EIGHT schools had more than half their places filled when Phase 1 of the Primary 1 registration exercise ended yesterday - five fewer schools than last year.
However, it does not mean that parents seeking their desired school are going to find their task any easier in the later phases.
Going by last year's demand, at least three primary schools look like they might face a ballot at the later Phase 2A2, thanks to the introduction of a new rule that reserves 40 places for children with no ties to the schools.
These are CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls' School, Red Swastika School and Henry Park Primary.
The Education Ministry announced last year that all schools will first set aside 40 places for children registering in Phases 2B and 2C, before offering the remaining slots to those in Phases 1 and 2.
With 40 of CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls' School's 210 vacancies reserved, it had 72 children applying for its 170 places when Phase 1 ended yesterday. This leaves just 98 spots for children hoping to enter the school via Phases 2A1 and 2A2.
Last year, the girls' school in Ang Mo Kio had a total of 120 children applying in Phases 2A1 and 2A2.
Phase 2A1 is meant for children whose parents have officially joined the school's alumni association for at least a year, while 2A2 is for those whose sibling or parents used to go to the school.
Similarly, the popular Henry Park Primary in Holland Grove Road now has only 115 places left for children in Phases 2A1 and 2A2. Last year, it took in 124 pupils in the two phases.
In past years, balloting rarely occurred at Phase 2A2 as it was still considered an early stage of the registration exercise. Schools typically require balloting from Phase 2B onwards.
Phase 2B, which is for children whose parents have volunteered for at least 40 hours in a school, have served at least a year as a grassroots leader or have relevant church and clan associations, has intensified in competition in recent years.
More parents are opting to volunteer their time and effort to increase their chances of getting their child into a particular school. This has led to some schools tightening their volunteering criteria and some even scrapping the scheme altogether.
Phase 2C, often regarded as the most competitive registration phase, is for all Singaporean children and permanent residents without a school at the end of Phase 2B. Under this phase, those living nearer to the school are considered first.
When the new ruling of setting aside 40 places for children with no ties to the primary schools was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last year, parents raised concerns that it might stiffen competition in the earlier phases and could lead to balloting in Phase 2A2.
Housewife Judy Koh, 41, registered her second daughter at Rosyth School yesterday. She volunteered there three years ago to secure a spot for her first daughter, who is now in Primary 2.
"Signing up as a parent volunteer for my first daughter was worth it," she said.
Phase 1 is meant for children whose siblings are currently studying in the same primary school.
The eight schools to have more than 50 per cent of their capacity filled when Phase 1 ended yesterday were Radin Mas Primary, Bukit Panjang Primary, Shuqun Primary, Pasir Ris Primary, Mee Toh School, Canberra Primary, Rosyth School and Innova Primary.
Parents hoping to register their children in Phase 2A1 can do so next Tuesday.
This article was first published on July 5, 2014.
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