FIVE jumbo childcare centres will be ready by the end of next year in areas with high demand for childcare services.
The centres will be built on undeveloped state land in Punggol, Sengkang, Jurong West, Woodlands and Yishun. These areas have higher demand for childcare services as they have more families with young children.
The centres are likely to be two-storey standalone buildings, each with an average land area of 2,500 sq m, or nine tennis courts.
While designs have not been finalised, a spokesman for the Early Childhood Development Agency said the large space meant that these centres could have outdoor playgrounds nearby and even rooftop gardens.
The centres are likely to add a total of around 2,000 places to the pool, with each of these new ones able to take in 300 to 500 children. A centre in a Housing Board void deck can usually admit only about 100 children.
The extra places are on top of the 20,000 childcare places that the Government plans to add from 2013 to 2017.
The centres will be run by anchor operators, so childcare services offered will be affordable. The anchor operators get government grants and priority in securing HDB sites to set up centres, but have to keep fees below $720 a month, among other things.
There are five anchor operators, including My First Skool, but it is not clear yet if each will get to manage one of the five centres. The authorities will allocate the sites after discussions with the anchor operators.
Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said these centres will help meet the high demand significantly and reap economies of scale. Speaking after a visit to a My First Skool centre in Jurong Point mall, he said: "We recognise that at the very local level, sometimes there are areas where demand is slightly higher than supply... We prefer to be in a situation where there's a bit of buffer."
My First Skool has 11 centres that each have over 200 places. Its general manager Adeline Tan said the large space has allowed the operator to have special themed studios for teaching certain subjects, and more spaces for staff to engage parents.
With each new large centre needing 60 to 70 teachers, Mr Tan said the authorities will continue to attract students and mid-career entrants, and offer them progression opportunities.
Accountant Michelle Tay, 36, who has two children in a childcare centre in Punggol, said: "Having large centres could mean shorter waiting lists, but some parents may still prefer smaller centres where it is less likely for health viruses to spread among children."
This article was first published on May 29, 2015.
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