P1 Registration 2020: How To Get A School You Are Happy With In Phase 2C

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A typical parent, when researching primary schools in Singapore, would probably begin by asking for recommendations on the “best,” “top,” or “most popular” primary schools. But if you can only register your child for Primary 1 under Phase 2C and 2C Supplementary, you may want to adopt a different approach. 

Phases 2C and 2C Supplementary are for Singaporean citizens and permanent residents (PRs) who have not registered at any primary school, i.e. those who were ineligible or did not secure a place during the earlier phases. 

According to Ministry of Education (MOE) regulations, 20 places are reserved in all schools for Phase 2C, to ensure that there is still access to schools at this late stage of the registration. [Apart from this, if there are remaining places at the end of Phase 2A(2), they will be split equally between Phases 2B and 2C. If there are vacancies left at the end of Phase 2B, these will be carried forward to Phase 2C.]

What’s new in 2020 is that a cap on PR intake has been introduced to prevent the “concentration of PR children” in selected schools, which might have become more popular within the PR community. 

For instance, one mother has shared with us that her sons’ neighbourhood school is culturally diverse, and at school-based events, she has “met parents who are Spanish, Australian, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, and PRC nationals.” This might have been a plus point for some local and PR parents, but with the new rule in place, PR families may have to consider a wider spread of schools.

With the cap, PR admissions will be limited to about 25% to 30% of the affected schools’ planned Primary 1 intake — this cap will only be applied in Phases 2C and 2C Supplementary.

For 2020, the following schools will need to cap their PR intake:

At the start of Phases 2C and 2C Supplementary, MOE will publish the number of school vacancies — including the maximum number of vacancies available to PR children for the above schools — on its vacancies and balloting updates page.

It’s not hard to see why Phase 2C has been regarded as the most stressful phase of P1 registration, because it is, in a sense, the final chance to get your child into a preferred school. Of course, there is still Phase 2C Supplementary, but selections will be limited at that point. If your child cannot secure a place at Phase 2C Supplementary, the MOE will post your child to a school with an available vacancy.

Even if you’re not particularly fussed about schools or trust that “every school is a good school,” you don’t want to be caught in a situation where your child is assigned a school that is an hour away by public transport. PR families in particular will want to avoid this, as school transfer opportunities may be few and far between.

Is it possible to secure a place in a “good” school at Phase 2C and 2C Supplementary? We certainly think that if parents can adjust their mindsets about schools, they can make a choice that they’re happy with. Also, in the wise words of KSP’s Chief Kiasu, it is better to “stop worrying about getting into a school, and start working on making sure your child is ready to excel in any school!”

For first-timer parents, please read on for our survival guide to Phase 2C and 2C Supplementary.

Understand The Order Of Admissions & How Balloting Works

For parents registering in the 2C phases, you should bookmark MOE’s school vacancies and balloting updates page for the latest information.

Balloting is conducted when the number of registrants exceeds the school vacancies, and this can happen in any phase from 2A(1) to 2C Supplementary.

In 2020, computerised balloting will be conducted centrally by the MOE HQ. As in previous years, all registrants who are required to ballot are assured of an equal chance for admission into the school.

When it comes to admissions, this is the order in which places are allocated:

  1. Singapore citizens living within 1km of the school.
  2. Singapore citizens living between 1km and 2km of the school.
  3. Singapore citizens living outside 2km of the school.
  4. PRs living within 1km of the school.
  5. PRs living between 1km and 2km of the school.
  6. PRs living outside 2km of the school.

To better understand the process, visit the MOE website for balloting scenarios.

Why Not Make Your Safety School The Top Choice?

If you don’t mind having to ballot in Phase 2C for a popular school, but at the same time, have chosen your child’s safety/standby school with care, why not save yourself some stress and heartache by going for the school with ample vacancies instead?

Some advice proffered by our Chief Kiasu nearly a decade ago is still valid today: if you decide to test your luck in Phase 2C by registering for a popular school, with the odds stacked against you (e.g. you live outside 2km of the school), there is a chance that you might be balloting again in Phase 2C Supplementary. Of course, everyone differs in their risk assessment and you may feel that the gamble is worthwhile. But it would be a pity if luck doesn’t swing your way, and you find that your second-choice school is suddenly much sought after in Phase 2C Supplementary. 

To get a better sense of the demand for school places, do read our Phase 2C and Phase 2C Supplementary analysis pieces from 2019, or check our school balloting probability guide for 2020 registrations.

Good Culture Over Good Grades

We know it’s particularly challenging to pick a school this year, with Open House events shuttered due to Covid-19. Although some schools have put up “e-Open House” mini sites, you’ll still have to employ your online sleuthing skills to assess your shortlisted schools.

Wondering what you should be looking out for? The popular primary schools in Singapore tend to be established brands with an academic track record. However, the practice of comparing or ranking schools based on grades has been highly discouraged for several years. Even if you were interested, information on a school’s Primary School Leaving Examination results is harder to come by now — also, is this really the most important factor in choosing a school?  

Instead, we suggest focusing on finding a school with a healthy culture or climate, where students can experience the following:

  • Safety: The school should have a strong anti-bullying stance to ensure not just physical safety within the school, but emotional security as well. Teachers should also respect the emotional well-being of their students.
  • Support: The academic environment must be conducive for all students to learn and grow.
  • Connection: There should be a steady flow of positive interactions between students, teachers, and other relevant groups.
  • Belonging: Students should have a sense of pride about their school.

For a start, you can google the schools that you are interested in, to see what the most recent publicity surrounding these schools has been like. You can also use search terms like “bullying singapore” to see which local schools have been in the spotlight for bullying issues, and how they have dealt with it. 

Next, run a search on the principals and vice principals of the schools you are interested in, to see if you can get more information about their career trajectories. Look at the tone of the Welcome Message on the school’s web site, and if the school’s educators have been interviewed, see if their quotes resonate with you. You can also find educator interviews on Schoolbag.sg.

Finally, you can visit KSP’s School Database, search for the school you are interested in, and click on “Parents’ Network” to get to the discussion thread for the school. There, you can post your questions and concerns.

Alternatively, check the schools’ social media accounts and observe the interactions. Searching for posts via social media hashtags might also let you peek into some of the daily happenings at a school, from the perspective of students and parents.

If your friends’ children happen to be studying in these schools, don’t hesitate to call them or schedule a quick video chat to ask them a few questions, such as:

  • What classes do you like or not like? Why?
  • Do you have favourite teachers in school, and what do you like about them?
  • Do you enjoy your CCA? Why do you like it?
  • Do you enjoy attending school? Why or why not?
  • How much free time do you have every day? What do you do in your free time?

Still doubtful if your shortlisted school can prepare your child well for the future? Look out for schools that emphasise problem solving, creative thinking, collaboration, and digital skills — not simply how to create a document or presentation, but how to create technology. If the school that you’re looking at checks some or all of these boxes, you know you’ve got a real winner!

Need more guidance on choosing primary schools? Read our P1 Registration FAQs here.