Sports school's prize rule upsets parents

A revised clause in the students' Sports Handbook over the distribution of prizes won by students has struck a raw nerve with several parents at the Singapore Sports School (SSP).

Student-athletes who win prizes, which could include money or products, while representing SSP will now have to give them to the school starting from this year.

This is in contrast to the previous clause, which stated that students could keep their winnings as long as the prizes were not "clearly awarded to the SSP".

More than 20 parents, whose children are mainly in the school's bowling team, have met school officials twice to voice their concerns.

At the second meeting on Sunday, the chairman of the school's parent volunteer network Stephen Lowe told the upset parents that the school would not rescind the clause.

The meetings were triggered in part by the school holding some A$3,000 (S$3,265) in prize money which some students won in an Australian bowling competition last month.

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Parents who spoke to The Straits Times said it was not a question of money but a matter of principle.

They claimed the clause had been revised without their knowledge. Instead, students were told that they and their parents had to sign a new Sports Handbook, which included the revised clause in the school's code of conduct.

The parents declined to reveal their names to protect their children.

One said: "We spend up to $20,000 a year to support our child's passion. In a very good year, the prize money would be only a few thousand dollars.

"It doesn't even offset much. But how can they just decide to change a binding clause without at least informing us?"

She added that parents also bear a significant portion of the costs incurred when their children compete overseas.

In a statement, the SSP, which comes under the purview of the Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth, confirmed a revision over the issue of prizes had been made.

The statement added: "The prize monies are to be channelled back to the individual sports academies for them to make use of in their programmes which can include local and overseas training and competitions, developmental activities and community projects."

But the parents are unconvinced about how the money will exactly be used.

They added that when they raised the issue with school principal Tan Teck Hock at a meeting last month, he told them that money should not be a motivation for the student-athletes.

To which another parent told ST: "That just adds insult to injury. We are already paying so much to help our children chase their dreams and they insinuate that our children are doing this for money when there is not much in the first place."

At the second meeting with Lowe, the parents reiterated that they are still against the new clause.

ST understands that a third meeting for later this week is being planned.

The issue has made its way to Parliament. Last week, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Zainal Sapari, who learnt of the school's new clause from his residents, filed a parliamentary question asking the Ministry of Education (MOE) if it has a policy on how schools should manage prizes won by the students who represent them during competitions.

MOE replied that schools set their own guidelines, though students who have won cash prizes may be encouraged to donate a portion of it to support needy students, or for their own co-curricular activity.

Yesterday, Mr Zainal said: "The school needs to balance the values it wants to inculcate in its students and the expectations of the parents."

One parent said she wants the saga to be resolved soon, and hopes the school can reverse its decision.

"The children are really upset about this. They have back-to-back competitions and this saga is causing them a lot of stress."

This article was first published on 14 Feb, 2017.
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