Big childcare boost soon for Punggol

Work began yesterday on the second of five large childcare centres being created in Singapore.

The size of four Olympic-size swimming pools, the Punggol centre will be able to cater for 500 children when it opens by the middle of next year - five times the number that a typical pre-school in a Housing Board estate can handle.

It will be run by EtonHouse International's E-Bridge Pre-School. All five centres are due to open by the end of next year.

Work began on the first of these, in Sengkang, on Aug 11. Run by NTUC First Campus' My First Skool, it will be able to take in 500 children, but is half the size of the 5,000 sq m E-Bridge centre.

All five centres will be run by anchor operators that get government grants and priority in securing sites in HDB estates. However, they must keep fees below $720 a month, among other conditions.

They are part of the Government's efforts to meet the high demand for childcare places, especially in new estates with many young families.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin was guest of honour at yesterday's groundbreaking ceremony. MP for Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC Penny Low was also present, along with potential PAP candidate Ng Chee Meng, the former chief of defence force.

Ms Low welcomed the setting up of the E-Bridge centre, saying: "We don't have many void decks here, and if you want to meet a sudden increase in childcare demand, then you need to think out of the box."

Punggol resident and credit controller Renee Koh, 33, who has two children aged four and seven, faced long waiting lists at childcare centres. She said: "With more large centres set up here, I may consider having a third child."

Sited opposite Horizon Primary School, the E-Bridge centre will have innovative design features such as temperature-measurement equipment for mass health screenings - a first for pre-schools here. There are also plans for a running and cycling track, a rooftop garden and areas for water and sand play.

EtonHouse founder Ng Gim Choo said: "The centre is designed based on research and focused on providing a creative, inspiring and effective learning environment to stimulate the development of young learners."

The Sengkang and Punggol centres will be open for registration next January, and are expected to be ready by mid-2016.

Three more large centres will be built in Jurong West, Woodlands and Yishun by the end of next year.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.