Something new, something bold

Something new, something bold
Teacher Valerie Tan conducting a maths lesson with a Primary 1 class in Northoaks Primary School. The school is one of three new primary schools that opened last year.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Madam Rachel Kow, 35, who lives in the Sembawang area, had already put in 40 hours of volunteer work at a nearby primary school to secure a place for her daughter.

But a few days in 2013 before she was due to submit her application there, the sales and marketing manager heard that a new primary school, Northoaks, would be set up in the neighbourhood the following year.

She decided to attend the school's publicity talk, helmed by its principal, Mrs Theresa Hong, 48.

Madam Kow eventually changed her mind and enrolled her daughter, Janelle Yeo, at Northoaks.

The mother of three said: "Mrs Hong spoke a lot about developing a child's character and values. She didn't just focus on the academic parts. She really convinced me that my child would be in good hands."

Janelle is now in Primary 2, and Madam Kow is one satisfied parent.

Northoaks Primary is one of three primary schools - the others are West Spring Primary in Bukit Panjang, and Alexandra Primary in Bukit Merah - that opened last year. While new primary schools have no academic or co-curricular track records to speak of, some parents, such as Madam Kow, have chosen to take a chance with them.

Some said they were drawn to the schools' leaders, while others said they wanted their children to be in a small and homely environment, which a new school provides.

When the Ministry of Education announced who the leaders for the new primary schools would be in 2013, it put Alexandra Primary School into the spotlight.

Its principal, Mrs Lim Bee Lay, had formerly helmed Maha Bodhi School, while its vice-principal, Ms Chan Yan Hoon, used to serve in the same post in CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School (Primary).

Madam Pauline Soo, 41, who runs an online craft business, chose Alexandra Primary for her two sons, Ayden and Kaleb Lin.

She had been considering other schools in the area right up to the eve of the start of Phase 2C, the fifth of seven stages of the Primary 1 registration exercise, for those with no links to schools.

"But I found out about Alexandra Primary and that it has good leaders.

I heard good things about the principal in forums online and that gave me confidence," she said.

Among the three, Alexandra Primary received the most interest, going by its enrolment numbers.

In 2013, it had a total of 232 applications for 210 vacancies. Last year, at Phase 2C, it offered 187 spots, but received 254 applications.

In Phase 2C last year, 191 children registered for 222 places at West Spring Primary, while 65 were gunning for 201 spots at Northoaks Primary.

Parents at West Spring Primary said its pull factors were its play-based learning style started by its principal, Mrs Jacinta Lim who had led Yangzheng Primary School in Serangoon.

Madam Chandrasekaran Menambigai, 33, whose Primary 2 son studies there, said she read up about programmes that Mrs Lim had planned previously.

The housewife said: "I have confidence that she'll make a difference at the school.

My son enjoys using Lego to learn fractions. It's more colourful and his interest in mathematics has increased."

This article was first published on June 27, 2015.
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