Parent Volunteering For Primary 1 Registration: Is It Worthwhile?

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Thinking ahead about your child’s primary school admission? If your child is entering Primary 1 next year, there’s still time to consider the parent volunteering option, which gives your child a chance to register for a primary school in an earlier phase.

If you’re a first-timer when it comes to registering your child for primary school, do read about the different phases of school registration on the Ministry of Education website. In a nutshell, those without affiliations (e.g. you have no religious affiliations, you’re not a former student, or you don’t have a child already in the school) will typically register at Phase 2C. Being a parent volunteer gives your child a headstart in the registration process, with Phase 2B eligibility.

In Singapore, parents sign up to volunteer with their preferred school one year before their child is due for Primary 1 registration. To give an example of timelines, let’s say you hope to qualify for Phase 2B of the P1 Registration Exercise in 2022. You and your child would need to meet the following criteria:

  • Your child is a Singapore citizen or Singapore permanent resident.
  • Your child was born in 2016, and is due for P1 registration in 2022.
  • You have joined the school as a parent volunteer before 1 July 2021, and contributed at least 40 hours of voluntary service to the school by 30 June 2022.

However, the MOE has cautioned that there is no guarantee of placement in your desired school even if you perform the required hours of volunteer work. In fact, some highly popular schools have done away with the parent volunteer scheme, and others may only accept parents who live near the school. (Read the MOE’s guide on how distance affects priority admission for primary schools.)

If you would still like to give volunteering a shot, simply contact the school of your choice to ask if they have a parent volunteer scheme, what roles they’re looking to fill, and how you can sign up. You can also read KSP’s parent volunteer discussion for advice from experienced parents.

Bear in mind that situations and rules are subject to change — especially during Covid-19 — and schools are your best source for accurate and updated information. Previously, it was not uncommon to hear of parents volunteering as traffic wardens, and helping out during events (e.g. with photography) or with literacy programmes. Post-Covid, schools have opened up online volunteering opportunities, such as creating videos and e-resources, and conducting virtual workshops.

As our KSP members have said before, it costs nothing to apply to be a school volunteer, so don’t worry too much about preferred skill sets or other qualifying factors. Just apply and let the school handle the rest!

Note: Apart from school volunteering, there is also an option to volunteer as a grassroots leader to qualify for Phase 2B admission. That said, this is discouraged as the primary purpose of a grassroots leader is to serve the community — one shouldn’t get involved for personal gain. You can find out more from KSP’s active community leaders discussion.

What’s The Big Advantage Of Parent Volunteering?

Well, it gives your child a chance to try for a more popular school that you have no current affiliation to — it’s better to take this chance during Phase 2B, as opposed to Phase 2C, where choosing a “safety school” might be the more prudent option.

While volunteering, you’ll also get a preview of the school environment, its teachers, and its students, and you can decide if you like what you see, and more importantly, if the school will be a good fit for your child. Through the volunteering process, you may strike up a friendship with teachers and that’s never a bad thing — they’ll probably give you useful tips on helping your child to navigate school life.

In fact, some parents with time to spare have even volunteered at more than one school! Such parents are probably concerned about vacancies, and will eventually apply for the school that has more places during Phase 2B.

Is it a worthy use of 40 or more hours of your time? That’s for you to decide. But before jumping into volunteering, you may want to do some soul searching, to ask yourself what makes a good school. Think about it: if you switch your focus from securing a spot at a popular school (or the school that will best prepare your child for the Primary School Leaving Examination) to finding a school with a healthy culture, you may find your options expanding to include lesser-known schools that are just as “good,” and much easier to get into, even at Phase 2C.

One way to begin your search is to have conversations with other parents. For a start, talk to neighbours who send their children to nearby schools, to find out if these schools provide 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 positive interactions between students, teachers, and other relevant groups.
  • Belonging: Students should have a sense of pride about their school.

We would also advise you to think well beyond primary school life, and look for learning environments that prepare your child for the future. These are environments that emphasise problem solving, creative thinking, collaboration, and digital skills. There are neighbourhood schools that offer leadership development programmes, a fair chance to experience all CCAs (rather than by selection), and unique learning opportunities such as journalism training.

If you’re a plan-ahead parent, there’s still plenty of time for research! Keep an open mind, and use the MOE’s School Information Service to browse and shortlist schools to contact for more information. There is no perfect school, but trust that you will find one that meets your child’s needs.