When Madam Joanna Foo's first son, Josiah, started Primary 1 in Bendemeer Primary School five years ago, she still toyed with the idea of transferring him elsewhere.
The 40-year-old tutor said: "Bendemeer Primary was actually my third choice."
Her top choices were Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary School in Bishan and St Andrew's Junior School in Upper Serangoon - both popular schools that see more applicants than vacancies in the Primary 1 registration exercise each year.
But a few months in, she had changed her mind. She said: "Josiah's form teacher was very passionate and caring. She would update me about my son regularly and that is very assuring. She impressed me. I realised there are passionate teachers like her in neighbourhood schools, too."
So when the time came for her younger son, Joshua, to start primary school last year, Madam Foo looked no further.
Bendemeer Primary is often not the top choice of parents living near Whampoa when registering their children for primary school.
The area is home to the sought-after Hong Wen School, which has fewer than half its vacancies for Primary 1 next year available, even though this year's registration exercise is still in an early phase.
Civil servant Joanne Tan, 32, believes the idea of a "brand name" school is a myth. "My husband and I didn't attend a branded school, and we turned out fine. I always tell my children that if they put in effort to study, they can do well anywhere. I don't think a child is deprived of any chances just because he is in a neighbourhood school."
Her son, seven, is now in Bendemeer Primary; her daughter, 13, completed her studies there last year. Her son is being treated by a therapist for learning difficulties.
She said: "When I told his form teacher about his condition, I had just expected her to note it down. But she made sure his other teachers and the allied educator were aware of his condition."
The allied educator calls his therapist regularly and they keep each other updated.
Madam Tan added: "The teachers here really go out of the way to help the children."
Bendemeer Primary principal See Lai Kwan said the school aims to be the children's second home.
She said: "We try to create a happy environment here. It's important that the child enjoys learning and coming to school. We often hear parents say that the pupils have very good discipline and the school has a strong caring culture."
This article was first published on July 13, 2015.
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