180 children enrolled.

By 2021, PCF Sparkletots will operate 38 early years centres.

The children are divided into four age groups: Infants (two to 18 months), toddlers (18 to 24 months), Nursery One (two to three years old) and Nursery Two (three to four years old).

The Infant Play Area at PCF Sparkletots @ Punggol North.

To cater to age-specific needs, there are specialised play areas meant only for a certain age group. There is an Infant Play Area for the youngest ones, and an Adventure Park targeted at the older kids who have learnt to walk.

While the curriculum is uniform across all early years centres, Ms Marini said the purpose-built environment helps to “bring out the best” outcomes for the children.

Related topics

childcare preschool education

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