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Orientation, Uniforms, School Transfers: Your Newbie School Questions Answered By Our Community!

Primary School Orientation

The Primary 1 registration process is over for the majority of children involved in this year’s exercise. However, the school journey has barely begun. What are parents’ concerns at this stage?

Below, we highlight some recent questions that parents have asked on our forum, along with the useful advice that our members have provided.

Question: What do we need to bring or prepare for the school orientation programme? Do we need to bring our kid along for the orientation? How long is the orientation?

Don’t just attend the school orientation talk and visit only the bookshop. While you’re there, spend some time walking around the school compound, and introduce your child to the canteen, the library, the garden, and the playground. If your child is interested in a specific activity, you can recce the school’s facilities, such as the tennis court, sports field, music room, and so on. — Estéema

Yes, bring your child. The children will go to their classroom with their teachers, where they will meet their new classmates and attend their own briefing—a first taste of primary school life. The orientation event is usually conducted over two to three hours. This includes the parents’ briefing, and the opportunity to walk around the school to have a look-see. — Zappy

The orientation will be a madhouse, with long queues, kids trying on school uniforms… If you know which uniform supplier is assigned to your child’s school, you should make a separate trip to buy the uniforms instead of joining the crush on orientation day. — BrieBee

[Editor’s note: There is no need to be unduly concerned about preparing for the orientation, as it is the school’s responsibility to contact parents with details about the programme. To avoid the orientation crowds, you can also purchase textbooks and make arrangements for the school bus service on a separate day. If your child’s school is part of the Pacific Bookstores network, you can order your child’s textbooks and school materials online, and have them delivered to your home.]

Question: How many sets of uniforms do we need to buy?

For school uniforms, it is best to check with school vendors, or even form teachers or parents of kids already attending the school. My son’s school allows them to wear their PE attire five days a week—he hardly wears his school uniform. — Tokidoki

Do check what the school practises. In some schools, there is a separate set of PE attire—a different top and bottom—whereas in other schools, like my daughter’s school, you can wear the same top with PE shorts. I wash clothes daily, so I bought three uniform sets and two PE bottoms. When purchasing uniforms, bring along a set of your child’s clothes as a guide. Then you won’t have to waste time getting your child to try on the uniform. — LLL_Family

For busy parents, I strongly suggest five sets of uniforms and two pairs of shoes, if your budget is not too tight. Then you won’t have to wash anything until the weekend. This will save you hassle and time during your precious weekdays. For shoes, Bata’s in-house brand (BFirst) has school shoes that have sufficient support for PE and running around. Do check them out. They almost look like sports shoes, and are much improved from the thin canvas shoes that we wore during our school days. — zac’s mum

Don’t buy expensive shoes, especially for boys. I’ve heard from friends that their son’s shoes have lasted for only three to six months before they’ve had to replace them. — BrieBee

Question: Do all primary schools have a Primary 1 waitlist?

Primary 1 waitlists differ from year to year, and from management to management. Parents who are keen should visit their desired school and ask politely. — floppy

Question: What are the chances of someone withdrawing from a school before their kid starts Primary 1, and the school giving the seat to us? I’m desperately hoping for my son to get into the school that we’ve not been successful in balloting for.

Sometimes it’s a case of the parents who are alumni of some popular school—suddenly one day, they realize how far away the school actually is, in practical terms. Perhaps the kid needs to wake up at a ridiculous time, or there are no satisfactory school bus arrangements. That’s when they will withdraw from the alumni school and enrol in a school nearer to their home with plenty of vacancies left. A situation like this would free up a seat for the next person on the waitlist. That person would then withdraw his or her child from the child’s allocated school, freeing up another seat, and so on. — zac’s mum

There are parents who may have chosen a neighbourhood school less than 1km away from their home in Phase 2C. Their kids may be on a waitlist for their desired schools, which they didn’t qualify for in the earlier phases. If they manage to get into those schools, they will withdraw from the neighbourhood school, resulting in an available space. — floppy

Question: Is it common for principals to meet with parents who have failed to secure a place in a school during the balloting process? Does this signal that we have a higher chance of getting in? Is it common practice to follow up with calls to a school after applying for the waiting list?

If the principal is willing to meet you, it does look promising but don’t get your hopes up too high. Make the appointment to see him or her as soon as possible. — janet88

There’s no hard and fast rule, and it’s up to the individual whether you wish to call the school periodically to check on vacancies. I tried calling up a school before I applied in Phase 2CS—with a glimmer of hope—and was disappointed. I will try calling the school again, perhaps in November. — sannnz

It is really about timing and whom you talk to in a school. In our case, we managed to get a transfer without being on the school’s waiting list, in my child’s Primary 2 year. We simply talked to the school’s principal and told her our “sad” story. The principal checked on the school’s vacancies, and coincidentally, a Leave Of Absence space had been given up, so we got it. This happened in the first week of January. — aloyboy

Question: How do we go about the transferring of schools, other than for the reason of moving to a new home? Can transfers be done in the middle of an academic year? What are the steps involved?

From what I know, you can request to transfer your child to another school at any time that you want, for any reason. Get the transfer form directly from the general office of your desired school and submit it along with a photocopy of your child’s report book and other certificates. If the school has a place, they will assess your application. It’s as simple as that.

I don’t think the “quality” of the school you’re transferring from really matters. More likely, what matters is your child’s results and other achievements. You can liken it to a job application. If there’s only one vacancy, the employer will pick the best overall candidate. Example: If a child is from a “good” school but has poor results—and no extracurricular achievements—he or she will likely lose the place to a child from an average school, but with excellent results, awards, and talent to boot. — zac’s mum

I believe schools will generally ask for the child’s most recent exam results. I applied for my daughter to transfer to another school at the end of Primary 2 (term 3). I attached her results up to P2 SA1 (semestral assessment 1). The school called at the beginning of the November holidays to offer my daughter a place, and they also asked us to submit her latest results. Note that the offer was given to us before the latest results were submitted. I think the latest results were used to decide which class to post my daughter to for Primary 3. — mummy of 2

If you are transferring in Primary 2, the new school will ask for results. But, if you are putting in your transfer request before the end of the Primary 1 year, some schools don’t require you to submit your child’s results. So, it all depends on when you are seeking the transfer. — phtthp

Primary 3 classes are bigger, so there will be some vacancies for transfer students. Primary 2 would be the best time to submit a transfer request. You would need to ensure good results at Primary 1 and 2 to try for “branded” schools. If you’re looking at a neighbourhood school, then there should not be too much trouble getting in. Usually, you would be asked about your reasons for transfer, and you may need to be interviewed by the school management. — cherrygal

[Editor’s note: Families moving to a new home within Singapore can request for a school transfer under the Student Transfer Exercise for Primary Schools, or STEPS. Details here.]

The comments above were excerpted from our discussion threads on the 2018 Primary 1 Registration and primary school transfers. They have been lightly edited for language and clarity. This article is made available to you for information purposes, and it does not represent the views or analysis of KiasuParents.

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