Integration was the key issue four newly merged schools tackled as their almost 4,000 students returned to school this week.
The schools are:
•Bartley Secondary (from Bartley Secondary and First Toa Payoh Secondary)
•Fajar Secondary (from Fajar Secondary and Chestnut Drive Secondary)
•Ping Yi Secondary (from Ping Yi Secondary and Bedok Town Secondary)
•Tanglin Secondary (from Tanglin Secondary and Clementi Woods Secondary)
The schools pulled out all the stops to create bonding opportunities for students, while addressing their jitters, which many said they had when it came to fitting in or making new friends.For instance, Ping Yi Secondary sent all its Sec 1 to 3 students to camps this week.
Its principal, Mr Ang Chee Seng, 54, said: "We moved the camps usually held in week 10 to week one to ensure there is time for friendship building and for teachers to know students well enough, and for us to be sensitive to emotions that arise."
Said Shawn Teo, 14, a Sec 3 student from Fajar Secondary: "It doesn't feel the same, but we all try to get along and get to know each other. We had ice-breakers on our first day, which helped."
With falling enrolment rates and shrinking student populations previously cited as reasons for merging, schools said combining their strengths meant a larger number of students could benefit from new school niches, and a choice of more subjects and co-curricular activities (CCAs).
However, some CCAs will be phased out because member numbers remain low even after the mergers, or because of a lack of facilities. For instance, the merged Bartley Secondary does not have an air weapons club - a CCA from First Toa Payoh Secondary - because the school does not have a range for the sport.
Sec 3 student Eleasha Alimagno Oribiana, 14, who was formerly from that CCA, will be exploring her options at tomorrow's CCA open house. She said: "We had to change CCAs, but we will get to try new things."
This year, seven other secondary schools do not have Sec 1 cohorts because there was not enough demand in their areas to open classes. The education ministry said last month that more low-enrolment schools may be merged, with details to come.
The merged schools operating this year each have three to six Sec 1 classes.
•Look out for a more in-depth report on merged schools in The Straits Times' publication for secondary schools, IN, on Monday. •To subscribe, please contact Ms Amy Leo at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ms Carmen Choy at email@example.com
THE NEW BARTLEY SEC
Offers Bartley's Learning for Life Programme in community youth leadership and retains First Toa Payoh's niche in outdoor experiential learning
THE NEW FAJAR SEC
Retains Chestnut Drive's Applied Learning Programme in water and energy sustainability and Fajar's Learning for Life Programme in leadership development
THE NEW PING YI SEC
Combines Bedok Town's niche in aeronautics and Ping Yi's niche in design education to offer an Applied Learning Programme in design and aeronautical engineering
THE NEW TANGLIN SEC
Taps strengths in science and the arts, such as continuing Clementi Woods' guppy hybridisation project and Tanglin's compulsory aesthetics classes for Sec 1 and 2 students
This article was first published on January 2016, 2016.
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